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Why skip convenience, status and safety for public transport?

Roshan H Nair, Bengaluru, Nov 27, 2016, DHNS: 0:05 IST
Metro, with its clean stations and coaches, and punctual schedules might have given a different image to public transport. But the reality remains, that the system caters to only a fraction of the city. DH file photo
Once you enter a Metro train in Bengaluru, this sign cannot be missed: “You are in Namma Metro. You have successfully avoided ‘road rage’.”

Metro, with its clean stations and coaches, and punctual schedules might have given a different image to public transport. But the reality remains, that the system caters to only a fraction of the city.

Huge swathes of the city have to make do with a not-so-tightly managed system of BMTC buses. People have many things to say about BMTC. The word thrown around very often in such discussions is ‘inconvenience’.

Many Bengalureans wonder why they should slog it out on the tedious public transport system when they can afford to move around in their own vehicles. But in doing so, aren’t they diving deep into another chaotic maze where rising traffic congestion and pollution are the norms?

Sonam Malhotra, head of the Indiranagar Fabindia, drives every day through the nightmarish traffic in the HAL area in her brand new Ertiga. Yet, she prefers her vehicle to public transport. She would choose public transport only if there is a Metro route connecting Indiranagar and Marathahalli. “Bus journey is very tedious. Also, there is no one bus connecting Marathahalli and Indiranagar. Getting on and off makes the journey even more difficult,” she says.

Private transport also gets things done for many people. Here’s Jithu Bhatt, manager at a Yamaha showroom, talking about reasons why people choose to buy their own vehicles: “ A lot of men choose scooters these days. For them, it is not a question of how trendy the vehicle is, the matter is of convenience. They want vehicles that are needed only to drop their children off to work, and something their wives can use when they are not around to drive.”

However, convenience is not the only reason for people to move away from public transport. Among the economically well-off in the country, the very culture of driving is undergoing a drastic change. Chetan, who works for Kawasaki, and identifies himself as a rider, talks about the emergence of a strong ‘rider’ community, much like in the United States or Japan.

These ‘discerning’ riders buy motorcycles for exciting long rides and not for everyday needs. This community was largely limited to the upper and upper middle classes. But now, the ‘riding’ trend is trickling down to the rest of the population. “Many people are saving money to buy such vehicles these days.”

For Rohini Debroy, who is an interior designer, the concerns are very different. Talking about her new sedan, she says owning a car has very much to do with being a woman in this city and choosing the lifestyle that she wants.

That is about making a point. Her car, Rohini says, makes her feel more “masculine.” The society being sexist as it is, many men do not deem women worthy of driving big cars; there are other cars that are ‘more appropriate for women,’ they say. For a woman to buy a sedan with her own money is quite something. “You force society to look at you differently.”

Lifestyle is also a major factor that counts for Rohini. Women travelling at night find it very hard to find a means of public transport. Women, she says, will have to be extra -conscious of what they wear during night-time commute. In her college days, Rohini had taken the bus several times enduring experiences that she dubs ‘horrible.’ There were people ogling and groping, all done in the cover that crowded buses provide even during day-time.

Most private vehicle owners have their personal reasons to skip public transport. But they are willing to make that shift if the efficiency of public transport improves in terms of comfort, safety, convenience and last-mile connectivity. Negotiating the city traffic on your vehicle, is always a nightmare, after all.

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