Finally, the first phase of Bengaluru Metro is going to be fully functional on June 18th 2017, with the inauguration of final leg running from Swastik station to Yelachenahalli to be done on June 17th, by the President of India. That’s a major relief for many people, including me!
I’m a new entrant to the Metro User Club, and a skeptic-turned-admirer. It all started with me waiting in the bus stop in front of Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic College, for a BMTC bus to take me to Kempegowda Bus Station, and not seeing a single bus for 10 minutes.
Spending more than 15 minutes to get a bus to go to Kempegowda station which is hardly 2 km from that area looked like a waste of time for me, because I could reach the bus station easily in 25 minutes if I started walking directly.
Google map opens eyes
Meanwhile I saw a few office employees running towards K R Circle, taking a right and disappearing into Post Office Road, instead of waiting for buses at the busstop.
I did the easiest thing: I opened my Ola app, booked an auto, and waited for 5 more minutes and boarded the auto. I opened Google map trying to figure out which bus stop people they were running towards. And that’s when I saw the Sir M Visvesvaraya Metro station on the map. I had not noticed it earlier, as I had felt Metro was of little use to me.
The walking distance from my office building to Metro station—Sir M V Station near Central College—was just 900 metres, while Vidhanasoudha Metro station was 1.24 km away.
The next day I had to go to Kaggadasapura area, which is sandwiched between HAL Airport Road and Swami Vivekananda Road. I decided to use Metro, but I had to wait in the queue for 10 minutes to get the Metro token.
Smart card – smart travel
When I finally reached the ticket counter, I did not have change for Rs 2,000, and was asked to tender exact change, that is Rs 10. But meanwhile I noticed people buying smart cards in the next counter. I had used Metro smart card in Delhi and had roamed all around the city a few months ago. The scheme in Bengaluru is almost similar to it.
It took Rs 50 for activation of the card, but the card was valid upto one year and there was 15% discount in the fare. And there was no hassle of waiting in the queue. I used the card over the weekend to travel from Majestic to Baiyappanahalli station and come back, and to go to Yeshwanthpur Railway station.
Now that I was comfortable using Metro, the next time I left office, I didn’t wait in the bus stop or book Ola – I directly headed in the direction of Sir MV Metro Station. It went like this:
5.39 pm: Started walking from office.
5.53 pm: Reached Sir MV metro station (I’m a slow walker).
6.00 pm: Boarded the train headed to Mysore road
6.02 pm: Reached majestic
6.06 pm: Boarded the BMTC Metro feeder bus headed to Rajajinagar metro station.
6.17 pm: The bus starts.
6.28 pm: Got down near KC General hospital
6.32 pm: Reached home.
During next few trips, I walked on different routes measuring time and distance, figuring out the nearest walking route to Metro to optimise distance and time. Now I know a shortcut that will take me through the wooded campus of the Central College and would save me a few hundred metres of walk. More routes to be discovered!
A no-wait journey all the way
The journey from Sir MV Station to Majestic is just a minute, and about a kilometre maximum. Oddly enough, it did not matter! The perk was that there would be almost always buses that are ready to head in the direction of Malleshwaram and beyond, waiting in front of Metro station. It is generally people who have to wait for buses in bus stations, but here it was vice versa.
Once the Green line of the Metro opens up, the time taken will be less. I will have to walk for 16-18 minutes, and the train journey will take about 5-6 minutes. It’s totally worth for a person who doesn’t want to use private vehicles.
But I’m only a late entrant to the Metro User Club. Many have discovered the perks of using Metro. Namma Metro runs one train every six minutes during peak hour, and still, coaches are full of people in the peak time of between 6 pm to 7.30 pm – and in the mornings between 8 am to 9.30 am – at times so jam-packed that we just have to let go and wait for another train, with no guarantee that we will be able to get into the next train! I had to let go of two trains once, and somehow make some space and push myself into the next train as I did not see the crowd subsiding.
Better access to South and central Bengaluru
Once the Green Line fully opens, people from the South, East and West Bengaluru upto J P Nagar, Kengeri and Byappanahalli-Indiranagar area can dream of dropping into the Bengaluru International Film Festival that is organised at Orion Mall in Rajajinagar, without much hassle, traffic and pollution. That’s going to increase footfalls, so we the North Bengalureans better be prepared for it!
It’s also going to help people reach the transit hubs in the city centre easily. In Delhi and Gurgaon, the feeder bus connectivity is bad. Ola and Uber shared cabs and autos act as feeder services, and people don’t mind waiting for 15-20 minutes for them to arrive. But of late we have seen a lot of traction in Bengaluru regarding feeder buses. BMTC has been asking people about feeder routes, working with institutes like World Resource Institute (WRI), Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc). With right kind of feeder services Metro will be able to attract a lot more car users.
What can BMRCL do better?
The Metro should run up to 12 midnight, with timely feeder buses from BMTC. That will encourage more people to spread their travel throughout the day, avoiding excess congestion in the Metro itself. It will also help people travelling to City Centre Railway station, Majestic KSRTC bus stand and Yeshwanthpur Railway Station in the night, from the areas surrounding Metro corridor.
- Either the frequency will need to be increased or the number of coaches need to be increased during the peak hours, because the demand has peaked during these hours. A Metro train heading to Nayandahalli reaches full seating capacity right at Baiyappanahalli station sometimes.
Metro stations should have accessible toilets for all, and the number of toilets should be increased. I was amazed to find out that one had to pass through a maze of corridors to reach a toilet in the Metro platform in Baiyappanahalli Station. More importantly, entire station had only one toilet for women, and one for men! These were available only for the Metro users who entered swiping the smart card or token, and not to general public or those who forgot to visit the loo when they were inside. One needs to buy a Metro ticket of Rs 10 to use the loo!
If you have been following Metro, you will remember the ‘polluter pays’ comment from erstwhile BMRCL Managing Director Sivasailam. While it’s fair to go for paid toilets, it is not fair to limit it strictly to Metro users. There could be extra pay and use toilets outside the ticketed area in the Metro stations, and will help a lot of people. Have an option to swipe Metro Smart card there as well—that will make things easier! The rest rooms could be a lot more cleaner too.
A friend of mine feels that Metro could be unattractive for people who use two-wheelers, as the fare structure does not work out. One has to spend about 32 rupees to travel 18 kms on Metro, while in two-wheeler this cost would come down drastically. Fare reduction would attract a lot of people.
Parking is expensive in Metro station. People feel that either the system needs to provide proper feeder services to help people, or reduce parking charges, because for most people, it doesn’t make sense to park the vehicle at metro station because the cost of parking exceeds the cost benefit they get by using Metro.
- Right now, Metro stations look unattractive and character-less. Customised artworks and installations in each station, and use of space to accommodate shops will help bring some life to the station.