Residents of Pune celebrated 'Pune Bus Day' by discarding self-owned private vehicles and commuting in public transport on Thursday.
A festive atmosphere gripped the city at dawn as around 2,500 buses were deployed all over the city to discourage commuters from using private vehicles in a bid to solve the worsening traffic mess, said organisers.
"This is nothing short of a miracle for Pune. I took a bus from my home to my shop in just 8-9 minutes - it takes me daily between 30-40 minutes to traverse the eight km distance," a delirious Firdaus Vakharia told IANS from a bus zipping through Pune University area.
A pleased Abhijit Pawar, Managing Drector, Sakal Media Group, also took a bus from home to work, a distance of some four km and was surprised to see it notching speeds of around 70 kmph - something unheard of in Pune in the past more than a decade.
"I can confidently say that more than two-thirds of the two million morning commuters have responded to the initiative by hopping onto buses. This is like an advance Diwali gift for the city," a beaming Mr Pawar told IANS, balancing himself and holding tight as the bus sped to its destination.
Thursday morning, a majority of the two-, three- and four-wheelers remained off the roads as part of the citizen-driven initiative, brainchild of Mr Pawar, with the active participation of all sections of society, ranging from school and college students, corporate head honchos, politicians, judges, bureaucrats, celebrities, working women and commoners.
More than 15,000 volunteers were on the roads at dawn in the early winter chill to guide the bewildered commuters - many of them seeing the inside of a city bus for the first time in their life.
"Currently, there are 33 lakh vehicles in Pune; daily 730 new vehicles, or 22,000 per month, pour on to the limited 2,000-km long road network. There are 23 lakh two-wheelers, around eight lakh four-wheelers, and the rest includes 70,000 autorickshaws and other types of vehicles," Pune Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Vishwas Pandhre told IANS.
As Mr Pawar put it, commuting anywhere within Pune was hell - at least, until Thursday's successful 'Pune Bus Day'.
Working women, who required to juggle morning household chores before rushing to their offices, were relaxed with more than one-two hours extra in hand and demanded that public bus travel should be encouraged more often by the authorities.
"We got so much free time, completed all our tasks comfortably and found it relaxing... It is more productive, less stressful and actually enjoyable," a working woman, Priyanka Ghanekar, said after taking a 10-minute bus ride, normally she rides a scooter for at least 45 minutes.
People in some areas where there was a problem of bus connectivity or frequency were the only ones compelled to bring out their two-wheelers or take to three-wheelers.