The metro commute after 3 weeks

It’s been 3 weeks now of using the Metro for my commute. I resisted writing about it until the dust settles and some routine is established. And a routine is now established. It has been an interesting, and somewhat, tiring 3 weeks. It is not easy going from a sedentary, get in, sit down in a van near home and get out only at work, and vice-versa commute to a lot of walking. It will take some time for the body to get used to this. And it will be good to get all that walking done. There used to be a lot of that before the cab happened, and will take some time getting back to that.

The Metro itself:


This is the best part of the commute. Yes, the trains are crowded. Sometimes you have to stand, but it gets there fast and it isn’t stressful. My brain is still not used to getting to another part of the city that fast on weekdays! By the time you get within 4 kms of home, you’re supposed to have sat through multiple jams, not just breeze like clockwork. It’s just insane!

There are issues though:

  1. The frequency is…odd. For some reason they believe that in Bangalore more people commute between 12 PM and 3 PM, per train, than between 7:30 and 8 AM. They run once every 15 minutes until 8 AM, and every 10 mins after. It’s just…odd. Even though is isn’t technically peak hour when leaving, you do end up in peak hour traffic on Old Madras Road. And makes for very crowded trains in the morning. And if you miss one, the wait is pretty long for the next one.
    Even the evening trains are crowded. They do run trains every 7-8 minutes on weekends, hopefully regular weekday users can also be shown some love.
  2. The stations are somewhat hourglass shaped. To climb up, you start from a bottom side, climb up to the middle regions, then again diverge out and then get back to the centre. Makes for a lot of walking. But when you’re cutting too close to a train, it isn’t easy. But I guess that goes with a 3 tier system.
  3. Trains are massive refrigerators. This is kind of expected. Anyone who’s used BMTC Volvos will know that the only way AC services are deployed here is at high intensity. Who doesn’t like a nice cold box to travel in?

But yes, the frequency apart, rest is just nit-picking from my side. The Metro is the best thing to happen to Bangalore in a long time. And hopefully they’ll fix the frequency issue soon.

BMTC:

There wasn’t much good being expected here, but I was surprised that they seemed to pull up their socks and get some feeder services into play. With BMTC though, you really need to use a service to know how it works. And it’s not that good.

  1. A feeder should be aligned with some timing. If your metro is going to leave at 7:30 AM, ideally you target 7:25 AM so that you drop off people and pick up those who arrive by that train. But no, they run on independent schedules and even end up making you wait close to 15 mins. I almost missed a train because the driver was busy telling the conductor his life story and brought the bus down to a crawl on a road where the rest of the traffic was zipping at 70!
    From Byappanahalli, almost always the bus would’ve left a few minutes back! This means those in the previous train would’ve waited 10 mins for this bus to leave. But the feeders seem aligned at SV road, so that might be the route to take. But strangely, the conductor has to make entries near Byappanahalli. So you get in at SV road, the bus starts. Then stops at BYPL and waits while the conductor sorts out issues with the “entry” making there for some 5 minutes. I just don’t get it.
  2. While going, the biggest problem is the bus stop location. For Attiguppe, the station is exactly between 2 stops. Buses are willing to stop at the 2 different Chandra layout stops set 50m apart but not here. People getting down vs people getting in matters. But some drivers are nice enough to drop off people near the station, most aren’t. I did raise some requests on twitter and on their website. Not sure if anything is being done there. If you’re reading this, and use Attiguppe station, please file requests at mybmtc.com. They can at least have a “Request Stop” there.
  3. Topography of West Bangalore plays its part. Buses are fast on flat terrains. On slopes they either struggle to pull, or they have to keep one leg on the brakes to prevent it getting too much momentum. This means that getting past Chandra Layout which is almost a valley is a bit annoying.

The key is alignment of the two services here. If the train frequency is raised to once every 10 minutes, this wouldn’t rankle as much.

Traffic:

Sadly, traffic still plays a part on my return journey to get to the station. Just this Thursday there was a massive jam to get to KR Puram railway station. This meant that I missed 2 trains and took the 5 PM one, which was crazily crowded. And mind you this was just a traffic jam to cross some 500m. All caused because the timing on the traffic signal was too short. I wanted to get down and walk, but it had rained and the service road near B Narayanapura is now a functional landfill. You don’t want to walk near that!

Oh well, it is an interesting ride home. But if the traffic doesn’t play truant I am usually home in just over 1:30 hours. Considering that I leave by 4 PM, am home soon after 5:30 PM. Mornings am at work by 8:45 AM, no matter which bus I choose. Apparently, the tin factory pileup normalises all traffic. It’s around the same time that all the company cabs get in. I do manage to do a fair bit of reading on the train both ways, so am not complaining. And I don’t have to deal with traffic for the most part.

I did see a guy carrying a foldable cycle. They do allow that. So maybe that’s something to think of? There is ample parking at Mysuru Road station, a surprisingly humongous amount of parking to be honest. That could be another option, but the bigger problems are on the BYPL side, and I really want to be using buses to do the commuting. This can be a backup.

(Got cross-posted here.)

The assured passage home!

I quit the cab a few days back. All it needed was an announcement from BMRC about the Metro UG line opening. The rest in the cab who’d been claiming about moving to the Metro are taking a wait-and-watch approach. Might be the sensible thing to do, to slowly offload from a reliable cab into ‘unreliable’ public transport.

The issue is what even I am worried about – connectivity from my workplace to the Byappanahalli station. It is all of 5 Kms, but can take close to 30 minutes or even more on bad days. And it would take 2 buses. It is the latter that has people worried all over.

The commute that I am likely to see looks somewhat like this.

Mornings -> Take bus to Attiguppe. This can be 1 bus or 2 buses. This can take 15 minutes from my place or 20. Take Metro to Byappanahalli. This should take around 30 minutes. Take bus from there to Tin Factory. This is the unreliable part. Bus frequency to Hoskote side via the Hanging Bridge is pretty good. So this might just work out fine. Take 500D from Tin Factory to work. This can take some time. But it is reliable, and comfortable too. I can get to work by 30 minutes from the Metro stationis what am guessing. Overall should be doable in 1:30 hours, max 1:45 hours.

Evenings -> For the return, it should be somewhat easier. The most unreliable part is the 500D to Tin Factory. Mostly in terms of time. But I can read during this part. And I don’t expect to be in too much of a hurry to rush home, considering that I plan to leave by 4:15 PM. There are usually buses hanging out at Tin Factory heading towards the City that I can get in for the last 1.5 Kms to the station. From Attiguppe, there are C4s, K4s and 238VBs. So am not too worried about this last part. I do come with a lot of experience with public transport closer to home, remember. Overall, again, expect to have an average commute time between 1:15 and 1:45 hours.

But the key thing is not the time. I can READ. Reading means something significant. That I won’t reach home with a headache. This matters a lot more than one can think of. Days when there is a bit more work to finish off, I can get them done at home. Days when there are night meetings, I won’t have just arrived at home after a stressful commute.

And also, I’ll be passing over MG Road. I can get off, visit Blossom’s, exchange books, and get home. On stressful days, even grab a beer somewhere there – I can loiter on the way home and still be assured of a commute home. Remember the days of 500k? You miss one, you never know when or even whether the next one will be!

The Metro mainly gives me this – the reassurance of a guaranteed passage home. Only someone who’s used BMTC for long will understand the significance of that.

Change and back

So it was a hectic two months as I moved to the flat. The plan was to WFH 2 days a week from ‘home’. Basically you live 3 days in the flat, commute to home twice a week and work from there and then the weekend… we’ll see how that goes. And this is how it went:

Monday morning, leave from the flat usually or drive to home in the morning or wake up at home and work from there. Evenings I’d usually be back in the flat, either after dinner if working from home or cook dinner at the flat if commuting to work from there.

Tuesdays usually commute to work from the flat. Come back and clean the flat – sweeping and mopping – and then cook dinner and sleep.

Wednesdays – more or less the same as Tuesdays minus the cleaning.

Thursdays – bike to work, but pretty much the same. Except that in the evenings, drive to home so that you don’t have to wake up and drive on Fridays.

Fridays – WFH and go for a run in the evening in BU campus. After dinner head back to the flat as one plays tennis on Saturday mornings.

Saturday – wake up in the flat and play tennis in the mornings. Plan varies rest of the day. Also includes sweeping and mopping.

Sunday – varying plans. Some days at home, some days at flat. Basically no idea where one was.

This usually meant that I was driving or commuting almost every day of the week. As against when I was just at home where I was commuting to work thrice or four times a week, one or two days of WFH and then weekends based from home. The flat pretty much became a staging area with the sole goal of reducing my commute to work with the cost of having to commute to home on other days. The commute saving was close to 80 minutes per day, strictly in terms of travel time. With vegetable and other shopping done on the way, that lost another 20 minutes. Not to forget extra time and energy to cook and clean.

Trouble started when I had to return to the flat from home in the night after dinner. After a long day’s work, the last thing one wants to do is drive and that too in Bangalore streets with lights blaring into you from the opposite direction. Add to that the excess variation in where one is based and you mostly have no idea where you are waking up.

So, after a trial of over a month where one was perennially exhausted, disoriented and stressed out I decided to do the logical thing and moved back. The flat was too small for all three to move in, especially with the amount of stuff around. I also had started developing paranoia towards the pigeons fluttering all over the place. My intermittent absence also meant that they would never completely let go of the place and they kept making recons and forays to check the viability.

So a tenant was found quickly – a person who had been asked to vacate from a flat right in the 3rd floor, mine being in the 4th – and the move done in early May.

The current week is mostly about commuting on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays(bike) and then WFH on Wednesdays and Fridays. The Monday and Wednesday being interchangeable or just commute days. The return journey which was the painful part is now partly solved as there is a contract service provided by BMTC to some companies which goes all the way to my usual bus stop. The monthly price is close to 3.5K of which the company pays 2K. But the service is guaranteed. Currently running that on trial mode to see how it goes. The bus leaves at 5:10 and drops me off around 6:30 PM, give or take 10 minutes.