First up, let me confess that I am not a fan or supporter of individual company transport. Ideally, I’d like everyone to use mass transit. But still, compared to 1000s of employees arriving in their own cars, it is a much better option. But the main mass transit option in Bangalore is BMTC. At least for now.
So for 4 years I struggled through BMTC, steadfastly refusing to drive or ride to work except on days where there would be early morning meetings. It provided me material a lot of blog posts to write, and even helped me contribute to citizenmatters. I could write surprisingly authoritatively on public transport when using it, as compared to being someone sitting in an ivory tower in California or Singapore, or even Bangalore, and making lofty comments on what needs to be done there.
I even got a lot of time to read comfortably in the Volvoes. I could get through book counts of more than 40 each year mainly thanks to being able to read in buses during my commute.
Having said that, the last few months, at least the ones this year, have been nothing short of hell. I had to move to using trains to get to work in the morning. The evening commute remained a pain point.
- Buses are increasingly prone to breakdowns. Have noticed a lot more this year as against the last. It has almost become a hobby counting the number of broken down buses seen each day. And yes, sometimes you end up in a bus that is moving really slow, or is smelling like something is burning. My morning one even has a message beeping on the driver’s console “Brake system failure!”. Scary eh?
- They just aren’t there anymore. There used to be buses towards my area in the evenings from Majestic. Those still exist on paper, but I haven’t seen one in a long long time. I tried multiple options, but they are all, there today, not there tomorrow.
- Trouble getting them going. Most of the buses on the Outer Ring Road are sticky with some bus stops. They just stop at intermediate stops and refuse to move. They wait and wait for people to get in, almost like a ‘share auto’. Usually some shouting from the passengers helps. But many of these passengers are those that benefit from the waiting bus. The odd thing is that these are high-frequency buses. As it waits, you can see some other buses of the same number stopping for a few seconds and moving on. The trouble is always in knowing whether you’re in a slow-haul or a fast haul bus. I usually skip buses if that’s the case, but it is an added stressor.
- No 500Ks. The last one gets past Marathahalli bridge before 4 PM. There are 2 of these buses that get through in a window of 5-10 minutes. The next one is an hour later. Considering that these buses used to be once every 15 minutes back in 2011, it has been a struggle the past 3 years after those glory days. Sometimes have spent close to an hour waiting for just the one bus to turn up.
- Deve Gowda Petrol Pump – Now, they cut down the majestic rain trees around this junction and are planning to build a flyover. And, (surprise!) it has been delayed, like every one of the “infrastructure” projects in Bangalore. So after 6 months of activity, there are 2 pillars that have come up and another 3 still coming up due to some activity the past few weeks. This has meant at least a 20 minute increase in my commute, just waiting to cross the junction. And considering that there are no 500Ks, am on normal buses and the dust and the sweat gets to you while waiting those 30 minutes to get past the signal.
All this has meant that the stress of getting home is just humongous. I reach office between 9:30 AM and 10 AM depending on the moods of the trains. And I have to leave by 4 PM to reach around 6:15-6:30 PM or risk getting stuck somewhere in traffic and reaching home closer to 8 PM. There are also meetings in the night sometimes.
It comes as manna that the company finally decided to come up with some transport. It is in the form of Tempo-Travellers. Am not too enthused about that, I don’t know if I’ll even be able to read comfortably in them. They aren’t as comfortable as the Volvos when it comes to reading is my guess, considering the state of Bangalore roads and the humps that need to be covered. But it needs to be seen.
Either way, real Nirvana will be when the Metro becomes operational. Can then take it from West of Chord Road to Byappanahalli or to the City Railway station and switch to a train there. The return would be more peaceful than any road-based modes of transport. More than anything, it offers the flexibility of leaving office whenever I want. But that’s still quite a few months away. There is hope as they started trials for the Magadi Road-Mysore Road stretch, and the trial train was pulled along the UG. Now if they can start the trials on UG section soon, that will be cause to celebrate.