Commute to work longer now than two years in the past, says Mercedes Benz India CEO

PUNE: In a telling observation about the strained traffic conditions and insufficient road network in Pune, managing director and chief executive officer Roland Folger said it takes him an hour and 10 minutes to travel 34km by car from his Koregaon Park home to office in Chakan.
When he came to Pune two years ago, he said he would cover the same distance by the same route in about 50 minutes.

The average speed for his commute in the morning on a normal day has dropped to about 29kmph from about 41kmph. The situation is bad if he starts from Chakan after 5pm, and gets worse till about 8pm, Folger said.

In his experience spanning three decades and several geographies, the daily commute in Pune is the longest. Elsewhere, he travelled longer distances but got to those places faster.

“ It is a little disturbing because when I arrived here two years ago, it took us 50 minutes on a normal day (to reach Chakan). Last year, it was an hour and now it is an hour and 10 minutes. If you extrapolate, it will take an hour and 30 minutes in the next two years,” Folger said.

He said commuting was becoming a “social issue” because in addition to work, people spend four hours or more in the car — time away from their families, friends and social activities.

“It is a concern because people are going to become extremely dissatisfied. The big question is how much is enough and when will people start reacting to it,” he said.

Folger said traffic jams in Jakarta and Bangkok are worse. “Pune is not there as yet but even if a small percentage of motorcyclists move to cars, very quickly there will be a situation where it will take you three hours on a regular day to cross the city,” he added.

Pune needs planning, which will reflect on the city and its population in 10 years, then 20 years and beyond, he said. The solution is to spend a lot of money in building a public transport system and not in banning or restricting cars, he added.

On whether the poor quality of roads and bad traffic affect his buyers, he said people buy cars for several reasons. “After the basic demands are fulfilled, people migrate to buying something more fulfilling,” Folger said.

He found Pune “very green,” and “a nice city to live in,” and the “city has a certain international spirit”. He finds Puneites “friendly and relaxed” in comparison with people from Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, but an improved airport will be a big plus.

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