It's been three weeks since Metro East-West corridor has been functional. And it's already a success story of public transport, with over a lakh footfalls a day. What can improve the system? Here's what a commuter feels.
Metro trains are jam-packed in the evenings. Pic: Karanam Ramesh
It’s been three 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 three 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.
How has been the Metro ride?
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 four 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:
The frequency is… odd. For some reason they believe that in Bengaluru, more people commute between 12 pm and 3 pm, per train, than between 7:30 am and 8 am. They run once every 15 minutes until 8 am, and every 10 minutes after. It’s just…odd. Even though it isn’t technically peak hour when leaving, you do end up in peak hour traffic on Old Madras Road. And it 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.
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.
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 Bengaluru in a long time. And hopefully they’ll fix the frequency issue soon.
BMTC connectivity issues
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.
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 minutes. 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 Swamy Vivekananda road, so that might be the route to take. But strangely, the conductor has to make entries near Byappanahalli. So you get in at Swamy Vivekananda 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.
While going, the biggest problem is the bus stop location. For Attiguppe, the station is exactly between two stops. Buses are willing to stop at the two 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.
Topography of West Bengaluru 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 - the great leveller!
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 I 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 I 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.