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.
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)|
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.