The Leftist Transport Conundrum

Now, I have tried my level best to be as apolitical as possible, but I have had zero success, because transport, especially buses is that one sector that is abused by all types of politics for personal benefits and what not.

Bus transport has been used for vote-bank politics (Delhi, Blueline buses under the AAP government), propaganda (Telangana, Tamil Nadu under all governments), and is therefore caught in a heavy onslaught.

Below is a standard template of the leftist views on transport, which I had originally posted on Medium.

Leftists: No more cars on the roads, force people in to public transport.

Government: We are building a metro, sanctioning …

Leftists: NO! That is too much. We don’t need any metro or bullet train. You will chop down trees. Get more buses.

Government: We are procuring 250 diesel buses.

Leftists: Hawww. Diesel, you are polluting the environment!

Government: We are laying a CNG pipeline.

Leftists: You will give everyone access to cheaper fuel, people will take out their cars now!

Government: We we procure electric buses at ₹2.7 crore each!

Leftists: What a exorbitant waste of money! It can be better used to educate some poor children with help from a foreign-funded missionary NGO!

Now this is not a typical rant. It is exactly what happens in the real world.

For starters, the Namma Metro project in Bengaluru was to displace 1,000 odd trees between Byapanahalli. The image created by leftists: The BMRCL is ‘lying’ and ‘misleading’ the public. When MMRCL decided to build its depot in the fringes of the Aarey Forest, they went to the extent of saying it’s akin to ‘Cutting down trees for a project nobody will ever use’. Some of these NGOs, namely Vanashakti (or something similar) and Save Aarey went to the level of harassing Metro supporters like TheMetroRailGuy, who runs a brilliant website that tracks the progress of Metro Rail projects in the country. The level of abuse and unparliamentary language hurled at TMRG and several of us on Twitter was standard of the left: Abuse, scamper, and then play the victim card.

The simplest explanation of the left in terms of forcing people to get into public transport and blaming Diesel vehicles have been posted before:
Tax the car and free the bus; Delhi’s Odd-Even plan.

 Now, while it is known that the left openly shouts against cars, taxi services (including ride-sharing), and demands better transport, they have two agendas: 1. No private participation, the government does it. 2. The government just does it, no scope for innovation. The left also supports unionisation, which as I have written about on The Quint, is a bad idea.

The right, too supports, public transport, particularly buses, for it is simple: Buses can accommodate more people and reduce congestion. As Swarajya‘s R Jagannathan explained, The Future of Public Transport is the Bus, as simple as that. I agree. Metro and BRTS projects are long-term solutions. Buses are short, medium and long term solutions. They’re a flexible mode of transport, can be implemented anywhere and everywhere. Long distance route? Get a Double Decker or a Vestibule Bus. Narrow streets? Get a mini-bus. Affluent people on the route? Run an AC bus. The bus ecosystem is extremely flexible. New and upcoming locality? Extend a route. Run a new route. It’s not complicated at all.

The left doesn’t support this theory. They want buses. Cheap buses. Buses that may or may not even serve a purpose. Buses that just exist. For the sake of existing. They are in most cases, against luxury services, premium services, air-conditioned buses as well. Regular dabbas with cheap fares. They believe that bus services must run at a loss. They want complete nationalisation of all routes, something that I have explained earlier (on Swarajya) is a fatal move because the government cannot handle the load.

The Right on the other hand is far more practical. Although I am a quasi-libertarian, I do support some form of regulation. Extreme regulation, as well as extreme deregulation, both will create problems.

A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport

A quote by Enrique Peñalosa, the former Mayor of the city of Bogotá, Colombia, this quote is again, slightly leftist. Of course, ignoring that fact that Peñalosa allegedly fabricated his PhD and Masters in Public Administration, this quote is wrong on several levels.

For starters, a developed nation is not where someone, no matter how poor or rich would have to use public transport. A developed nation, in an ideal, libertarian scenario would be one where anyone, again, no matter how rich or poor, would have the choice to use whatever form of transport they wished to use, be it buses, cabs, cars, trains, or even walk wherever they want to. However, the quote would hold true in terms of infrastructure, if one were to consider that a developed nation is where the infrastructure is good enough for a rich person to consider taking public transport. Going by this logic, I would safely ascertain that Mumbai is the most developed part of India, since even rich (or atleast well off) business-class people, take either a train (First Class of course) or a bus (Purple Faeries, ahem) to work.

Anyway, getting back to the left. The left does not want progress. All it wants is stagnation and forced coercion of people to use whatever form of transport is thrown at them.

Transport affects everyone equally, for everybody needs to get to someplace or the other, on a daily basis. Forcing such a crucial sector to stagnate, is the worst sin on society imaginable. If it weren’t for transport, every sector would come Crashing like a Canary (I invented this quote, don’t ask what it means).

To end a long story short, I quote myself.

Transport is nobody’s charity, and everybody’s business.

-Srikanth Ramakrishnan, 3 March 2017

Do let me know what your thoughts are in the comments section.

The left should ideally refrain from talking about transport. Click To Tweet

228 total views, no views today

Flattr this!

A Dangerous Bus?

Most people say buses are dangerous and hence people won’t take them. However, there is a contrary view to it. Some economists are of the opinion that a more dangerous bus would mean more passengers. Do they board for the thrill of it?

Let’s ask Alex Tabarrok shall we?

 

Let’s Make Buses More Dangerous so People Will Ride Them

Jeff Kaufman writes:

Buses are much safer than cars, by about a factor of 67, but they’re not very popular. If you look at situations where people who can afford private transit take mass transit instead, speed is the main factor (ex: airplanes, subways).

So we should look at ways to make buses faster so more people will ride them, even if this means making them somewhat more dangerous.

Here are some ideas, roughly in order from “we should definitely do this” to “this is crazy, but it would probably still reduce deaths overall when you take into account that more people would ride the bus”:

  • Don’t require buses to stop and open their doors at railroad crossings.
  • Allow the driver to start while someone is still at the front paying.
  • Allow buses to drive 25mph on the shoulder of the highway in traffic jams where the main lanes are averaging below 10mph.
  • Higher speed limits for buses. Lets say 15mph over.
  • Leave (city) bus doors open, allow people to get on and off any time at their own risk.

Excellent recognition of tradeoffs. Pharmaceuticals should also be more dangerous.

Hat tip: Slate Star CodexCross-posted from Marginal Revolution.

Alex Tabarrok


Alex Tabarrok

Alex Tabarrok is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He blogs at Marginal Revolution with Tyler Cowen. 

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

264 total views, 4 views today

Flattr this!

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

844 total views, no views today

Flattr this!

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.

484 total views, 4 views today

Flattr this!

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.

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

392 total views, 4 views today

Flattr this!

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

Save

1,124 total views, no views today

Flattr this!

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.

488 total views, no views today

Flattr this!

A Memoir Straight From The Heart

It gives me immense pleasure to pen this Guest Post for my dear friend Srikanth whose penchant and fascination for buses is not hidden from us as is evident from every nook and corner of this blog and hence I decided to pen this memoir of my early experiences in buses and how they have aided me in shaping my confidence.

Flashback 1987,  Place – Trichy, TamilNadu

I guess the world was a little more nicer way back then, when I boarded the local bus from my school to home, a distance of 6 kms, as a 5 year old. I don’t recall the route number now but I distinctly remember the affectionate face of the elderly conductor who always called out to be 2 stops before my stop was about to come as the buses were always fully packed and I had to stand all the way, so I may miss my stop. Also, he always tendered me the exact change. He indirectly boosted by self esteem that as a first grader I can come home alone when my mom can’t leave alone my new born brother and come to pick me.

For the next decade, buses became an integral part of my life as I commenced my journey as a hosteller in Birla’s Pilani owing to my dad’s repetitive transfers mostly around small towns of Uttar Pradesh during this period some of which lacked good schools. I recall making mostly 3 bus changes to reach Pilani from where I lived,  a journey of about 14 hrs – at Rohtak, Jaipur and Loharu. I was mostly alone and handled most kinds of people enroute. Nevertheless, these long journeys brought me closer to life. I observed people around me many of whom even candidly shared their stories once the conversations were struck. I really wanted to do something for many of them who shared and I always penned down their true tales and authentic feelings that came straight from the heart.

This is where my writing journey began and got its dimensions and vision as during those long journeys I contemplated the aim of my life. I framed my ideologies during this period too for witnessing a bus full of people set on fire right in front of me during the Hindu Muslim Babri Masjid Riots evoked a million emotions in me. I decided I will make my contribution in improving our society in whichever small way I can. I started being vocal and expressing myself aloud in trying to be a face of change and for the same purpose later I started my blog which brings forth real tales of people like you and me to evoke and inspire the right thoughts in the masses.

Fast Forward – Today

Today though I very rarely commute in buses  like Srikanth I too love every ounce of them. They are the best representatives of the majority of our society.

Writeon Blogbuddy Group
The Writeon Blogbuddy Group

A Memoir Straight From The Heart Click To Tweet

626 total views, 4 views today

Flattr this!

The Propaganda of Transport

Propaganda is a very misused, overused and abused word today. Politicians use it all the time to attack each other. In such cases, we should take a closer look at the word Propaganda itself.

Merriam-Webster defines Propaganda as ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc.

Of course, we can take the liberty of interpreting Propaganda as a more open nature of promoting oneself or ones interests to an audience.

The most well known example of Propaganda is the 1940 film The Eternal Jew, directed by Fritz Hippler and produced by the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels under the Deutsche Film Gesellschaft banner. The film was nowhere near subtle, and portrayed Jews as Uncivilised, Parasitic and worse. However, times have changed and propaganda in its current form is very subtle, often using bias to have its way.

In the recent times, propaganda has managed to make its way into the Transport sector too. When we say Propaganda in the Transport sector, we do not refer to naming stations, airports, roads and bridges after people. Mumbai has one major railway station and its airport named after Chhatrapati Shivaji. Bangalore has its central bus station and airport named after Kempegowda. This is a global phenomenon. New York’s major airport is named after former President John F Kennedy while it’s secondary airport is named after the 99th Mayor Fiorello La Gaurdia.

The propaganda we look at is subtle, and in some cases, not so subtle.

A Nationalistic Bus?

A BMTC Atal Sarige on route AS-6.
A BMTC Atal Sarige on route AS-6. Image copyright Binai K Sankar.

At first glance, the Atal Sarige operated by the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation [BMTC] looks like its livery is is draping the bus with the National Flag. But. It’s wrong. If you take a second look, you’d notice that the colour scheme is White, Green and Saffron/Orange. The party colours of the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP]. Further, the name itself is a giveaway. Named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the BJP, the bus was meant to serve the poorest of the poor.

Note: If you’re Mumbai, the highest fare is on a bus with its route number starting with AS, and if you’re in Bangalore, it’d be the opposite.

And now, for a little Aesthetics.

A TSRTC Metro Luxury Volvo at Lingampally.
A TSRTC Metro Luxury Volvo at Lingampally. Image copyright LoveOfZ, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons.

Pink is known to be a very soothing colour. It is often used to calm inmates in prison.

However, the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation [TSRTC] bus above did not turn pink to soothe its commuters. Telangana State was formed in 2014, and the party that won a majority in its Assembly Elections was the Telangana Rashtra Samithi [TRS], whose party colour is Pink. Thus, everyone who sees the bus will remember the colour pink and every time there is a campaign by the TRS, people will be calm, because, Hey, Pink is a soothing colour.

Switching Colours

And now, for the most interesting, and perhaps most noteworthy form of Bus-based propaganda.

Welcome to Tamil Nadu, where all the various divisions of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation [TNSTC], the Metropolitan Transport Corporation [MTC] of Chennai and the State Express Transport Corporation [SETC] are like Chamelons. Remember the phrase “गिरगिट की तरह रंग बदलना” (Girgit Ke Tarah Rang Badalna)? That’s what TNSTC/SETC/MTC buses do. Change colours; Every time the government changes. It’s like an unwritten part of the party manifesto.

Here’s a picture of an MTC bus taken in April 2011 below. It’s blue in colour. Blue is also a soothing colour, although I fail to understand why anyone would want to say ‘Feeling Blue’ to refer to Sadness.

A blue coloured MTC Semi Low Floor bus on route number 21G.
A blue coloured MTC Semi Low Floor bus on route number 21G. Image copyright Vinoth Thambidurai/CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported/Wikimedia Commons.

This picture was taken in April 2011, a month before the All India Anna Dravida Munnethra Kazhagam [AIADMK] government won the elections. Colour combinations were aplenty across Tamil Nadu. Some buses bore different shades of blue and yellow, some were white with Red, Yellow and Orange stripes across them, there were many.

Now, they are all uniform. While, I did mention Fragmentation in an earlier post, it would be great if each city had its own identity in terms of colours. Here, Tamil Nadu is one single entity in terms of coloured buses.

All long distance buses, including all SETC buses are now Green in Colour. They’re light green in colour with dark green stripes, or dark green in colour with light green stripes, depending on how you may want to look at them. Local buses, including all MTC buses all sport the same Brown-Beige combination which makes it look like the bus wasn’t washed at all. Perhaps a plan to not wash the buses regularly.

Below, is one such repainted bus, taken in 2013, belonging to TNSTC Coimbatore.

A TNSTC CBE bus at Vadavalli in Coimbatore.
A TNSTC CBE bus at Vadavalli in Coimbatore. Image copyright Faheem9333/CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported/Wikimedia Commons.

See, what did I tell you? Where did this come from? Some people tell me that the colour has to do with what happened before this repainting. Barely three-four months before the buses got this brown colour, they had a different colour.

An MTC bus in the intermediate colour scheme.
An MTC bus in the intermediate colour scheme. Image: The Hindu

Notice the colours? Notice the photo of Jayalalithaa on the windscreen? I know it’s a bit difficult to see it, but can you see it. In the picture, Jaya is seen wearing a saree that is the same colour as the Maroon on the bus. Her complexion matches the beige on the bus. Tada! When the paint jobs were done, all buses sported a huge photo of the Chief Minister on the front windshield on the left hand side.

And now, finally …

Green Leafy Vegetables Buses

They say, greens are good for health. They say Green is a sign of Eco-Friendliness. But, the leaves here don’t exactly say that do they?

An MTC Small Bus [Mini Bus].
An MTC Small Bus [Mini Bus]. Image: The Hindu

 While MTC curiously chose to name these buses as ‘Small Bus’, not ‘Mini Bus’, they also decided to put a few leaves on it. No points for guessing why. The AIADMK’s Party symbol is: Yes, that’s right, Two Leaves! But, wait! You can see four leaves on that bus! Simple: 2+2=4. The more the merrier. Two more leaves is just going to reinforce things into the commuters head.

Now, notice something common among all these Transcos mentioned? They’re all State-level bodies, not Municipal ones. You’ll never see BEST, AMTS, or PMPML like this. Why? Decentralisation of transport management ensures that while Municipal Bodies have the wherewithal to run the Transco, they won’t have the time or resources to go behind such trivial stuff. They’ll have more important stuff such as banners, roads, naming of Chowks to work in their favour.

On an unrelated note: Searching for Purple Faeries on Google leads you to the Tag Purple Faeries. I call this, Purple Propaganda..

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

946 total views, no views today

Flattr this!

American Elections Are Like Indian Transport: Fragmented

The world’s oldest democracy is going to vote soon. Two years ago, the world’s largest democracy voted. What is the difference between the two? Well, without going into the nitty-gritties of both, let’s just focus on one point: Fragmentation.

In India, elections be it General, State Assembly, Municipal or Presidential are conducted by the Election Commission of India. Each state has a Chief Electoral Office [CEO] who is repsonsible for voter enrollment, candidate declarations, etc. While each state has a different way of getting the Enrollment done [Karnataka enabled Voters to submit scanned copies of their documents and fill the form online, as far back as 2013], the Election Process is Uniform across India. In the United States, the system is totally different. The Constitution, under Article 1, Section 4 gives complete power to the State governments in matters relating to voting. The Federal Elections Commission oversees the election in general, enforcing term limits, disclosing campaign finance information, etc.

Due to this decentralised nature, each state has its own method of conducting elections. Some states may use Electronic Voting Machines, so may use Ballot Papers, etc. This may result in some anomaly. The Butterfly Ballot issue of Palm Beach County Florida [explained here in the American Political Science Review] is one such example.

Reconstruction of the Butterfly Ballot Paper from Palm Beach County Florida in 2000.
Reconstruction of the Butterfly Ballot Paper from Palm Beach County Florida in 2000. Image copyright Gzuckier, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.

In places where Electronic Voting is followed, the voter has to fill up an optically-readible ballot paper which is then fed into a machine.

In India, a standard uniform system is following using the Electronic Voting Machines developed by Bharat Electronics Limited and the Electronics Corporation of India Limited.

An Electronic Voting Machine in India.
An Electronic Voting Machine in India. Image: பரிதிமதி, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons

Now, while diversity is a good thing, for it results in better quality of products and services, fragmentation is not really that good in reality.

Now that we understand the issues relating to a fragmented system, let us come back to Indian Transport.

Transport in India is largely a fragmented segment. Excluding aviation, which is governed by central policies and is full of private players, and the Indian Railways network, let us focus on the Buses and their operations.

Depending on which part of India you are in, the bus you board would be operated by either the State Government or the Municipal Corporation. The exception is Chandigarh, where the CTU comes under the Union Territory Administration, and in the absence of a Legislative Body like in Delhi or Puducherry, it comes under the Union Government.

But it is not this fragmentation that I am talking about. This is due to the various levels of decentralisation that is prevalent across our country. The fragmentation that I am talking about is what is prevalent within a single Transco, or a single City division/SPV of a State level Transco.

To give an example:

BEST is among the most defragmented Transcos. Every bus used the same ticket machine, every conductor issues the same kind of ticket and every bus or conductor accepts a Smart Card, be it a Pass or a Prepaid Card. The fragmentation arises in matters such as the LED display: Some buses have a full length LED display on the front, some have the tiny one visible in new buses, and irrespective of whether these are functional or not, some still use the old Rolling Cloth system for displaying the route and number.

In the case of BMTC, fragmentation is higher. Not all buses are properly hooked on to the Tracking platform, some buses still use the old Quantum Aeon ticket machines or worse, some still issue the old punched tickets.

Simmilarly, NMMT shows some amount of fragmentation. While earlier, only AC services had Electronic ticketing, now, all have it. But, only AC bus tickets can be booked using an app, while others still have to go through the machine.

Delhi too, is a good example of fragmentation. While regular buses, Cluster Buses and the Blueline buses are all operated by different entities, they essentially operate on the same route. However, buses operated by the DTC still use manual fare collection, with a handful of ticket machines thrown in for good measure in the last few months. The Cluster buses operated by the DIMTS have ticketing machines, can be tracked online, but there is compatibility of their systems with the DTC ticketing process. Blueline/Metro Feeder and other private buses, don’t have any form of connected ticketing.

Now, this brings us to an important point. Common mobility.

More Card: National Common Mobility Card
More Card: National Common Mobility Card

The Government of India had rolled out the More Card in 2012 as a common mobility card. Initially restricted to the Delhi Metro and Route 56 of the DMRC Feeder Bus, it was launched post the failure of the Go Mumbai Smart Card. While Mumbai has gone ahead with its Smart Card System, although extremely fragmented [one card each for BEST, Metro, Monorail and the Suburban Rail], it has managed to make cashless travel in almost all forms of transit. Autos and taxis are not covered, although Ahmedabad has gone ahead with such a proposal. I haven’t seen the More Card anywhere in Delhi in the last two years, and I have seen all Metro Feeder buses issue regular paper tickets.

In 2015, the Ministry of Urban Development came up with another proposal for a National Common Mobility platform with collaboration from the National Informatics Centre [NIC], Centre For Development of Advanced Computing [C-DAC], Bureau of Indian Standards [BIS], and the National Payments Corporation of India [NPCI]. The new system is proposed to use Europay, MasterCard and Visa [EMV] Open Loop system with a stored value system. It also took into account the deficiencies with cards in Singapore. It took the Octopus Card from Hong Kong as a base for its working, in order to support Passes as well; a crucial feature of BEST’s RFID Cards. While C-DAC will develop standards for existing Metro Rail systems, the problem will arise with other modes of transport. Ferries in India don’t use eTicketing. They still use the old fashioned ticketing. Barring Mumbai and Kerala, no other area of India has a proper water transit system or anything resembling one in place. Similarly, with Tolls, will this be accepted at toll plazas operated by other bodies except the National Highways Authority of India [NHAI]? Will it be compatible with FASTag? With each Transco using different ticketing machines [BEST uses Balaji, BMTC uses Verifone, both supplied by Trimax], will the entire system be compatible with each other?

Further, with vehicle tracking. A National Mobility platform will require the Vehicle Tracking System in place. BEST uses a GPS device fitted onto a bus, BMTC and DIMTS use the location from the ticketing machines. All this results in a jumble that nobody would seem to understand.

Let us hope that provisions are made to ensure backward compatibility of systems so that money is not wasted in procuring new technology.

Moral of the story: The odds of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump winning are the same as the odds of getting into a BMTC bus and getting either a printed ticket, or the regular ticket.

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

1,071 total views, 4 views today

Flattr this!