There was cheering, hooting, whistling and clapping, as the decorated coaches pulled into the platform, then when the train began to move, then at the arrival at each of the stations; when the other train crossed ours near Indiranagar; and finally when it ended the journey in around 15 minutes. Everyone posed with friends and family to freeze the ‘first day first show’ moment on their cameras; as if that was the only day the train would run! It was as if we all had landed up on some fantasy land! On the inaugural day, the service had to be extended to 11.30 pm, due to the huge rush.
Yesterday, the second day, was quieter, there were less joy riders and more genuine passengers. The trains ran packed to capacity. Authorities are expecting a huge rush during the weekend, mainly of shoppers. The good start will hopefully give the authorities enough momentum carry on the project much faster.
The celebration would remain etched in history as nouveau Bangalore continues to rediscover itself and come to terms with its rapidly evolving social and economic landscape. It’s not difficult to fathom the reason for the average Bangalorean’s “we-are-there” feeling. Transportation is one of the basic needs of a society; and this IT powerhouse has been woefully short on it; so much as to ruin the rosy picture of the Garden City.
Bangalore has been a traveller's nightmare: the agony of having to go over a hump or a pothole every 200 metres on an average is compounded by the seemingly eternal wait at a traffic signal every 500 metres on an average. The collateral damages being loss in productivity, revenue and health hazards like back pain and spondylitis.
Probably because of the frustration caused by choking traffic, there are some in Bangalore, who think the Metro project is overhyped, too little too late, and is no solution for a rapidly growing city like this. I think it’s an uncharitable reaction to an ambitious project. True, this Reach 1 is just a 6 km stretch connecting a small part of East Bangalore to the Central Business District. It took over four years. But this is a phenomenal achievement, considering the hurdles it had to surmount, and the fact there are very few stretches of good roads. No one can discount the fact that this small beginning is a huge relief to countless people. It is also a symbolic turning point in Bangalore's growth story.
ALSO, LOOK BEYOND METRO
Transportation solution in any city in the world is multipronged; and mass rapid transport systems like Metro Rail is just one of them. It has to be complemented by many development parameters. What Metro obviates is the struggle to get through the chocked main roads. What Metro obviously doesn’t solve is the connectivity between the many residential localities and the main road. All these years, more Bangaloreans would have used buses if this point had been addressed.
One by-product of Metro Rail is the sudden realisation of the need to have efficient ‘last-mile connectivity’. This should have been taken care of the moment Bangalore hopped on to the information highway, some 15 years back, resulting in thousands of residential layouts springing up on city fringes. Hopefully, this point would be addressed before long, as Bangalore grows at a phenomenal pace.
There are so many other solutions like better quality roads (potholes and humps slow down traffic), relocate squatters (a lot of free space would be instantly available), widening roads (traffic will move faster), encourage public-private partnership in development of city outskirts (so that all are not forced to travel only towards the city), and even disincentivise vehicle buying by individuals (so that private vehicle are less of an ornamentation). But all these will work only if there is across-the-board political commitment, especially at the grassroots level, and discipline on the part of citizens to make solutions work.
For now, I am happy that my travel to office is an effortless exercise in less than half the time I used to take. I am sure that's the case with many other Bangaloreans too.
(This has been crossposted from Kaleidoscope)
See also: Bangalore Metro feeder buses important