My Love For Blogging And My Blog

I take on the baton of Blog Love from Ranjini.

I think it’s pretty clear now that I have come to love blogging, the ecosystem and my own blog. Why else would I be blogging if it weren’t for the fact that I love it? I’m not being compelled to blog or forced to blog, but rather, I do it because it’s something that comes from within.

I started blogging back in 2005 as a 13-year old student who had no clue about what to do in life. By that, I mean I wanted to be an engineer or a scientist but I still had no clue about what I wanted to do in order to achieve this. My blog back then was a very random blog, full of nonsense, some bits of “This-content-is-too-old-for-me” stuff, and what not. I sort of went into hibernation when I realised that I had to work hard and study.

In the midst of this working hard(ly) and studying, I ended up co-writing a humour post with my best friend Janvi titled Phases Of Study. It did what it had to do. Remind me of the time I used to write, and that I had a lot of opinions on practically everything around me.

Fast forward to two years ago. I needed a place to voice my opinions. Although I had been on Twitter since 2007, it didn’t seem to make the cut. Interning with a magazine that used WordPress made me think. I loved WordPress. I loved what it could do. It struck me: It’s now or never. Once I finish studies, a job in the media industry would never give me the time or freedom to write the way I wanted to. Thus, I started thinking, what should I blog about? I travel a lot, get bored, and then travel even more, I take the bus everywhere, even if I fly, I spend more time looking at buses at the airport than anything else. That’s it. My Eureka moment was on 3 July 2015 at around 7pm.

Blogging got me places, got me to BNLF, then an internship, then a chance to cover the CII Partnership as well as Make In India Week, and then my job. Today my boss asks me to write an article based on my experiences in transport, something that has expanded to other stuff, resulting in me writing on various topics from cashless transactions to even milk. For those who knew me in 2013; Who would have thought that a 21-year old guy who describe Toll Plazas in great detail would someday write about cows and milk? I didn’t. I certainly didn’t. I’m sure none of you reading this would have thought of it either.

But that’s how it is. Today, my blog, has turned me in a sort of expert on urban affairs, has got me published on a prestigious magazine that was mentored by none other than Rajaji who was one of India’s greatest thinkers, and has also resulted in several other economics based portals accepting my work. I’m just as surprised as you are, believe me.

But enough of me. My blog wouldn’t be my blog if it weren’t for the ecosystem. Not just readers, but other bloggers as well. I’ve been part of two BlogBuddy groups: Inking Pages and Write On, and believe me, while I may not say it, reading others’ opinions does wonders. It reminds me that there is a life beyond these four walls that I sometimes am confined to, or in case of a bus, four sides of the bus.

I love my blog. I love the ecosystem. I love everyone who has helped me become what I am today. Thank you all.

P.S: Thank you Richa. Atleast someone who understands my fascination with buses.

P.P.S: If you like what I write, please ping Janvi, and thank her. I owe a lot to her.

I pass on the baton of Blog Love to Roma.

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Move Over Ola and Uber, LibreTaxi Is Here

You read that right.

Move over Uber and Ola. There is a new, Open Source platform! LibreTaxi!

According to it’s homepage, LibreTaxi is a free platform that eliminates the third party in the middle. Among the features are:

Fares are decided prior to the ride being confirmed. Drivers can set their fares and passengers can negotiate.

Payment is made in cash. While this could be a not-so-great scenario, the app developers are working on BitCoin integration.

The app runs atop the Telegram messenger platform, and is built using the MIT licence. It can be be easily modified to serve multiple purposes, which is a good move. Additionally, it uses Javascript (ES6) which can be used to enable region-specific features.

The confusing part of it is that the App claims to be Battery-Friendly as it doesn’t use the phones GPS. Are fares predetermined for the distance?

The founder of LibreTaxi, Roman Pushkin has the following to say about LibreTaxi:

“LibreTaxi gives flexibility to passengers and self-employment to drivers. People, not corporations, should have control over how a taxi service works!”

I agree. Having a taxi service where individual drivers and passengers get to decide is ideal. It is probably the best example of Freedom of Enterprise.

I had earlier written about how Uber and Ola drivers were better off classified as Self-Employed. A platform like LibreTaxi ensures that the driver is self-employed, thus giving them the flexibility and decision making power that they should ideally have.

What do you say?

Further Reading: India Is Better Off With Self-Employed Uber And Ola Drivers

 

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The Simplest Guide to Lane Markings

A lot of people have asked this rather fundamental question. While driving, what is the difference between a yellow and a white line on the road? Why are some of them broken lines and some of them continuous?

Well, it’s not that difficult to understand. So here they are. With pictures.

Note: This post only aims to highlight lane markings that are along the length of the road and not the width of the road. Those along the width are easy to understand: They are basically Rumble Strips, or Pedestrian (Zebra) Crossings.

Yellow vs White

There is no concrete standard for Yellow vs White, but Yellow is used in some countries such as Mexico, the Netherlands, the United States, and Canada, the yellow line is used to separate two carriageways in an undivided dual-carriageway road. In simple terms it is used to separate traffic in different directions. In Sri Lanka, it is used for pedestrian crossings and related markings. However, they are slowly being replaced by white due to increased visibility.

A road with Yellow and White markers in Madrid.

A road with Yellow and White markers in Madrid. Photo Credit: Amigos Madrid

Now, for the lines themselves.

Broken Lines

A two laned road in the Rann of Kutchh with a broken white line in the centre.

A two laned road in the Rann of Kutchh with a broken white line in the centre. Image copyright Mohammed Shafiyullah, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons.

A single broken line indicates that traffic can move normally on its own lane, but can cross over to the other side to overtake. In the case of dual carriageway roads, this would mean you can drive on either side of the road, and can change lanes, but with caution. On single carriageway roads, it would mean stick to your lane, the other side is for vehicles travelling in the opposite direction, but if it is empty for a significant distance, you can cross over to overtake a vehicle in front of you.

Single Solid Line

A solid white line at Šafárikovo námestie square in Bratislava near Starý most bridge.

A solid white line at Šafárikovo námestie square in Bratislava near Starý most bridge. Image copyright Aktron/Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported.

A single solid line has different meanings in different countries. In India, it would mean no overtaking, or no crossing the line, except in case of a dire emergency. Turning, however is allowed, in to a lane or a gate. On single carriageway roads, it is usually found in areas where there is a sharp curve or a steep gradient, like in ghat sections. On dual carriageway roads, it is commonly found around intersections and traffic signals, thereby implying that vehicles maintain lane discipline and stay in their respective lanes while waiting at a signal.

Double Solid Line

Double Sloid Lines on the Colin Knott Drive/Olympic Highway looking south bound on the Boorooma Street overpass.

Double Solid Lines on the Colin Knott Drive/Olympic Highway looking south bound on the Boorooma Street overpass. Image copyright Bidgee, CC-BY-SA-3.0 Unported/Wikimedia Commons.

Double Solid Lines are a more stringent version of single solid lines. In India, they are used where the road isn’t a proper dual carriageway road, but each carriageway is more than one lane (But less than two) wide. In simple terms, it is used on roads that are three-ish lanes wide. In Sri Lanka, it is considered on par with a solid median and attracts a heavy penalty if crossed. Vehicles cannot take a turn when a double line is there.

Single Solid + Single Broken Line

Single Solid Line and Single Broken Line on US 84 in Wayne County, MS near Tokio Frost Bridge Rd.

Single Solid Line and Single Broken Line on US 84 in Wayne County, MS near Tokio Frost Bridge Rd. Image copyright Xnatedawgx, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported/Wikimedia Commons.

A rather interesting combination, the Single Solid and Solid Broken line combination does exactly what the two are supposed to do as described earlier. For vehicles travelling on the side of the solid line, crossing it is not allowed, while those travelling on the side of the broken line can. It is normally found in rare stretches, mostly in areas with both a steed gradient and a sharp curve that makes maneuvering difficult in one direction but not the other.

Zig-Zag Lines

Wavy Zig Zag Lines Used Near a Pedestrian Crossing.

Wavy Zig Zag Lines Used Near a Pedestrian Crossing near St. Pauls Cathedral in England. Image copyright Benjamin D. Esham / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0 Unported.

The Wavy or Zig Zag Line, is another fascinating lane marking. Seldom seen in India, it seen across other Commonwealth Nations such as the United Kingdom or Sri Lanka. Its main purpose is to inform the motorist or driver that a Zebra Crossing or Pedestrian Crossing is coming ahead. Vehicles are generally not supposed to stop in the region with the zig-zag lines, but slow down and stop in front of the crossing itself.

Diamond Lanes

Diamond Marker on I-24 outside Nashville, TN.

Diamond Marker on I-24 outside Nashville, TN. Image copyright Goldwiser/Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported.

The last and another interesting one is the diamond lane marker. Possibly never seen in India, it is commonly seen in the United States, Sri Lanka, Canada etc. Depending on where you are they have different meanings. In Sri Lanka, it is to inform the motorist of a pedestrian crossing, much ahead of the aforementioned wavy lines. In the US and Canada, it may be, among others:

  • A bicycle lane
  • A lane meant for hybrids or electric vehicles
  • A lane meant only for carpoolers
  • A lane meant for taxis
  • A lane meant for Amish Buggies

So, that pretty much explains how Lane Markings work.

Explained: The Lines and Markings on The Road, in the simplest way possible! Click To Tweet

At the end of the day, I’d remind you of this sign from the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC):

Observe Lane Discipline. लनेची शिस्त पाळा.

Observe Lane Discipline. लनेची शिस्त पाळा. Image Credit: Weird Weekends

A very special thanks to Mr. Oneil who explained the road markings in Sri Lanka to me.

Featured Image: Lane Markings at Kandy, Sri Lanka, Image: Srikanth Ramakrishnan/CC-BY-SA 4.0/Wikimedia Commons.

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Uber Movement: Can it help us solve our Transport Problems?

Uber recently debuted its new Platform, Uber Movement (http://movement.uber.com) which will offer users access to its traffic data.

According to Uber’s blogpost on the same, Movement is meant to be a website that uses Uber’s data to help urban planners make informed decisions about our cities.

Now this might actually work out to be the best thing to happen to us!

Let us take Mumbai and Bengaluru as an example.

Both BEST and BMTC and an eTicketing system and an ITS with a vehicle tracker in place. With these two systems, the transco is able to:

  • Place the bus on a map.
  • Compute the number of tickets sold on different stages of different bus routes.
  • Superimpose the two onto a single dataset to identify where maximum passengers are and and what time. Using this data, one can come to the conclusion of time taken between two stops, and what time people are more or most likely to catch the bus.

Now, what can Uber’s data add to this dateset:

  • Average traffic conditions. While this can be ascertained using the Vehicle Tracking in Buses as well, Uber’s data is bound to be a little more accurate.
  • Alternative routes between two points. Since Uber relies on Google Maps for its navigation, it normally is able to plot multiple routes from Point A to Point B. This data can be used to launch additional bus routes.

The purpose of a Public Transport Undertaking like BEST or BMTC using Uber Movement’s data is to provide streamlined traffic flow.

Now let us take a real-world example:

Bengaluru

Building up on a previous post (Stuck in Traffic: How I Might Have Averted a Major Jam), let us assume that one would have to travel between Arekere Gate on Bannerghatta Road and the junction of 5th Main and 17th Cross in HSR Layout. As discussed earlier, there are two main routes. Traffic data from Google, Uber and BMTC’s ticket sales would be able to place things on a map. Since BMTC does not have a smart card system in place, it would be difficult to ascertain if the passengers disembarking at Jayadeva are taking a bus towards HSR Layout. If it did have a Smart Card system, or load passes onto an RFID card, this could be ascertained easily.

BMTC can then, based on traffic movements and passenger loads, introduce minibuses between Arekere and HSR Layout via Bomanahalli during peak hours.

Mumbai

Here, let us assume that one has to travel from Cadbury Junction, Thane to SEEPZ, Andheri.

Buses have two routes. Some of them like AS-422 take the Cadbury Junction-Marathon Chowk, Mulund Check Naka, Bhandup, Powai Route. Some, take the direct route by continuing on the Easter Express Highway and taking a right turn onto the Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road and then proceeding on to SEEPZ. Uber Movement can help BEST figure out when there is maximum congestion, and using its dataset on how many passengers and where they travel from and to, plan a more optimal route.

 

At the end of the day, Uber Movement is nothing revolutionary, it is merely Google Maps with a little more data, but more data is good for all of us.

What Uber Movement will certainly help us with is planning of land acquisition for newer transit projects, wider roads, metro lines, et al. But those are capital intensive projects. Newer bus routes would be the first step to implementing a full-scale transformation project. It will help make the city’s people smart, irrespective of whether city itself is smart or not.

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BEST Comes Up With Three Pronged Strategy To Curb Accidents

Mumbai: BEST has devised a new three-pronged strategy to curb accidents with its fleet.

A BEST bus that was involved in an accident.

A BEST bus that was involved in an accident. Photo: News18

Among them are:

  1. CCTVs
  2. Smaller Tyres
  3. Larger Mirrors
Survey report by BEST in March 2015 . Image credits: Mid-Day

Survey report by BEST in March 2015 . Image credits: Mid-Day

CCTVs

BEST has written to the state government to set up more CCTV cameras on streets. BEST wants to be able to monitor its drivers en route, monitor their driving skills and safety, and identify corridors where accidents are common. This should be extended to the buses too. One would wish that the requested CCTVs are for the exterior of the bus too, something which currently only the Volvo fleet has: A CCTV camera on the top of the rear window panel that can be monitored by a display next to the steering wheel.All BEST buses, barring the Volvo fleet have two CCTV cameras in them, as part of the agreement with Verve Compusoft for the PIS and Advertising system. However, BEST themselves are unsure as to how many of them are functional, and like the PIS, it is also in bad shape and nothing can be done due to a badly enforced contract. While more CCTVs is one thing, whether they will be properly utilised, is another thing.

Smaller Tyres

BEST has decided to get smaller tyres for its buses, as a alternative to installing a speed governor. While this might be great for certain routes, care must be taken and larger tyres must be present on buses that ply on Express or Long Distance routes such as A74Express or A8Express which ply on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link and the Eastern Freeway as well as go on top of almost every flyover on the Western and Easter Express Highways respectively.

6,500 new tyres will be fitted in 775 Tata buses (out of the total 3,800 buses that BEST has) and will be procured at a cost of ₹4.72 crore. The older nylon tyres are 9.00 x 20-14PR while the newer nylon tyres will be 9.00 x20-16PR.

Speed Governors are mandatory on heavy vehicles like buses, trucks and trailers under the Central Motor Vehicle Rules of 1989.

Mirrors

The Undertaking will also install newer mirrors. The new mirrors, with a dimension of 380mm x 190 mm is being tested. The existing mirrors are 40% smaller. If they are found to be useful, it will be retrofitted into 303 new buses and then gradually into the rest of the fleet as well.

Overall, BEST seems to have done a great deal of study to reduce accidents. We wish them all the BEST (pun intended) and hope they succeed.

 

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The Amish Buggy is High-Tech, Why Can’t Our Victoria’s Be The Same?

I recently came across a very interesting article on Popular Mechanics about the Amish Buggy. The Amish (not Tripathi) are a group of traditionalist Christians who practically reject the use of electricity, telecommunications and automobiles. They use a traditional Horse and Buggy to travel.

Amish family riding in a traditional Amish buggy in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA.

Amish family riding in a traditional Amish buggy in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA. Image copyright TheCadExpert, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Commons.

Why can’t our Victoria carriages be similar?

The article: The Amish Horse-Drawn Buggy Is More Tech-Forward Than You Think

The Amish Buggy has the following “high-tech” components:

Brakes

The Amish Buggy uses drum or disk brakes, that are similar to modern automobiles but not powered. There is a brake pedal that is connected to this, mainly to prevent the buggy from hitting the horse.

Electrical Components

Since states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania require vehicles to have lights, some buggies come with a dashboard of switches for brake lights, external lights, headlamps, turn indicators, et al, most of which are LEDs. They use a 20V/6A battery that usually powers an electric drill. Back home in India, nobody gives two hoots about lights and indicators.

The Body

The Body of the buggy is quite interesting. These days, they’re made of fibreglass. Yes, that’s right, fibreglass. Aluminium components are also used, while the whole thing is coating with white oak or ash wood with fabric and polyester donning the upholstery.

Modern buggies also use Thermally Modified Wood, which is basially wood that is dried up and then “baked” to take the moisture completely out of it. This gives it a long life and makes it difficult to rot.

Tyres and Wheels

The buggies normally use either Steel or Solid Rubber tyres, with Steel being preferred since it isn’t compressible like rubber which is quieter. Those with Rubber tyres, have rear mounted brakes while those with Steel tyres have front mounted brakes. The wheel is made of Steel, Wood, Aluminium or Fibreglass.

Yes, the Amish Buggy is quite an interesting thing, although it might seem silly to abstain from modern technology. I’d like to ride on one some day, but one only hopes that the Victorias in Bombay made some similar modifications. It would certainly spruce them up, even if they are being banned.

 

 

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Dindoshi To Get A Makeover

The Dindoshi Bus Station (next to the Dindoshi Depot) on the Goregaon-Mulund Link Road near Oberoi Mall is all set to get a facelift.

Dindoshi Depot Render by WRI India

Dindoshi Depot Render by WRI India

Below is a slideshow on the whole subject:

In the above slideshow, a lot of emphasis is laid as to why Dindoshi was chosen for this. Dindoshi Bus Station is among the busiest bus stations in Mumbai. The plan takes into account the number of buses entering and leaving, the different routes along with the existing facilities at the bus station. The depot and terminal occupy 3242.9 sqm., and witnesses approximately 8331 passengers a day.

The existing terminal has a terminal building, bus bays, bus parking bays and a passenger boarding area. For pedestrians, it is a bit dangerous due to the large gap in the central median outside the depot as well as vendors on pedestrian pavements. It is a little difficult to spot as well, due to its inconspicuous look. Further, due to a single entry point for drivers and buses, it is accident prone. Passengers further have to often board buses in the parking bay, thus making them walk across the open area of the terminal where buses are in motion. Due to haphazard parking, buses may also collide with each other.

Several changes have been proposed to the layout, in two phases:

Phase One

Phase One lists the basic changes that need to be made:

  • Improving pedestrian safety while accessing the terminal
  • Changing bus circulation and the pattern in the terminal
  • Reorganising the terminal layout for better accessibility and safety
  • Amenities for both passengers and staff

Phase Two

Phase Two involves commercialising the entire structure.

Multiple concepts have been provided in the entire plan, which can be seen in the Slideshow.

 

Overall, this is a good move. If it is done in the right way, with proper accessibility for pedestrians and those who are visually or physically impaired, it would be a big boon for the city and for BEST.

 

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Amphibious Bus, Water Bus, Boat Bus?

Meet the Boat-Bus! Yes. Or atleast that’s what they’re calling it.

Two separate Boat-Buses made their appearance in the last two months, one in Punjab and one in Lucknow. Both are the exact opposites of each other.

Presenting The Harike, Punjab’s Boat-Bus for tourists in the Harike wetlands.

The Harike Water Bus. Image via Twitter.

The Harike Water Bus. Image via Twitter.

At first glance, anyone who sees this picture will say: “Wait, what? That looks like a Banana on Wheels!”.

Personally, I’m confused whether it is a boat with wheels or a mini-van shaped like a boat. Functionally, it is both. There is a ramp that leads it into the water from where it functions as a boat. Something like a Hovercraft, one might say.

While Aesthetics seem to have taken a backseat here, it is functional enough. One just hopes that it does not capsize in the water.

Now, presenting Lucknow’s Water-Bus.

Lucknow Water Bus. Image via Facebook.

Lucknow Water Bus. Image via Facebook.

It’s a boat. Yes. A covered boat. Lucknow, by virtue of being on the banks of the Gomti river has managed to get a functional water transport system due to start commercial operations by this month.

What confuses me is where there is so much water in Gomti river and why is there so much water pouring down from the bridge? Are they filling the river? I know this is possible in Ahmedabad because the Sabarmati is designed like a giant drain, but does Uttar Pradesh have the wherewithall for such a thing?

It would be nice to someday see the Yamuna, Ganga, and Kaveri be cleaned up. Cities like Delhi, Kanpur, Varanasi, Erode and Thiruchchirapalli (Trichy) too can then set up their own water transport systems.

As I had outlined in a previous post, on the basis of Pune and Ahmedabad, any Indian city that lies on the banks of a major river can get itself a good water transport system. Further, cities on the coast, mainly Mumbai, Chennai, Visakhapatnam (Vizag), Panaji, Mormugao, and Mangalore should get hovercrafts. Water transport is slowly getting more prominence in the country. Mumbai is getting a terminal for water-based Ro-Ro transport. Rolling Highways are one thing, but Floating Highways? Why not. If we can have a Konkan Railway, why not a Konkan Waterway.

It’s high time, we start innovating and looking at newer modes of transport. The Hyperloop concept is still eons away. Till then, let us focus on more terrestrial transport, which doesn’t necessarily have to be on land. As they say, Water is the Basis of Life.

The Boat-Bus can form a crucial part of a Floating Highway network. Click To Tweet

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Stuck in Traffic: How I Might Have Averted a Major Jam

Getting stuck in traffic is possibly the worst thing ever, especially in the morning. It simply ruins the rest of your day.

You wake up, get ready, and leave for a 9 hour job. You leave and end up stuck in traffic and your entire day goes for a toss. You are frustrated, irritated, and end up antagonizing others.

Now, where does the problem start? In today’s world, everybody relies on Google Maps. With Google advertising on Television about the awesomeness of it’s Navigation and Live Traffic relay, every Tom, Dick and Harry is busy using it to get to their destination. I’m not blaming the efficiency of Google Maps, but it did cause what I would call an Antagonising Disaster in Bengaluru.

To give a background, I need to travel to HSR Layout from Bannerghatta Road. There are two primary routes to reach this destination:

  1. BTM Layout and Central Silk Board
  2. Bommanahalli and Mangammapalya

The first route is perennially jammed because a vast majority of the traffic flows on this route, especially buses, and with bus stops placed precariously close to the signal, say goodbye to reaching office early.

The second route is less congested, faster and allows you to enter HSR Layout from the other end.

Now, the fastest way to reach HSR via the second route is: Vijaya Bank Layout – > Kodichikanahalli Road – > Devarachikanahalli Road – > Begur Road – > Mangammapalya Road and then turn into whichever main road of HSR Layout you would like to go to, starting from 5th Main.

Now, in order to get on to Mangammapalya Road [MR], one has to turn right onto Hosur Road, and take the immediate left. There is an opening on the Service Lane. This, is where the problem started.

BBMP had shut down the junction for a few days, in order to build a median on MR. Along with this, as part of traffic control, they barricaded part of the Service Lane. Thus anyone going from Silk Board towards Bommanahalli would have to get onto the main carriageway because the service lane is shut. Further, those coming out of HSR Layout via MR, would have to compulsorily take a left towards Garebhavi Palya because there was a Median that extended to the service lane barricades. Sounds complicated doesn’t it?

Once this was done, Google, which tracks every Android device, assumed that the junction was shut and thus stopped directing traffic on this route. It would direct all traffic towards Silk Board from the Bommanahhali signal, or worse, divert people onto a teeny-weeny, narrow, pothole ridden road parallel to Devarachikanahalli that went thru Virat Nagar, Vird Nagar and came out at Roopena Agrahara. Ultimately, all traffic ended up at Silk Board. Now, Uber drivers normally prefer following Google Maps. The situation is worse if you’re in an Uber Pool. The driver does not know the route, and even if some passenger wants to get off on MR, the map would direct them to Silk Board, then turn into HSR 5th Main, and then come back to MR. Very agonising, and antagonising.

I figured, let me try and fix this issue.Thus, I began shaking my phone. I shook it. Submitted feedback. No change. Repeat process. This went on for THREE WEEKS till Google finally removed the Road Closed Sign. I even tried to upload a pic of the junction in my feedback. It took a while, but in the end, it worked.

The reason why this affected me so much was, since all traffic going towards HSR Layout, or even beyond Agara, towards Marathahalli would end up going to Silk Board. Not just Uber and Ola drivers, but even regular folk who didn’t know the city ended up on this route. A major Pain in the Nether Regions, I say. This often resulted in nasty waiting times at Silk Board, sometimes lasting up to 25 minutes. This pileup also impacted traffic going toward BTM since all those waiting to turn right would hog up the left lanes. Further, the ripple effect caused by this caused pile-ups on all sides of the Silk Board flyover, creating a Royal Mess!

Now that the situation is back to normal, I for one am happy. Lesser traffic jams, faster traffic, but unfortunately, no reduction in people mindlessly following Google Maps.

Here is a screenshot of the junction in Question.

A Google Maps Screenshot of the Junction of Mangammapalya Main Road and Hosur Road at Bommanahalli.

A Google Maps Screenshot of the Junction of Mangammapalya Main Road and Hosur Road at Bommanahalli.

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Uber’s Tryst with Autos

Auto rickshaws in India have traditionally been the most prominent mode of transport. I have made out with my girlfriend in one.

The market, although unruly in most cities, is changing. It is slowly changing itself to keep pace with its biggest rival: Ridesharing.

Below, is an FEE piece that talks about how Auto Rickshaws are changing in India.

The Rickshaw Market Is Being Uberized

One of the great pleasures of visiting other countries is seeing how different cultures have attempted to solve the great human problem of getting from A to B. The question of transit is both a personal human undertaking and also a national challenge, essential for individuals and societies to thrive.

What’s so interesting is the vast array of solutions we’ve come up with to such a universal puzzle. There are often unique local obstacles to navigate, but the variety of different forms of public transport is wonderfully broad.

In India there is a striking number of options – some ingenious, some seemingly bonkers – but then when you have a billion people to move around a bit of variety is understandable. Pedal power is still in effect, the classic cycle rickshaw is a genteel option for short trips.

Busses packed to bursting careen through city centres with passengers dangling off the side or climbing onto the roof (Virgin Trains eat your heart out). The busses don’t so much as stop but decelerate long enough for customers to hurl themselves aboard. Grand looking Hindustan Ambassador taxis lazily cruise the streets often overcharging with a new wave of Uber and Ola drivers snapping at their heels.

The Auto-Rickshaw

But by far the most fun form of transport for traversing Indian cities is the auto-rickshaw. A physical and economic marvel, you can be whisked across town for a few rupees in what feels like a cross between a go-kart and a Rascal van. They perform up to 20% of the 229 million motorised trips taken every day in Indian cities.

The multitude of crisscrossing routes means you can usually catch one to where you want to go, but determining the routes can be a challenge. Local knowledge is vital. Stops are also a fluid concept, most will pull over to squeeze on another fare. It’s amazing how what seems like a vehicle with three passenger seats can multiply into six with some judicious lap-sitting and a bit of hanging off the side.

The patchy and chaotic arrangement for matching supply and demand, as well as sometimes variable pricing, left inefficiencies in the system crying out for some tech-based organization.Each of these three-wheeled people movers represents an act of economic endeavour, an entrepreneurial venture into the fast flowing current of Indian transport competition.

They provide jobs for tens of thousands of drivers and are inexpensive to buy and run. As old models are replaced by modern versions powered by compressed natural gas, they are also helping reduce pollution in overcrowded urban areas.

Such is their ubiquity it’s understandable that Uber turned its sights on trying to capitalize the auto-rickshaw market. The patchy and chaotic arrangement for matching supply and demand, as well as sometimes variable pricing, left inefficiencies in the system crying out for some tech-based organization.

Using the billion mobile phones in India, initially hail companies would track real-time driver availability by text message. As the number of smartphones has increased, however,  the use of live GPS tracking has allowed the potential for riders and drivers to connect in a timely and systematic way.

This mash-up of new and old technology spawned a host of start-up hailing firms with home-grown Indian companies Jugnoo, AutoWale and Ola seeing off competition from Uber which has suspended its auto-rickshaw service in India. Jugnoo, which bought out AutoWale last year, recently raised $10 million in its latest investment round.

Empowering drivers, many of whom are illiterate, with technology has seen incomes double and brought at least a little order to an often haphazard and stressful job.

With so many people to keep on the move, improving the efficiency of India’s auto-rickshaws is a significant contribution to the country’s transport mix, especially for the less well-off who rely on this low cost form of transportation. As Jugnoo CEO Samar Singla said:

“Uber is for the top 20 per cent of people, we’re for the bottom 80 per cent.”

The post The Uberisation of the rickshaw appeared first on CapX

Joe Ware


Joe Ware

Joe Ware is a writer at Christian Aid.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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