A bus ride

This morning I decided to try the Volvo bus service from close to my house to somewhere near my office. One reason was laziness to drive, while the more important one was to figure out a way to get to work on other days when i’m lazy to drive. I’d made enquiries with the conductor of V500L which I’d taken back from work on Friday and was told that there is a V500K which leaves Vijayanagar around 0720, and is expected to come to Kathriguppe at around 0740.

Not wanting to risk missing it, I was at the bus stop at 0730, and after a 20 minute wait, the bus arrived. Surprisingly, there was just one empty window seat (I didn’t want an aisle seat since I knew that the bus would get damn crowded later on), which I promptly took. And the fare of Rs. 35 was a pleasant surprise (it’s clearly not kilometer-based. Kundalhalli Gate to Corporation costs the same as Kundalhalli Gate to Kathriguppe). Traffic was already heavy. It was past 8 when we crossed Kamakhya (200 meters away) and 0820 when we left Banashankari Bus Stand. Worse was supposed to follow.

We passed the 16th Main signal at BTM layout peacefully (on the first signal) but then began the real trouble. A seemingly endless bottleneck. At least from my last seat, I couldn’t see the end of it. Took around 20 minutes to get past it. The trouble was close to the BTM bus stand. There are three intersections between 16th Main and Silk Board, and all of them are regarded as “minor” (ring road intersects with small roads). #1 and #3 were manned by dutiful home guards, while no one even thought of #2. Tough to describe it without a picture (and i’m too lazy to draw one now), but basic thing is that people who were coming in from the cross road and turning right towards silk board on the ring road had blocked off all traffic on the ring road from silk board towards Jayanagar. A few minutes later, I was to find out that the jam in the opposite direction had extended well into HSR Layout!

I have a simple thumb rule when it comes to traffic bottlenecks. Look at the flow of traffic in the opposite direction. if it is “normal”, then, it means that the jam has partly cleared and there is some hope of moving ahead. If there are no vehicles coming from the other side, things are really bad somewhere, and the process of jam clearing hasn’t started yet. And you can brace yourself for a long wait. Another danger when that happens (no vehicles in the opposite direction) is that auto drivers and taxi drivers will assume that it is a one way and try to be too clever and go on the right side of the road! You can safely take a nap in your car then.

Coming back, there was another hold-up at the Outer Ring Road – Sarjapur Road signal. Reason for that is not known, though I suspect faulty calibration of the signal – not enough time has been given for traffic coming from silk board. After that, the journey was fairly peaceful, with even the notorious Marathhalli bridge being crossed in a minute. Before getting off at Kundalhalli gate, I asked the conductor if it always takes this long. He said normally we should be half an hour quicker than we were today! Some hope are there. Kundalhalli to office was just five minutes and five rupees by a normal bus, and I walked in at 0940.

Driving to work in the morning before the rest of Bangalore wakes up (0700), and returning when most others would’ve just finished their lunch (1600-1630), I’ve been missing out (!!) on a few interesting things. I already mentioned to you about the easily avoidable jam caused in BTM. Then, the once notorious Marathhalli bridge is quite ok nowadays, and you can pass it within a minute (it used to take upto half an hour earlier). But the reconstruction of this bridge has hopelessly exposed bottlenecks in surrounding intersections, such as the Airport Road- Outer Ring Road, or teh one at Kundalhalli gate. The latter was crossed quickly only because I was changing buses there, so could do a bit of walking!

Then, the BMTC seems to be doing a good job with respect to introduction fo buses. While I was waiting for a bus at Kathriguppe, I was easily the guy who waited the longest – since i was specifically looking for a volvo. There seem to be a large number of normal buses, and it looks like people could do with a few more of those – many of those buses were hopelessly crowded. Even at the jam in BTM, most of the vehicles seemed to be buses!

I’m wondering about the wisdom of introducing bus lanes on a few important roads, at least earmark lanes for buses during peak hour.? However, there are a few issues. How do you take care of intersections (there are too many of those)? Private buses and company buses are another menace. They turn and stop and go and speed quite abruptly, and are a major impedance to the flow of traffic. We could think about curbing them on a few roads at least. The most important issue, of course, is if we can afford a bus lane, in terms of availability of space on the road – which are mostly 2-laned. And of course, there is the issue of enforcement!

One more thing is that the bus I traveled in was jam-packed. Clearly, there is a need for more Volvo buses. One issue is there, however – non-peak hour load factors on Volvos are abysmal, and I’m not sure if the BMTC can put in Volvos to use just during peak hours. Maybe off-peak hour discounts could be a good idea.

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