If you've read my most recent post from my Alliance blog, "Cause We're Like Adventurers!", then you will already be in on the fact that for our last month in Pune, members of the program become full time interns, documentary film-makers, or researchers (one of the components of the program I looked forward to most)! I had originally planned on going the documentary-film route, but was a bit too intrigued to see what organization I would be set up with for my internship to pass up the opportunity (or the great chance to build up my resume abroad!), and decided to go the intern route.
I could not be happier with my decision!!!
For the remainder of my semester here, I will be working with an environmental advocacy/lobbying civil-society NGO that promotes sustainable development (totally up "nerdy Dachelle's" ally btw). As Parisar's main focus is sustainable development in Urban areas, they have since begun to examine the issue of sustainable transport. This means assessing the state of alternative travel modes such as walking, cycling, bus systems, etc, in order to encourage people to use more environmentally-friendly methods of travel. Upon my initial meeting with the organization, I was given a list of possible projects to take on, one of them which particularly caught my eye involved contributing to a comprehensive assessment they hope to produce regarding the Status of Transport within the city of Pune. I had originally hoped to do my project focused on the cyclability of the city-how safe is it to cycle, what are the state of bicycle tracks throughout the city, what obstacles prevent citizens from opting to use cycle as a mode of transport within the city-as Pune had previously been a city which widely promoted and used bicycles as a main mode of transportation (however, with the onset of development, the rapid growth of the city has made it no longer conducive to safely navigating on a bicycle, severely reducing the number of cyclers in the city). After a brief discussion with the organization we decided that since a lot of work has already been done by the organization in regards to this topic, my time would be best put toward assessing another mode of transport-the BRT system was suggested to me as one such topic. As I have no experience in or previous knowledge of BRT systems, we figured it would be a great way for me to gather some knowledge while also helping out with a chunk of the report.
BRT stands for Bus Rapid Transit, a system which was implemented (poorly) in Pune about 5 years ago.
Unique characteristics of a BRT that make it different from a regular city bus include:
-Dedicated, right-of-way lanes for BRT buses only
-Limited stops with fast travel between each BRT stop
-Rapid loading and unloading of vehicles on platforms to which the buses are aligned
-Simplified, fast fare collection (off-board ticketing)
-Communications and Safety systems
In essence, a BRT is supposed to run similarly to that of a light rail transit system, with the only major difference being BRTs run above ground while a metro, in large part, runs below
So far, my time at Parisar has been spent developing the Parameters to define BRT, compiling User Surveys and Observation Checklists, and learning about the BRT system both as it pertains to Pune and how it is supposed to function ideally. I have had many successes in completing drafts of the User Surveys and Checklists, and am having an amazing experience here, but that is not to say all has gone off without a hitch- there are still quite a few obstacles that are preventing me from accomplishing everything on my own personal checklist.
Some of these issues include:
-Adjusting to office dynamics
-Lack of expertise in BRT systems
-Developing a precise, short survey that covers many of the components of BRT
-KEEPING UP WITH MY TIME-TABLE!!!
As with all new moves, it takes some time to settle into a new office's atmosphere, but this adjustment by far, did not happen over night. Parisar is hard at work accomplishing many tasks, which sets the vibe for a very focused atmosphere in the office. At times I have found it difficult to bring myself to break this air and ask some questions or for a moment of a supervisor's time in order to ensure I am on the right track to accomplishing my set tasks.
This brings to light another issue...communication. As my primary contact for this project does not solely work for Parisar and is only in the office a few times a week, communication is primarily done electronically. This means every bit of work I do ranging from my Internship Proposal for the Alliance to the drafts of surveys, developing and defining parameters, adding on to previous bus checklists to suit BRT requirements, any questions I have, and any comments that need to be made regarding my work, have all been discussed through email! Although email and the internet are great resources, when speedy responses would help to move my project forward, it has been difficult to spend mornings or afternoons finding ways to busy myself (mainly by researching BRT systems around the world, reading blogs that critique Pune's BRT system, watching sustainable transport videos online) when I know I could be doing more work on my project if only feedback were more immediate.
Perhaps, if I had more background in BRT systems or more knowledge of the topic I could be more confident in the outcomes I am producing and not rely on as much feedback as I do, allowing me to move forward with the next required steps. But, considering I came into Parisar not knowing what BRT even stood for, I'd say I've become pretty knowledgeable, however, considering there are many who know far more about the topic than I do, I highly value their feedback and have utilized and relied on it in order to produce sound surveys and checklists. There are, in fact, many things I am learning from researching BRTs and sustainable transport, that I don't think would have come to my attention if it weren't for being placed at this internship, but the communication factor is a definite stumbling block, putting me nearly a week-and-a-half behind my planned schedule.
For example, according to my timetable, by the end of last week I was supposed to already be conducting field work, a task which has been moved to an unforeseeable day this week (I hope!). I was also supposed to make a presentation some time this week, regarding defining the parameters for BRT, surveys, and checklists, (in order to receive feedback from the whole organization), which has been moved to next Monday.
All of these small set-backs, however, are perfectly fine with me (even though such may not appear to be the case in this rant) as I have learned many useful skills such as how to collaborate on projects, develop surveys, and incorporate feedback into improving my documents!
...If only I could shorten my User Survey, which currently contains about 20 questions too many in my opinion (no one wants to complete a 30-question survey, do they?!). But hopefully, as I receive feedback on the questions, I can cut some of them out or combine them in order to produce a short, user-friendly survey.
dream.love.discover (you like to rant and ramble when your project is in a stand-still for the day!)