The solution to India’s transportation problem
To see the 2015 version of this article — click here!
India used to be a poor country a few years ago, but now is having growing pains on their way to being #2 in the global economic scheme, with China looking like its going to be #1 for the majority of this century. News articles keep stressing the same issue. India can not grow its GNP without proper infrastructure. But, roads and buildings take time, resources, money, and space to build. These are things that India has a real shortage of. India is short on time, because the time it has is spent in traffic, leaving little or not time left to build roads. It’s a catch 22.
The status quo
India’s main forms of local transportation are buses, trains (in certain metros), cabs, and especially the auto-rickshaw. One British born Indian kid working in Mumbai I met on the train was quoted to say, “Two trains and a rick” in the context of him getting to his meeting. Roads are congested and traffic law obedience is shaky outside of Mumbai. There must be a solution. Whats the answer? You need to “Think outside the rick”.
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Thinking outside the rick
India is used to certain modes of transportation, but those modes don’t work effectively for everyone. Buses are too congested for women to get into without unwanted physical contact with men. Rick shaw drivers often harrass women and the wait time for a rick can be unpredictable. Cabs in India are expensive and require waiting time. It seems that the country that is known for its respect for women…. well… doesn’t respect women. For a woman to find a clean public bathroom is another nightmare of India. It is not mandatory for India to have all of these unnecessary headaches.
The problem is that whatever mode of transportation you use, it either can’t move due to congestion, or you can’t get in the vehicle even if you really are a sardine. Needs to be other options. Here are some options that think outside the rick and solve these problems.
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Near downtown areas where congestion is high, and distances are small, it is faster to walk. But, walking is itself an obstacle course, tripping over the front wheels of rick shaws, having your bag get caught on the handlebar of Rajiv’s bike, getting run off the road into a puddle by a truck. Its just not funny. Moving walkways are expensive, but they solve a problem. They would be elevated, and only pedestrians would be on them. The walkway could move 4km/hour, and you could walk 5km per hour which nets you 9km per hour. There could be coconut water salespeople, newspaper stands, and other conveniences on this moving network. Additionally, a roof could go over the walkway giving protection in the monsoon season. Get your exercise, while safely coming and going. Additionally, traffic could move more easily without a zillion people trying to cross the road all the time. They could cross on these elevated walkways.
I always remember comedian Yakov Smirnoff’s famous line, “Women are like buses”. Aparantly he felt that in Russia, women, were shaped like buses. But in India, women DON’T like buses. Mumbai has the consideration to have women-only bogies (cars) on commuter trains.. Men will get arrested if they dare go in. Women only buses, or women’s sections in elongated buses would solve problems for women. Even a women’s waiting area with comfy seats and a bathroom with toilets that are cleaned throughout the day would be super. To Americans this seems sexist, but try being a woman squeezed between four men who feel deprived of pleasure and you will very quickly see how gender separation is not only appropriate, but should be a universally enforced law.
Minibuses have the advantage of being small. They can come more often, and can fit into smaller bus stations and smaller roads. There can be particular buses for women only, or buses with larger seats that charge more for entry. You have flexibility with a minibus that a regular bus doesn’t have.
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Indian buses don’t make sense. They are always so crowded that you can never get a seat, but you don’t have room to stand either, since the few square feet available have been monopolized by seats. This is illogical and inefficient! REMOVE THE SEATS. If you get rid of most of the seats, then there is room to stand, and you can squeeze more people in. In a country that prides itself on its ability to squeeze humans as efficiently as it squeezes a sugar cane stick for a glass of juice, they should do it correctly. Charge triple for a seat, and then people will be able to find a seat. People should be charged for what they get.
Now are are talking. A bus with the seats removed could have standing compartments. Spare yourself from the risk of pickpockets with a vinal sheet attached to padded poles. Of course in India, they don’t like padding. They want you to get HURT when the bus slams on the brakes leaving you hurled into a piece of metal. There is no satisfaction if the driver can’t cause you some misery. But, in a few years, the joy of seeing others hurt will wear off, and safety and consideration will become the norm — and padded metal bars will be a standard feature. Imagine a vinal compartment big enough for you to get in. Nobody can touch you or your wallet. Maybe there could be a pocket for your briefcase or bag. Safe and comfy. I love it!
Now I’m really out there. I may as well be talking about science fiction. I’m not sure if its possible for a bus driver in India to have manners. I have never seen a polite bus driver there. Everyone else in India is polite… so the rude people are outcasted and can only do jobs like being… a lowly bus driver. But, if local governments require drivers to go to school to learn formalized manners and drive considerately (not running people into the ditch, and not slamming on the brakes constantly), bus drivers could get a completely new rep.
The affluent classes in India see it as not only a comfort, but a status symbol to have a car. Not having a car is almost as bad as not having a maid. But, what if buses were so comfortable that they had large, wide seats like on a first class flight. What if designer drinks were served like a Mumbai-Mocha-Latte, or a Soy-Green-Tea-Masala-Chai? Buses could easily become the in thing. Drivers could have nice outfits, greet people, and not make jerky driving manouvers. You could even have wi-fi on the bus!
Special roads for buses
If buses had their own elevated roads that were really smooth and level, then buses would be fast and comfortable to use. With smooth and leveled roads, you could use your laptop if the bus would maintain a constand speed. People would be less inclined to drive if they could have fast and comfortable alternative transportation.
Singaporian style taxes
Indians will never buy into this… Or will they? Singaporian roads function because there is a highway tax. For a permit for rush hour use you pay a hefty yearly fee, and off hours, you pay a lesser fee. Taking up space on highways is expensive, and people should pay for this. Indian roads would open up if drivers wer taxed. More people would take buses, and people would save time. Instead of taking 90 minutes to go to work, 35 minutes would be all you would need. What is your time worth?
A snake train!
What is this? I never heard of this before! A snake train would be a train with hundreds of slowly moving cars that you could read, eat, exercise, or just relax in. Click here to read more about the snake train!
Excuses will kill you
Its easy to say, “Its too difficult, it won’t work, it can’t be done!” Those excuses will leave India behind and leave room for China to quickly gobble up its revenues which is happening as we speak. Take action and find sensible ways to fix this nightmare!
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2014 version: solutions to India’s transportation nightmare