Thursday, September 01, 2005

More on Bangalore Traffic

Enough statements and jokes are made on Bangalore traffic. On a recent trip, when talking to coworkers at our Bangalore office I came to know that an ex-CM has objected to the subway system that was about to begin construction.

It is obvious that the politician has no clue on whether subways are better than monorails or any other rail option. Like a dog on a haystack, he will not use it nor will he allow others to have it. But who gets benefited with this block? Not the Bangalore companies - the lost productivity on traffic jams hurt them. One obvious group that will be benefited is the automobile industry - including the two wheeler manufacturers. They would use the affluence of people to sell more cars / motor bikes than have the wealthy middle class use a mass transit system. Broadly speaking, the automobile industry can bribe a politician to make more profits and outsource work to Indian companies to reduce cost on software and services. They make money - period. Politician makes money and doesn't care about what happens outside his farm. He's fine too. Software companies make some money on the outsourced jobs, but the margins reduce due to traffic related problems - so they make some money but not to the level of car companies or politicians. IT workers make some money too and he feeds into the system of automobile based economy with his earnings. So, everyone seems to be making some money on a problem. So, why bother with an MRTS.

Speaking of MRTS, the one at Chennai is allowed to perish slowly. The MRTS connects Chennai Beach to Thiruvanmiyur. The service upto Thiruvanmiyur takes about 20 minutes and the frequency is 40 minutes as the train runs on a single track and has no way of turning to other track as construction is not complete. The system boasts of huge stations with escalator, elevators and what not. But not enough attention is paid to maintaining them. Even after 1.5 years of opening, some stations still have construction going on at snail's pace. The stations do not have enough people to clean them; not enough is done on popularizing this faster mode of transport. Left to this state, they (who?) can slowly reduce the frequency of trains and allow the system to die in a course of time.

This has been done at a few places I know of - the train service between Karur and Trichy, to benefit bus operators in the region; the bus service in Pune - to benefit the automobile maker near Pune. I have heard of the design of overhead passes in US cities was done to prevent large vehicles like buses to run on those routes - obviously to benefit the auto industry.

In all the above cases more jobs were created, more money was flowing. People enjoyed the comforts of the alternate mode of transport.

Why am writing this with a complaining note? What is there to complain? Aren't people happy with the whole setup?

Are two hours of wait in traffic worth the money people earn in Bangalore? Is inhaling in the CO saturated atmosphere worth the comfort of a two / three wheeler ride in Pune? Are dangerously fast buses in Trichy better than a planning your day for commuter train schedule?

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