When it cost 20 times more for a return journey in Bengaluru

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Citizen activists getting ready to board the train at Yeshwanthpur. Pic: Srinivas Alavilli

Growing up in Bengaluru is no guarantee that you know the city. Though I have spent all my life here, there are parts of it which are still unfamiliar, and once in a while, I get to experience a facet of the city that I had not seen before. The #ModaluTrainBeku Rail Yatra, organised by Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB) on August 31st 2018, allowed me a glimpse into Bengaluru’s local train network.

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The Yatra, from Yeshwanthpur station to Heelalige station, was organised as part of ongoing campaigns to introduce commuter trains for local commutes. On August 31st, I joined the Rail Yatra at Yeshwanthpur station after having walked for 60 minutes from Sadashivanagar (by automobile, the trip normally takes 10 to 15 minutes). I bought a ticket to Carmelaram station for Rs. 20 and boarded Passenger Train No. 76523 from Platform No. 3 at 2:45 pm. Ten minutes later, we chugged off from Yeshwanthpur in north-west Bengaluru, first travelling north-east towards Lottegollalahalli and Hebbal and then east towards Banaswadi, Bellandur Road, and Carmelaram.

I won’t write much about the trip itself since the fun everyone had is well-recorded! Just search for #ModaluTrainBeku on Twitter and Instagram for photos and videos. Along with jokes and banter, I was trying to keep time between stops, trying to ascertain how far each station was from Yeshwanthpur. Briefly, here are my estimates:

Station Name Time taken from Yeshwanthpur (Minutes)
Lottegollalahalli 7
Hebbal 15
Banaswadi 25
Bellandur Road 42
Karmelaram 45

I got off at Karmelaram at approximately 3:40 pm, about 45 minutes after we began the journey. While buying my ticket, I’d decided to travel back by road, just to compare and contrast the two commutes. I should note that this is a very informal comparison – ideally, someone else should have travelled from Yeshwanthpur to Carmelaram by car at the same time as me for a more rigourous comparison. However, the return trip did provide some useful information.

The first thing to note is that Carmelaram station doesn’t have very good infrastructure or last-mile connectivity. There were practically no autos or buses once I walked out, and cellular connectivity was too patchy to use a cab-hailing app. I had to walk for a good 20 minutes before I could reach Sarjapur Road which had better transport options. And, walking from Carmelaram is not easy, as there is plenty of heavy traffic, there are no good footpaths, while storm water drains overflow.

After reaching the gate of the Wipro campus on Sarjapur Road, I had to wait for about 12 minutes before I could get a cab. Cabs to Vasanth Nagar (my destination) were too expensive, so I’d opted to take a cab to Indiranagar Metro Station instead, and catch a metro to Cubbon Park. To our bad luck, the driver and I got stuck in a traffic jam near Ejipura, on one of the narrowest lanes I’ve ever driven through. On a side note, I discovered something interesting during that jam – most of the cars were share-cabs, whose drivers were just following directions via their apps. It’s possible that each app’s algorithms were directing the drivers to take the lane as a shortcut, but were not accounting for other apps doing the same – as a result of which all of them ended on the same road. However, this needs to be confirmed by someone who has experience with these algorithms.

I reached Indiranagar Station about 80 minutes after I was picked up on Sarjapur Road. About 10-15 minutes later, I got off at Cubbon Park station and walked for 20 minutes to Vasanth Nagar. Later in the evening, I took an auto back to my office in Sadashivanagar, which took about 7 minutes.

If I discount the time I’d spent in Vasanth Nagar before returning, it took me about 160-170 minutes (almost two hours) to get back to Sadashivanagar from Carmelaram. This is in contrast to the 105 minutes it took to walk up to Yeshwanthpur from Sadashivanagar and catch a train to Carmelaram. Had I not walked and gone by automobile instead, I estimate the onward trip would have taken 55 minutes and the return journey 130-140 minutes.

A far bigger contrast lies in the costs. My onward trip to Karmelaram cost a grand total of Rs. 20 (since I did not have to pay to walk). My return journey by a combination of foot, cab, metro, and auto cost Rs. 402, more than 20 times my onward journey. Again, if I’d not chosen to walk, I estimate my onward journey would have cost Rs. 45 and my return approximately Rs. 450.

I’ve long been a fan of commuting in cities via walking and public transport. Over the years, as the BMTC improved its buses, the metro-rail made its appearance and sharecabs took off, my conviction that well-planned mass transit systems make for a better living experiences has been strengthened. A local commuter train system, if it receives enough public patronage, could potentially change the way we move around in Bengaluru, for the better. What is required however, is integration with other public transport systems like buses, greater handling capacity at stations, as well as last-mile connectivity and better pedestrian infrastructure.

Note: Amogh Arakali works on issues of urban economy and institutions at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements. However, he has written this post in a personal capacity as he does not professionally work on transportation issues.


About Amogh Arakali 1 Article
Amogh Arakali works on issues of urban economy and institutions at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements in Bengaluru.

11 Comments

  1. I have also done a recce journey on the suburban trains on a few occasions. The main drawbacks are:1.The trains are invaiably late and at times exsperatigly late. You feel like getting outof the Railway stations and look for alternate commute.2. CARMELARAM staion is perhaps the worst maintained. there is no regular platform no footpath no lights in the night-it is scary-and one has to walk at least 20-25 mts to reach the nearest road.3. if these minor irrritants are removed Train service could be a boon

  2. Well articulated , public transport especially the rail routes are to be exploited to the maximum . Hope better late than never for Bengaluru.
    It is time we build up this awareness and urge authorities to fast pace the activities.

  3. It is the problem of any growing cities, millions are migrating every year, there are no sustainable solutions, companies should understand this and promote neighbouring places instead of Bangalore.

    • Miopic people should learn from major cities in the world. Migration is not the problem, mindset is.

  4. A well written article. In the eighth para second line the words within the brackets should be – almost three hours – instead of two hours.

  5. BMTC is a major obstacle preventing most people from using public transport. BMTC views metro and railways as competition, so BMTC intentionally doesn’t provide proper service to metro and railway stations. Instead, BMTC should re-route its services to complement metro and railways.

  6. I reside in carmeleram and my office is in Sadashivnagar. Even though I have a car, I commute by train every day.
    Advantages:
    1. I pay Rs 500 for 3 months journey.
    2. No knee pain. No tension.
    3. Most of the days, I take less than an hour or an hour to reach office.
    Disadvantage
    Frequency of train services.

    • It costs me 60 to go from Bangalore to Mysore on a express train. The travel on Indian Railways other than the high end trains are hugely subsidized. The real cost of going to Carmeleram from Yeswtpr is hiddden!

  7. It’s 100% true. Linking local train only way forward for Bangalore traffic. In fact I wish to link local train network parallel to ORR and connect between train stations to nearby bus stop or each local railway station must have last mile connection. This might have done prior to metro as planned earlier by govt …Current traffic in Bangalore have avoided. Govt can’t wait or waste more time.

  8. And it would also need massive public patronage. I still have friends who take their swanky cars to office, despite public transport being available on the route. People are so lazy these days that they do not even want to walk ten minutes to the nearest bus stop / metro station. I know of people who, for example, take their two-wheeler all the way from Indiranagar to Yeshwantpur, but not the metro. Of course, there are many that do take the public transport – I wish that number swells.

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