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Miles ahead in pooling

Ananya Revanna, July 03, 2015, DHNS 20:54 IST

Coordinated effort

flexible group (From left) Abhijith, Santosh, Vadiraj, Niranjan, Subbarao, Ravishankar, Suhas and Krishnaraj.
For the past 10 years, Devendra Mars has been travelling from Vijayanagar to Marathahalli (and back) on work. On an average, a one-way trip is about 20 kilometres and he spends anywhere between an hour to two in traffic. After experimenting with different modes of transport, he decided two years back, to carpool with a colleague. He says that this has not only improved his health but also makes for a fun ride.

Over the years, the number of vehicles that dot the City roads has risen exponentially. And the number of occupants in each of these vehicles, no matter how spacious, is generally restricted to one or two. Although there have been efforts to control this traffic rise, it has been in vain. And concepts like vehicle-pooling, which have their niche audience, have done nothing to slow this burgeoning growth. But there are still some who are firm advocates for ride sharing.

“Initially, I would use buses but they were crowded and I stopped using them. I then bought a bike, but since I spent a lot of time in traffic, I would get body aches. After this I bought a car, but it didn’t get better because the entire route is jammed. Two years ago, I met a colleague who travelled from the same area and was facing the same problems.

Although we were apprehensive at first, we decided to give carpooling a shot, and have been doing it since,” adds Devendra. He and Karthik decided to have a trial round for a month before they regularised it. “There were many aspects we had to look into — whose car would we use, how would we split the petrol cost (one car may have better mileage than the other) and co-ordinating timings. So we decided that we would alternate the use of our cars everyday, and since both of us have children to send off, the driver for the day would wait for 10 to 15 minutes on arrival.” According to Devendra, his monthly cost is equal to a Volvo bus pass, except he travels with ease and a companion to chat with. But ride sharing has been, at large, restricted to the corporate sector, who travel to distant areas. Suhas BS, who has been carpooling with seven other people for the past year, says that it works only if the commuters are like-minded and accommodative. “People should be good-hearted to make minor adjustments in their daily schedules. For example, even if we have work in the evening, we just close our computers at the agreed departure time and do the extra work on the commute or from home. Companies should facilitate this convenience,” says Subbarao Koppam, another carpooler. The others in the group, Vadiraj Thayur, Abhijith Madhukar, Santosh Rao, Niranjan L, Ravishankar Bharadwaj and Krishnaraj Barvathaya, agree that flexibility is needed.

According to Srinath S, founder of ‘Let’s Drive Along’, an online vehicle-sharing site, there are two types of ride shares – the first is among people who may or may not have vehicles of their own, and the second with fellow motorists. “We only encourage people who have vehicles of their own because it’s easier to split the cost. This way, everyone shares without creating a hassle.” The site lets a person choose a time that is convenient for them, and although it hasn’t seen great success, he believes it’s a good alternative. “Vehicle-sharing won’t work if it’s just members of one company doing it. Everyone in that area has to be a part of it,” adds Srinath.

One of the reasons it doesn’t work is because people are unsure about their safety. Subbarao adds, “There needs to be some secure, reliable and trustworthy platform that brings people living in the same locality together.” Krishnaraj adds, “People should listen to the success stories than the failures. Right now there is a common mindset that ‘It will not work for long’.” Vadiraj says that awareness is needed. “We have a WhatsApp group to co-ordinate ourselves and it’s not difficult to do. If one of us thinks that we won’t be able to keep to the timing, we take our own vehicle that day.”

Some people also make vehicle-pooling a fun adventure. “We have discovered a lot of food joints on our commute; a vendor selling Salem bananas near Adugodi, Nandini milk parlours selling fresh ‘pedas’, Sanman Hotel off South End, Hindupur sandwiches, South Indies and SLV near BDA Park and more,” says Subbarao. They have also ventured to places like Yercaud and keep each other entertained.

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