Getting around Gurgaon

Gurgaon, sometimes known as the Millennium City, is Haryana’s second largest city. It is also the most isolated part of the cities that form the first rung of the NCR. Unlike NOIDA, Ghaziabad and Faridabad, Gurgaon is at a little distance from Delhi, thus being buffered from its overflowing traffic and pollution.

While the original town of Gurgaon has existed for decades, the city in its current form is a recent development, thus making it the youngest city in the NCR.

Gurgaon has several modes of transport, like most major cities in India.

Autos

Autos are the most common form of public transport in Gurgaon. They are green in colour, can be hailed from anywhere on the streets, but they don’t have a Fare Meter. It is up to the commuter and autowala to bargain and agree to a price. However, Gurgaon autowalas are reasonable compared to their Delhi counterparts and a compromise can be reached easily. There are several Auto-booking apps as well, such as Jugnoo and G-Auto, the latter of which is backed by the Gurgaon Municipal Corporation.

Taxis

Bike Taxi Stand at HUDA City Centre.
Bike Taxi Stand at HUDA City Centre. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Hailing Taxis on the streets isn’t a daily affair in Gurgaon. If you need a cab, the best thing to do is to use Uber or Ola. However, Bike Taxis are very common. Players such as Baxi and M-Taxi have proper taxi stands at prominent places, such as outside HUDA City Centre, while other such as HeyTaxi require to be booked using the Mobile App.

Shuttle Services

A Tempo on duty with Shuttl.
A Tempo on duty with Shuttl. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Shuttle services, like I had discussed, in an earlier post, such as Ola Shuttle, ZipGo, Shuttl, are available on select routes within Gurgaon and between Gurgaon and other parts of the NCR. These bus aggregators feature Mobile-app based bookings, free WiFi, cashless payments. Mostly operated using Tempo Travellers, they are popular with Office Goers in areas closer to Sohna Road and other such areas where the Metro hasn’t gone yet.

Metro

The Rapid Metro pulling in at Sikanderpur station.
The Rapid Metro pulling in at Sikanderpur station. Image copyright Ajaydeshwal1994, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The most important form of transport in Gurgaon, the city is served by two Metro lines: The Yellow line of the Delhi Metro that has five stations in Gurgaon, and the Rapid MetroRail Gurgaon, which is India’s first truly private metro rail to be operational.

Delhi Metro’s Yellow Line connects Gurgaon to some of New Delhi’s most crucial areas such as Connaught Place, New Delhi, Chandni Chowk, Kashmere Gate, Parliament House, Vidhan Sabha, Delhi University, Saket, Qutub Minar, etc.

Rapid Metro connects DLF CyberHub to Sikanderpur and will further connect to Sector 56.

Buses

Bus No 321 at HUDA City Centre.
Bus No 321 at HUDA City Centre. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Gurgaon has City Bus services operated by Haryana Roadways.Buses connect various parts of the city with the Gurgaon Bus Stand, Railway Station or HUDA City Centre. Non-AC buses are blue in colour while AC buses are Red or Maroon. Buses are operated by HR’s Gurgaon Division and also the Faridabad Division which operates its city buses into Gurgaon.

Bus No 321 at HUDA City Centre.
Bus No 321 at HUDA City Centre. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

In addition to this, the DTC operates its buses from various parts of Delhi, such as Karol Bagh, Anand Vihar, Badarpur, Uttam Nagar and Dwarka to the Gurgaon Bus Stand. Haryana Roadways also operates a Volvo service connecting Chandigarh to Gurgaon via Delhi Airport.

So there are the various ways of getting around Gurgaon.

Addendum.

If you’re in Sector 14, you  should try Mogli’s Coffee. They have some interesting variations, including Brownie Cappuccino among others. They are located at the far end of Sector 14 Market, in front of South Store on the same lane as the PNB ATM.

The best coffee Gurgaon can offer!

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Delhi and its Bus Melee

Delhi -The National Capital Territory of India, has a serious problem with buses.
Before getting into details, let us just list out modes of transport within the city.

  • Delhi Suburban Railway: EMUs and MEMUs connecting Delhi to nearby cities such as Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Gurgaon.
  • Delhi Ring Railway: A 35km long railway running parallel to Ring Road, with 7 services clockwise and 7 anticlockwise with a peak hour frequency of 60-90 minutes.
  • Delhi Metro: A 213km long Rapid Transit system consisting of a mix of Underground, Elevated and At Grade tracks and stations.
  • Buses: Buses, like every other city in India.
  • Auto rickshaws: Autorickshaws with GPS-enabled Meters who rarely charge by the fare meter.

Now, coming to Buses.

Delhi has three kinds of buses that operate on its street, all by different operators. Yes. Three of them.

  • DTC Buses
  • Cluster Buses
  • Metro Feeder Buses

DTC Buses

A DTC Ashok Leyland AC Bus.
A DTC Ashok Leyland AC Bus. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The DTC operates two distinct services in the city. Green coloured non-AC buses and Maroon coloured AC buses. Barring a few old buses which are pre-2000 buses, all the buses are low-floor, rear-engined CNG buses. Buses are either Ashok Leyland or Tata Marcopolo models, in both variants. Daily Passes for both regular and AC services are sold on board the bus like most other cities. Monthly passes are available at 30+ odd centres across the NCT. Barring the Jheel centre, all are computerised. Passes are supremely cheap, with the non AC pass costing ₹800 and AC pass costing ₹1000 a month. Minimum fares are ₹5 for the Green bus and ₹10 for the Maroon counterparts. Similar to what Western and Central Railways did in the Mumbai Suburban Railway and what PMPML did in Pune, fare stages are in increments of ₹5. The highest fare in a non AC bus is ₹15!

Feeder Buses

Delhi Metro Feeder Bus
Delhi Metro Feeder Bus. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Operated by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation [DMRC], these are minibuses with the aim of linking Metro stations to localities around them. The funny part is that similar to Bangalore’s Metro Feeder buses, they travel long distances too. For example, at Saket Station, you can see Feeder buses going upto Badarpur. They follow the same fare structure of the regular DTC bus.

Cluster Buses

A DIMTS Cluster Bus.
A DIMTS Cluster Bus. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

And now, for the long part of this article. Cluster Buses. The orange-coloured buses in Delhi, were introduced in 2011 to compensate for the shortage of buses since the Blueline fleet had been eliminated. Delhi’s buses have always had a huge percentage of private players in it, and with the cluster buses, they have been corporatised with under the Banner of Delhi Transit, run by the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Ltd. [DIMTS]. These buses use the same fare stages as the regular DTC buses, except that Daily Passes are not valid on them, and tickets are issued digitally.

Now how does the Cluster Service pan out?

Delhi has always had a mix of private and public buses on its streets.

A Blue Line bus in Delhi.
A Blue Line bus in Delhi. Image copyright stevekc, CC-BY-SA 2.0, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Till 2010-2011, the private sector was composed of Licenced Stage Carriers, known as Blue Line buses. They were individual buses, operating under no fixed rules, and thus could take any route they wished to. This caused a major issue, since most operators chose only the profitable routes and in order to maximise profits, overloaded the buses as well as drove negligently to make more trips. This often put passengers at risk, and on an average, 100 people died in a year, both inside and outside the bus. In 2008-2010, the then Sheila Dikshit-led government decided to discontinue these buses in favour of the new Corporatisation scheme. Accordingly, permits to operate these buses were withdrawn and new permits were no longer issued. In 2011, the first set of Cluster Buses were launched.

So, what formed the basis for these Cluster Buses and why are they called so?

The DIMTS, a joint venture of the Government of NCT Delhi [GNCTD] and the IDFC Foundation, did a analysis of the 650-odd bus routes in Delhi and grouped them into 17 clusters. A list of the clusters as well their constituent bus routes is available on the GNCTD website. Within these clusters, 40% of the buses were to be run by DTC and the remaining 60% by DIMTS. DIMTS, meanwhile is just a Government Body, which among other things, maintains GPS data of every auto-rickshaw in the NCT, which is fitted with a GPS-enabled Fare Meter. The buses themselves are operated by Private Parties. Unlike the erstwhile Blue Lines, they are operated by large corporate bodies. Cluster buses today form the 60% Private share in the 17 clusters, though Private Stage Carriers with the Blue Line livery are slowly making a come back under the current government.

Each Cluster Bus is GPS-enabled with the position being relayed to the Public Information Website [http://businfo.dimts.in/businfo/] which shows the ETA of the buses, similar to what BEST does. Touch-screen Verifone Ticket Machines are utilised on these buses. Since there are only 3 fare stages, the driver only has to press the fare, ₹5, ₹10 or ₹15, and the location is automatically picked up via GPS. Similar to BEST, data is automatically sent to the server, thus eliminating a lot of issues.

A DIMTS Cluster Bus Ticket Machine.
A DIMTS Cluster Bus Ticket Machine. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

So what exactly is the issue here?

Now, there are several issues here, with all the buses in question:

  • Fares: Fares in Delhi are too low. With a minimum fare of ₹10 on AC services and fare stages of ₹5, ₹10 and ₹15 only in non AC services, fares are too cheap for both DTC and private operators to sustain themselves, even with low taxes and cheap CNG. It costs ₹15 in a bus from Okhla to Old Delhi Railway Station. The same journey costs ₹19 in a Metro from Okhla to Chandni Chowk. The only city where a bus ride is cheaper than a train.
  • ETMs: The Orange Faeries have GPS-based ETMs that instantly transmit data but have no purpose other than these two. BEST ETMs can sell passes and validate them. There should be a plan to sell Daily Passes with these machines and validate prepaid cards.
  • Passes: Daily Passes, even of AC buses are not valid on DIMTS buses, which form 3/5 of the buses on the road. They are also not valid on Feeder buses.
  • Feeder buses: Since the feeder buses are out on a contract basis with private carriers, they end up acting like Blueline minibuses.
  • Delhi BRTS: The Delhi BRTS is another case of Bus Lanes masquerading as as BRTS. It is similar to the original Swargate-Katraj BRT line in Pune. All sorts of vehicles enter bus lanes, there are no barricades at some place, bus stops are confusing. The funny part of the BRTS is that there are two layers of bus stops, parallel to each other at a junction, resulting in a mini pile-up.

Overall, Delhi’s transport system leaves a lot of space for improvement. DTC also operates buses to neighbouring cities in the NCR, such as NOIDA and Gurgaon. Passes are not valid on these buses. DIMTS doesn’t cross the border. All buses going away from Delhi terminate at the border. DTC also operates a shuttle bus service between Terminal 3 and 1 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, as well buses to Lahore, Pakistan and Kathmandu, Nepal.

Delhi’s bus problem is that buses try to be direct competition to the Metro. Operations need to be streamlined into a single integrated system, along with some fare hikes to make it sustainable.

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Odd or Even? Why the Delhi plan is the dumbest thing ever!

So recently, the Delhi Government, announced that they were going to implement a new rule from January 1st 2016, which would allow vehicles with Odd and Even registrations to ply only on alternate days. Like the rest of the world, I think it is a dumb idea. The intention might be good, to reduce pollution, but the backlash this is going to have, is going to wreak havoc across not just the National Capital Territory, but also the National Capital Region.

Note: Many readers have complained that I have a bad perspective because I’m a Mumbaikar. Just to clarify, that in the period running up to the New Year and for the next two weeks, I was a resident of the National Capital Region, living in Gurgaon and traveling to Delhi every alternate day. I was subject to the Odd-Even Joomla for 12 out of 15 days.

Before, I go forward, I just want to remind you of two things:

  • This nonsensical proposal was planned for Mumbai by the AAP’s big brother Congress, over a decade ago. It got scrapped, and for a good reason.
  • This proposal apparently works well in China. People who support it forget one thing. China is not a Democracy.

Another point to add is that the aim of this whole system is to reduce pollution, not traffic on the roads. Using that as a metric to claim its success is not valid.

So, why would this be a problem?
Enforcement Issues

Enforcing this would be a major headache. With the exception of Gurgaon, the areas of the NCR surrounding Delhi, are contiguous territories. It is nearly impossible to distinguish between Ghaziabad, Faridabad, NOIDA and Delhi. Now, given that the Delhi Government, specifically the Delhi RTA, would have authority over only DL-registered vehicles, how will they stop other vehicles from plying? Delhi, by virtue of being a Union Territory, has lesser road taxes, so nobody would get a HR or UP registration to ply their vehicles. But how would they stop vehicles from other parts of the NCR from doing so? Especially since places like Faridabad and NOIDA don’t have that good public transport as Delhi!

Extra Load on Existing Infrastructure

This move will screw up the way people travel in Delhi. Delhiites love poking fun at Mumbaikars for the Suburban Rail, calling it smelly, overcrowded, and what not. There is a statement, “Darr ke aage Jeet Hai, aur Dadar ke aage Seat Hai”, which translates to “There is Victory ahead of Fear, and a Seat ahead of Dadar”. Atleast, the Suburban, by virtue of not being air-conditioned, has stale air being pumped out from inside the train. More importantly, we have Fast trains in Bombay. We don’t have to sit in a train from Churchgate to Virar stopping at every single station on its way. The Delhi Metro is worse than the Mumbai Suburban in terms of crowd. DMRCL often goofs up by running 6 car trains to Gurgaon and 4 car trains to Faridabad.

There is this video of officers pushing people into the train, where they are packed like sardines in a tin can so that the doors can close. I have seen people pushing each other inside and being stuffed in a similar manner in Gurgaon-bound trains. The Delhi public will not travel in the Ring Railway, thus making Metro the ONLY way to travel around for those who need to go long distances. The situation in the MMR cannot be compared because the MMR has multiple railway lines, one Metro line, plus one Monorail, plus the killer combination of BEST, TMT, NMMT. No matter how unethical NMMT and TMT are, they are far more efficient than the DTC and its new sibling the DIMTS. This will also push up the crowds in buses, which already crowded. Delhi buses are filthy cheap, and this makes it worse. With a reported 400 buses breaking down each day, this means that the government has to hire more buses, which is resulting in the steady comeback of Blueline buses.

EMERGENCY

What if I have an emergency, I need to get out of my house in a hurry? What if my office is in the other end of the city and I don’t a have a Metro line anywhere near me? What if someone in my house is sick and I need to take them to the Hospital? Rich or poor, I am not going to buy a new car. This move will also affect carpoolers. What if five people who carpool, rotating cars on a daily basis, all have Even-numbered registrations? What if all are Odd-numbered? Has this been considered? I don’t think so. This move will affect Cab aggregators like Ola and Uber massively.

Fake Number Plates

Back in 2005, the Central Government had amended Section 50(2)(d) of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules [CMVR] to mandate the implementation of High Security Number plates. This was later upheld by the Supreme Court of India in 2011. These plates had security features such as a Hologram, could NOT be tampered-with and had to be fixed by an officer of the RTO only. So far only a handful of states including Sikkim, Goa, Gujarat, have implemented it. Anyone can duplicate number plates and change it daily. This is going to give a new boost to these fake number plate manufacturers however.

Priorities

Noble or not, the Delhi government has got its priorities wrong. Massively.

If the state government is seriously interested in reducing air pollution, it needs to start coordinating with the Centre, and other States in the NCR to find a long term solution to tackle the issue. The NCT is super congested, and banning certain vehicles on certain days is going to compound the issue rather than solve the problem. Delhi’s AC buses are already pathetic, and this is going to render them useless. Better public transport, and better connectivity, is what will show results, filling pockets of autowallahs who don’t charge per the meter won’t. Further, the ban on Surge Pricing for Cab aggregators like Uber and Ola is worsening the situation, causing a lack of cabs in places that require them and letting the Auto mafia rule.

In 1989, Mexico City implemented a similar plan. The net result? People stopped using Public Transport. Yes, they stopped using public transport.

Exemptions

Recently, the Delhi government announced a few exemptions. Among them are:

  • All two wheelers
  • CNG Vehicles
  • Electric and Hybrid Vehicles
  • Women Drivers with a Male Child of Upto Age 12
  • President, Vice President, Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ministers of other States, except Delhi
  • Emergency Vehicles
  • Defence Vehicles
  • Vehicles of SPG Protectees
  • Those On the Way to a Hospital [With Proof]

Now these exemptions, are major loopholes. Two wheelers are exempt. Are they not polluting? Evidently, Kejriwal and team have never been to Pune or Bangalore. According to a recent IIT Kanpur report: 46% pollution is created by trucks in the city when it comes to both PM 10 and PM 2.5. Two-wheelers contribute to 33% of the pollution, 10% is contributed by four-wheelers. Buses contribute to 5% of the pollution, whereas 4% is done by light commercial vehicles, and the rest is the contribution of three-wheelers and other factors.

CNG Vehicles, which make up most of the Public Transport. So, again, not much difference, people an pay ₹50k, get a CNG conversion done and keep going. Further, what stops a CNG vehicle from driving on Petrol? Hybid and Electric is fine to a certain extent, but then we must remember, these vehicles are expensive, and thus, the rich car owners of South Delhi can rejoice. Again, what stops a Hybrid vehicle from switching to fuel? Women Drivers with a Male Child? What sort of rubbish is this? So every woman in the household will now drive with her kid next to her. Official, Emergency and Defence Vehicles fine. Those on the way to the hospital must furnish proof? So if a car is stopped, you can throw a fit at the officers feet and he’ll let you go?

Commissioner of Police Delhi, BS Bassi, stated that out of 85lakh vehicles, 70lakh were exempt. What kind of rule is this? Lawyers have also been exempted from this rule.

The proposed fine for this is ₹2000 for each offence. Well done GNCTD, Well Done. You have successfully ruined a decent city.

Claiming that it was a success, two hours after it was launched, on a long weekend, when schools were shut in the winter, has to be the most illogical statement without any scientific backing whatsoever.

Updates

On 27th January, the Central Pollution Control Board stated that:

Overall, it can be stated that while some reduction in air pollution is likely to happen due to odd-even scheme, a single factor or action cannot substantially reduce air pollution levels in Delhi. Therefore, a comprehensive set of actions following an integrated approach is required to make substantial improvement in air quality,”

CNG Sticker Scam

With Round 2 of the Odd-Even scheme announced in April, a new twist has emerged.

The GNCTD had mandated that in order to be exempt from the earlier Odd-Even mess, all CNG vehicles would require a CNG sticker. These holographic stickers would be available at Indraprastha Gas stations. However, it has now emerged that these stickers could either be fake or sold off to car owners who don’t have a CNG vehicle.

Journalist Rahul Kanwal of India Today had this to tweet out about it.

Complete con job. Every other car at ITO has a CNG sticker. When I ask if the driver can open the boot – he freaks. Aise koi fayda nahi!

 

IVRS Scam

Another point to be noted was the IVRS Scam. Originally posted by the Frustrated Indian, this scam basically involved fake figures to showcase the Odd-Even hoopla as a success.

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