Sunday, June 24, 2007

R2I - Bangalore: Everyday commute options

Before coming to the conclusion that cars are your only option for everyday commute after R2Iing, let us assess all the other available options. The only public transport that Bangalore has right now is the bus. There are a few kinds of buses for public transport; the absolutely basic blue-colored BMTC buses that you see in the pic below, the slightly better Pushpak buses, and the luxury Volvo buses. Unfortunately, the frequency of these buses and the rush of people in them will make you want to turn the other way when it comes to relying on them on a day-to-day basis. If you are a concerned citizen of the globe and want to really use public transport, you may have to wait for the Namma Metro project to complete. The Metro is made to seem like an all-in-all problem solver to our woes. Like always, I will wait and watch before getting too excited! Also, this project has recently kick-started, so we do have a long way to go.

Since there is almost no public transport option for now, you can consider relying on company provided transport for your commute to work. A lot of the companies provide real nice, comfy buses/vans for pick-up and drop-off. The only downside is that you will have to stick to their timings. But, I do know of people who are able to make this option work for them.

The next option would be a 2-wheeler. If you have been away from India for a while, riding a 2-wheeler may or may not be possible for you. Now, if you are going to be the dare-devil to try a 2-wheeler amidst this traffic, then the next deterrent is going to be the pollution levels, especially at peak hours. The smog will make you squirm on your 2-wheeler seat. My husband was one of those that considered a 2 wheeler for his regular office commute, mostly because he was going to be saving a little bit of time. Obviously, your ability to maneuver is far better on a narrow vehicle. Also you occupy much less space on an already crowded/narrow road, and in turn will help the insane traffic in your own small way. But after the initial few days of observing the traffic patterns, he just gave up the idea! :)
When I see all the bike guys halting at the red-light and balancing their 2-wheelers with their feet on the ground, I worry for the safety of their feet. One of my cousins was at the red light with her feet on the ground, and an auto just went over her right foot. Thankfully, the damage was minimal. Since all the vehicles are just inches away from you or your vehicle, the thought is scary. What if it was a bus that had gone over her foot? And of course, there are still others who have had many a fall from their 2-wheelers. Not to mention the inconvenience during the rains.

If you want to use the autos for your everyday commute, you will have to again cover your nose for the entire to and fro journey because of the vehicular exhausts. Whenever I take an auto, after a few kilometres I notice a fairly distinct smell in my hair; all the exhaust fumes taking their toll! The exhaust fumes also make me feel squeamish. The other factor of course is the meters - you may not want to see the auto meter reading all kinds of numbers, since most of the meters are rigged.
A sea of autos. Notice how our rear-view mirror is broken (bottom left corner of the pic).
A simple mishap when one of the other cars was very close to ours!

Your final option is the car. And because of the unbelievable traffic on the roads, owning a small sized car becomes a necessity as compared to owning a bigger one; your ability to maneuver on the already clogged Bangalore roads is a little better with a smaller one. And of course, you have the option of owning a 2nd, bigger, nicer, family car for your weekends and out-of-town drives since the freeways are quite good. Wouldn't you agree about the small sized car? Or is there any other way to look at everyday commute? Would love to hear your thoughts, more so because I like to encourage a more public friendly commute.

On R2Iing, buying a car will be one of your crucial decisions. The good thing is, there is a fair amount of choice for cars in the market, and definitely so for small sized cars. 'Cars' is an exhaustive topic and I will cover all the options available, over a period of time. I will write about the available small cars in the market when I write about cars next. I will also write about the available cars based on their sizes and their prices subsequently.

An R2I Tip: The traffic is really bad; can't stress enough. See pic below. If you are sure about your R2I plans, then the one thing you can already do is to slowly start losing your attachment to your cars/roads there. Things will not be the same here and preparing yourself for it in advance helps. And when you do get stuck in traffic here, you will have the choice of not letting it affect you. That way, YOU still have the power! And you can take that time to think about your true reasons for coming back. :)
Clogged traffic on Bangalore roads - A common sight

PS: If I sounded preachy in the last para, please excuse me. I hate sounding preachy!

25 comments:

Yadu said...

Hi chitra,
This post has a lot of information and I was desperately trying to find out about cars here. Thanks for writing about it.It's been three days since I started car driving lessons. I drove on the wrong of the road on the first day and the instructor said" this is not America". I guess I have a long way to go. I am more terrified of finding a parking space in busy crowded areas. Also people are telling me the risks of hiring a driver.. Is it that risky? so many people hire drivers.. I don't see any risk in that. With some searching a reliable driver can be found. I am thinking a two wheeler for shorter commutes, a car for longer commutes and during rains would be ideal. I am also checking out several two wheelers. My relatives with cars just leave them at home when they need to go to certain places because they can never find a good parking spot there. You are absolutely right about stinky hair and autos, not to mention stinky clothes too. it happens every single time. The best thing that worked out for me so far is public transport. I have taken the bus several times now and found it to be safe, reliable and not to mention cheap. It does take a little bit longer, but I have waited longer to find an auto...will wait for the post about the small cars..
Yadu

Pradeep said...

Good post, a topic I have been planning to write on. The mode of transport depends on what time of day, for what purpose and how much of time you have.

The "shared auto" concept would help. It's a win-win situation. The auto driver gets the same amount (probably even a bit more), the passenger need to pay less.

The bus service is not that bad as it is made out to be. What keeps us away is the inability to make anything out of the board or the route number and the uncertainty of when the bus would come.

I go to office everyday by bus. By trial and error I have found out the time when the buses come. I make sure I am at the stand at that time. Touchwood! I haven't had to wait for more than 10 minutes for a bus.

I avoid the car unless I know the place I am heading for has parking slot, or I am with my family. Or else, I take my two-wheeler.

SloganMurugan said...

Mumbai is far worse than Bangalore. Pune and Hdyerabad are going the bangalore way. Chennai is probably better. For now.

Anonymous said...

Chitra,

Your style of writing is very good. You have done a straight forward analysis of the transportation issues in Bangalore.

I have been a user of Bangalore roads for many years now and I just love my 2 wheeler.

When I started using my 2 wheeler, there was no much traffic and it was easy. Gradually, the traffic increased and I travelled 50% of the distance on foot-paths for close to 2 years driving from home to office. I am hoping to do the same even after I return. I noticed during early 2007 that the roads are much better (with less pot-holes) now and using 2 wheeler is not a problem at all.

90% of my colleagues in Bangalore own cars, but none of them use it and all of them use their good old 2 wheelers because of the traffic and time :)

Only issue with 2 wheelers is when it rains and when you are forced to wear a helmet on a sunny day.

I think another option is car-pooling...but that may not work for everyone!

- nags

Anonymous said...

pradeep:

"I go to office everyday by bus."

bravo! more so, as you appear to be using the public transportation system's buses, not your company's transport.

nags:

"I travelled 50% of the distance on foot-paths for close to 2 years driving from home to office."

hmmm...

chitra:

"One of my cousins was at the red light with her feet on the ground, and an auto just went over her right foot."

is the behavior of that auto worse than that of nags (or others similar) if they go over the foot of a hapless pedestrian walking on the designated footpath?

what about all the people in the two-wheelers sidling up to the stop bar on the road, when they should - in keeping with the spirit of the law - stay pat where they are?

"Because of the unbelievable traffic on the roads, owning one small sized car becomes a necessity"

now you are saying that all bengaloorites need to have at least one car, if not two (i assume you are not writing just to the rnri crowd)! i would put the cause-and-effect in the reverse order, i.e., "because of everyone owning a small sized car, the traffic on the roads is now unbelievable". it is ironic that "first world" countries try to reduce the number of cars on the road and force people to use public transportation and then goad "third world" countries into buying cars and getting hitherto captive riders out from the public transit and into individual vehicles!

- s.b. [the whole comment probably sounds hypocritical - as i will probably end up doing the same if/when i rnri! - but you asked for comments, and i am obliging; did not want to mince words or sugarcoat what i wanted to say. feel free to edit if this is too boisterous]

Anonymous said...

s.b.,

This is in reply to your comment.

There is no way to reach office without going on the footpath. And, we have little sense (if not as much as you have) to run over anybody's leg. You cannot compare an auto to a 2 wheeler becuase the auto guy cannot see his back wheels easily, but the 2 wheelers can do that without any effort. Also, the speed on footpath is not more than 10kmph.

My comment was more on a lighter side talking about the unavailability of the road for the 2 wheelers. I did not expect that somebody can interpret it this way also :) and comment harshly on it.

- nags

Anonymous said...

nags:

apologies for sounding harsh, but seriously, is the footpath the place for motorized transportation? i disagree.

re: sidling up to the front of the road, squeezing between the autos, the buses and the myriad other forms of transportation: i asked my sister - when i was riding pillion in madras about a decade ago - why she did that, and her answer was "because everyone else does so". your answer of why you drive your two-wheeler on the footpath - "There is no way to reach office without going on the footpath" - is marginally better.

i never claimed that i have more sense than you, so i will let that snide remark of yours slide.

- s.b.

Anonymous said...

first of all, sorry to chitra for using her blog space with our comments.

s.b.,
sorry if I sounded harsh. But, that is how it is in Bangalore. There is literally no space for 2 wheelers on the main road and most of the time we are forced to use the foot-path. [I make sure that I don't run over anybody's leg!]

Apparently, the speed at which you can travel on footpath is very less compared to speed on a "free" main road. However, the buses, trucks and cars fill the main road and the roads are never free. So, the 2 wheelers will have to eat the bullet and start getting on to the foot-path though it is NOT convenient and very very slow. But, still it is better when compared to standing in the hot-sun at the same spot on the main road for more than 15-20 mins during peak hours, while cars do the same thing, but with the comfort of A/C and Radio!

-nags

M O H A N said...

Hi chitra,
I too was a about to return indian about a decade back. There were many more irritants than just pollution - getting water/electricity was also problem then.

Never mind, if you jump into the clourdren called INDIA - you will swim - just dont take too many dipstick surveys which scare you.

Just do it

cheers
mohan!

Ganapathy said...

Good discussion, all!!

S.b.: I don't think Chitra is trying to say a car is your only option. It seems to me that she has presented the obvious options and discussed about them.

On the point of small cars - given the craziness (er. traffic!!) - I don't see what choice does one have (especially if you little ones).

I personally think a small car is a must (especially if somebody is R2I-ing). Of course, use other means of transportation whenever/wherever possible!!


-Ganapathy

Chitra said...

Yadu, Out of the 'anon' mode? :) I used to drive in Bangaore before I went to the US. But since coming back I haven’t even considered the option. Vehicles are too close for comfort. And I will not find parking anywhere! I don’t know what people have been telling you about drivers. But, we have had a fairly pleasant experience. We looked out for somebody within walking distance, with family, and who was referred to us by somebody we know. In this case, it was another driver who referred him; we had asked him to bring in somebody. So far, this guy has been good. If you want a driver, spread the word amongst other drivers, security guys etc. Something will work out.
If you are comfortable on 2-wheelers, then definitely keep that option open for shorter distances to begin with. Easy to park! Yes, a car for longer distance, especially when the exposure to the exhausts is going to be more.
I am so glad you have been using the bus. I tried using the bus as well. Sometimes, I just don’t find one to where I want to go. Also, this part of the town, the buses are definitely crowded and I find most of the people having to stand. I have used the buses during non-peak hours if they happened to come my way.

Thanks Pradeep! I hope you will write too. Maybe I will get some pointers from yours. You are right about the time of the day. I always try and step out during non-peak hours. But, that is not going to be the case for everybody.
I do not have the problem about making out what is written on the BMTC bus boards, because I can read Kannada. I have issues about the rush in the bus. I am so glad that the bus is working for you. Do you get to sit? Is the experience pleasant?

Slogan Murugan, thanks for your input. I have only visited other cities in India and wouldn’t be in a position to comment about the situation elsewhere.

Nags, the good thing is most of the main/important roads are well maintained and the sidewalk is distinct these days. The sidewalks are higher and CANNOT be accessed by motorists. The main roads are in a failry good condition too. The trucks cannot enter the city roads, and this helps the 2-wheelers to actually have some space on the roads. This was a huge difference when compared to the 90s. I remember the 90s were horrible with the increasing traffic, bad roads, and having to share the roads with the trucks!
Yes, the car-pooling is tricky. One is that the location must match, the second is the timings. And with the crazy work hours, that is so hard to word with!

SB, I have edited the said sentence slightly to reflect what I meant.

Mohan, “about to return Indian”? We are here and have been for 8.5 months now. I write the blog from our experience hoping to help other people who may be considering coming back.
As for as water problems, http://www.hindu.com/2007/06/26/stories/2007062659630400.htm - today’s news! Water is going to be a huge problem going forth!

Ganapathy, welcome to my blog. Valid points!

yadu said...

Yep chitra thanks to Mad Momma, I am out of the Anon mode. I have used the bus when it was not crowded, because I have travelled during off peak hours. I don't know how to drive a two wheeler. I am learning.
Yadu

rk said...

hi,
you simply have an amazing blog with really great thoughts. you have been highlighting major issues concerning most of us.

driving in this day and age in bangalore is a curse.

Hoping the postings will help the couple of souls who may find this blog!!

(excerpts from your first post in November, 06.)

there are more than a couple of thousand souls, i am sure. but i am the latest soul.

happy blogging
take care and regards
rk

ps: honoured to blogroll R2I.

Shankar said...

Many of the two-wheeler drivers in Bangalore are complete morons.

They cut suddenly in front of you to make a turn, barely missing you. Or expect you to brake hard for them.

Plus they squeeze between two buses that are 3 feet apart at signals. And then complain if their foot gets run over.

And I hate those who ride on sidewalks or on the wrong side of the road. The police have to fine these people severely. Sadly, then don't.

Once in Koramangala there were three two-wheelers parked that were blocking the narrow sidewalk, and forcing pedestrians to use the road. I let the air out of the tyres of a couple of them. I felt that I had done a great social service that day.

Poppins said...

Chitra, you're another one whose commentspace is threatening to become more interesting than your blog ! I could think of a bunch of things to say about riding on the footpath? letting out air from the tyres? Huh?

But because this is your blog, and you strive so hard to keep it clean and gracious, I will keep mum.

Traffic and Bangalore are two words that incite a huge amount of anger and passion in people.

Good, informative post. Although it may cause Indians not to R2I (unlike your previous ones).

Ankur said...

welcome to india

Chitra said...

Yadu, all the best with your efforts. So, is it fun being out of the anon mode?

RK, thanks!! Very kind. Have blogrolled you too. Will run into you often from now on in the blog world! :)

Poppins, interesting cannot hurt! You do not have to keep mum, that is not the idea! :)
My blog is for all our R2I experiences, the good and the bad.

Ankur, welcome to my blog!

Debbie Ann said...

Good post. I am doing a combination - during the day a driver/car is assigned that we can use for 12 hrs. For the other times we have been sometimes using city cab and sometimes an auto. Some people say the autos aren't safe at night, and it is hard to figure out if that is true or not, so far all has been well.

Debbie Ann said...

oh p.s. had one shocking experience, but maybe for r2i folks it would not be shocking - my driver bumped into another car - no damage - and the other driver slapped my driver. In the US I had not ever seen that behavior. I think, but I don't know, slapping might be more common here than in the US.

Anonymous said...

debbie ann:

"In the US I had not ever seen that behavior. I think, but I don't know, slapping might be more common here than in the US."

maybe not, but recently here there was this incident of road rage where one (lady???) driver shot at the foot of the other (lady) driver. the issue was right of way - the shot woman did not allow the shooter woman to pass (or some such).

if there was no such thing as car insurance, and the cops (with guns) were not so plentiful, i wonder if wild west kinda justice would not be meted out here either!

in other words, while slapping another driver may be more common in india than in the usa, the situation is reversed in terms of shooting.

- s.b.

Anonymous said...

debbie ann:

"Some people say the autos aren't safe at night, and it is hard to figure out if that is true or not, so far all has been well."

this is for others to shed more light on, but i would give you two cliches - "discretion is the better part of valour, and "better safe than sorry."

- s.b.

Chitra said...

Debbie Ann, yes the city cab, I forgot to mention it in my post! It is because I don't use 'em at all. I am glad they are working for you. Do stay safe at night.
About the slapping, what is interesting is I have never ever seen anybody getting slapped and I have been here forever except during the years I was away in the US. I don't think it is very common, otherwise I would have either seen something or at least have heard of it some place. What you saw maybe quite an isolated incident. And if I were in your shoes, I would have been equally shocked. And I would have probably said a thing or two to the slapper dude. :)

Prasad B said...

Hello Chitra,

I am a little disappointed that your post was more about getting around. Sure, that is probably the best thing to do. But, it would have been great if you had also brainstormed a little on coming together to push for a better public transportation system. I am sure you know that it is the only way to go. Car culture needs to be nipped in the bud. Else, we will continue to see private affluence and public squalor. And as someone said 'brain damage to all, no child left behind'.

http://driving-india.blogspot.com said...

Almost 10% of the global road traffic accidents occur in India. Much of the world wide web is full of sarcasm & mocking of the indisciplined driving on Indian roads. Unfortunately in since 60 years since independence the authorities have failed to publish a National Highway code. Licences are given to anyone who can demonstrate an ability to use the clutch-accelerator, consequently the motoer driving schools teach just that and no more. Concepts such as - blindspots, principle of MSM, the tyre & tarmac rule, 2 second gap and most improtantly giving way are not known to the average Indian driver.

This site http://driving-india.blogspot.com/ has been created with the purpose of providing driver education and training to all Indian road users. It is by far the most comprehensive website providing training in defensive driving. Learning simple road habits can make our roads safe and also free up congestion caused by traffic chaos.

At present 17 driver education videos aimed at changing the driving culture on Indian roads are available. The video are unique in that the footage is real life action from streets of London. We have copied the Western habits: Replaced the dhoti with denim, high rise buildings for Indian cottages, burgers and coke instead of Indian breads and perhaps sugarcane juice. Surely we can copy the Western ways of travelling too.

To watch the videos, interested readers may visit: http://driving-india.blogspot.com/

The videos cover the following topics:

Video 1: Covers the concept of Blind spots
Video 2: Introduces the principle of Mirrors, Signal and Manoeuvre
Video 3: At red lights, stop behind the stop line
Video 4: At red lights there are no free left turns
Video 5: The Zebra belongs to pedestrians
Video 6: Tyres and Tarmac (rather than bumper to bumper)
Video 7: Merging with the Main road
Video 8: Leaving The Main Road
Video 9: Never Cut Corners
Video 10: Show Courtesy on roads
Video 11: 5 Rules that help deal with Roundabouts
Video 12: Speed limits, stopping distances, tailgating & 2 seconds rule
Video 13: Lane discipline and overtaking
Video 14: Low beam or high beam?
Video 15: Parallel (reverse parking) made easy
Video 16: Give the cyclist the respect of a car
Video 17: Dealing with in-car condensation

Many thanks

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