The common scenario of public transport in any big Indian towns or cities can be frightening for an outsider. The overcrowded buses, people hanging from the doors like vegetables overflowing a cart – it is not only dangerous but pretty frustrating too. On top of this, you have the infamous peak hour rush where tens of people run for a speeding overcrowded bus and, eventually, throw them upon the already-packed-with-hanging-commuters doors at the commuters’ mercy! To your great horror and surprise, you will rub your eyes once seeing that some of them have even managed to stick to that crowd bus door and now flashing a happy smile. No wonder, they will leave you speechless wondering why Hollywood directors are not recruiting them as naturally gifted stuntmen.
Now, let us analyze the situation more directly. Generally, there are three modes of public transport – train, bus and metro (a recent inclusion in the list) apart from the mini transport services like auto rickshaw, water transport etc.
Metro: Till May 2014, the metro service was available in only three metro cities of India – Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. Mumbai is the next addition in metro-ed cities. But these three metro services are availed by only 29% of the total commuters for being too expensive. Delhi has successfully lived up to the expectation of making metro truly a public service. But, as for Kolkata, the metro service has often been criticized by the people and media for failing to meet the expectations. Crowd is an issue for Kolkata metro which often disrupts even the services by creating major technical issues. The initial days of Mumbai metro also faced this similar crowd challenge.
Bus: Apart from Ahmadabad Bus Rapid Transit System or Ahmadabad BRTS, almost every state has failed to provide a comfortable and efficient service. Whether it’s regularity or infrastructure, government bus services are not greatly admired by the commuters. This lead to the emergence of private bus services which happen to perform a better job, hence anytime overloaded with passengers. The laid-back attitude of government bus organizations compel commuters to risk their lives in getting into a running bus to reach their workplaces on time.
Train: Local train or EMU is perhaps the widely availed public transport system in all major cities, especially, Mumbai and Kolkata. Although commuters are being sandwiched during the journey, most of the people avail it for its speed and comfort factor. It feels way better to squeezed in a crowd for an hour than to inhale those deadly gases while stuck on jam inside an overcrowded bus for hours. Moreover, it is pocket friendly too.
Alternative options: As public transport system is not under central’s control, each of the state governments is responsible for their own public transport development plans and strategies. To cope with the great number of daily commuters, alternative ways like monorail, sky bus, light rail or subsidized metro system are often being planned, but yet to be executed. As both train and metro are capital-intensive affairs, state governments should focus on developing road-based transport plans to not run into new losses again.