Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mumbai Traffic

The Bombay, I knew , was known for its excellent public transport system, which ensured that you reached your destinations on time. A Bombay man was never late for an appointment. You had a choice of local trains, buses and taxis. Though the local trains were very crowded and suffocating, they ran as per schedule. Buses were loaded only upto their capacity and were comfortable to travel – especially the double decker bus, where if you got a seat on the upper deck, you had a good view of the passing scenes. People were disciplined enough to stand patiently in queues to board the buses when their turn came.

Taxi drivers never grumbled about ferrying you for short distances and you paid as per the meter, which always worked . It is another matter that the meters were uncalibrated old models! If you felt happy about the ridiculously low rates being shown on the meter, you were in for a surprise. Every taxi driver carried a rate card showing the old rates converted into new rates which were invariably 10 to 12 times more than what was being shown on the meter. And they always returned the balance amount due to you – something which was and is still unheard of in any other city.

Another interesting feature of the Bombay traffic was the lane discipline that everyone followed – be it the ubiquitous BEST buses, private cars, taxis or the rare two wheelers. There was no question of vehicles zigzagging their way to jump the queues to move forward. And for such a voluminous traffic the blaring of horns was minimal.

All this has changed! During my recent trips to Mumbai , I find that the traffic system especially on the heavily congested roads of Mumbai has completely collapsed – where the ‘might is right’ system followed on the roads of most other Indian cities has replaced the orderliness of the past!

Though the Express Highways on the West & East have helped speed up the journey from one end of the city to another – it is another matter, on the roads running parallel below the flyovers, interrupted by hundreds of signals. Impatient drivers blaring away their horns or going out of the lane to move forward and get back into the lane near the signal is the order of the day. And there are many who don’t stop even if the red light is on – creating chaos in every traffic junction with the ‘Pandu or Dhondu’ managing the traffic, watching helplessly. I pity these guys trying to take on the might of the ever ballooning Mumbai traffic, without even the basic protection like a nose mask or reflector belts. During peak hours, it is a nightmare to be on the roads of Mumbai, negotiating your way to your destinations.If you want to be on time for a crucial appointment , better provide for 60 minutes extra travelling time. Or take the local trains ,which are still dependable , provided you have the ability to squeeze your way in and out of the,always overcrowded compartments.

Nowadays the buses are overloaded and don’t reach their destinations on time because of the frequent traffic jams. And even the queues at the bus stops go berserk the moment a bus arrives. There are very few airconditioned BEST buses running on the roads.

Though you have the option of airconditioned and more expensive call taxis, the majority of the taxi drivers of the popular yellow top metered taxis have become very greedy and arrogant. Not only they refuse to ply short distances but they overchardge too And don`t expect to get back the change when you pay. .

Despite being the financial capital , the city has on the roads lakhs of old, outdated Fiat taxis without ACs , adding to the pollution of Mumbai.

Any day I would prefer the disciplined and orderly Bombay of the past. Not for me the developed but chaotic Mumbai of the present! Mumbai still retains the spirit but has shed the values. God save the city!

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