Life on fast lane - population seems tobe exploding at Chennai when you wait at bus stops and railway stations. The city of Chennai is known for its lanes and bylanes – and there are not many motorable roads in its real sense. Chennaiites fear of the roads is increasing as in some stretches they are ‘killing fields’ with frequent accidents. People drive mad, often without control. Most driver lack or are not aware of the road sense, road discipline, respecting signals and road rules, respecting the other road users, allowing elderly, small and disabled to cross the roads – all these are missing. At every signal, you can spot vehicles jumping the signals or driving faster when the signal has already closed.
Today a report in Times of India reads that the city has bucked the trend, with 18% fewer fatalities in road accidents in 2014 as compared to the previous year. Traffic police officers are upbeat about the achievement, but commuters say there's a long way to go before they feel safe on the road. Chennai recorded 1,411 fatal road accidents in 2014, more than any other of the 53 mega cities on the NCRB's list except Delhi. Bangalore was in third place. Whatever the statistics say, for road users many a times it is harrowing experience as vehicles are driven rashly.
There is menace of drunken driving. While Chennai and its neighbouring districts are making attempts to curb drunken driving, the record of other cities is not as good. The Chennai traffic police book an average of 150 cases of drunken driving every day, but in neighbouring Kancheepuram, police only book 75 a day. At city level, police say there have been considerable changes in policing, including use of improved technology.
On a different plane, in the city the Public Transport system is quite effective. Old timers remember it as PTC (Pallavan Transport Corporation) … the present day Metropolitan Transport Corporation was established way back in 1972 with a fleet strength of 1,029 buses and has come a long way. If you are lucky enough, you may get to travel in the comfort of an airconditioned bus – Volvo one at that. In the sweltering heat, it would provide great comfort travelling in a dust-free environment – the bus has great suspension and runs pretty fast.
Though there are many routes in which AC buses are run according to MTC web, there are some where the services are skeleton…. I had earlier posted on the higher % of such buses running on famed IT corridor, the OMR road. IT Corridor aka OMR (Rajiv Gandhi Salai) is a toll road.
Another report in TOI titled – ‘wheels to work’ - Techies turn cool riders: Most AC buses serve OMR states that 80 Of The 96 Airconditioned Buses in the City now ply on IT Corridor; Services Timed To Match Office Hours. It is stated that till early last year, there were 50 airconditioned buses plying on OMR; Officials have diverted 30 more AC Volvo buses to the same stretch. This, they say, is mainly due to lack of patronage in other parts of the city. With the IT sector growing at a rate of 15% a year, the demand for public transport is also on the rise.“As long as the services are quick, frequent and reliable, people do not mind paying extra for AC services,“ said K Purushottam, senior director at Nasscom. It was National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) that lobbied with MTC to get more AC buses introduced on OMR with timings that matched those of the larger companies.
MTC sources say buses on OMR make more money as they keep time better than buses in other parts of the city. “Traffic on OMR is predictable and run on time, so the AC buses have dedicated clientele. In contrast, traffic in the rest of the city is not as uniform, so buses on a particular route sometimes bunch up. This makes service erratic in many parts of the city and those wanting AC buses may not get them when they want,“ an official said. Another reason for poor frequency of services is that the city has less than 4,000 buses to transport 50 lakh passengers a day. Most commuters take the first bus that comes their way rather than wait for a particular category of bus. On OMR, however, many commuters wait for AC buses.
As a result of MTC's additions on this route, the number of private buses operating on OMR has come down. Many private buses were hired by companies to ensure that employees could get to and leave work on time. Despite the demand, MTC is unlikely to add more AC buses to the fleet because the returns have not been commensurate with the expenses. “AC buses are more expensive to buy and run. While Chennai has 96 AC buses, Bengaluru with cooler climes has 500. “Each airconditioned bus needs to ear n at least Rs 22,000 every day to break even. In Chennai, the buses make only Rs 17,000 a day,“ said an official.
With regards – S. Sampathkumar
13th Jan 2014.