Friday, August 08, 2014

Delhi-vs-Mumbai: Travelling in a City Bus

How many times have you been to a new city and travelled using a bus/train/auto to get around? How was the experience? Were you nervous/anxious or chilled out? Let’s take a look at the state of mind of a commoner in a new city (Delhi & Mumbai for now), travelling from home in a city bus for the first time, in an unknown route and going to a yet-unseen destination. But before that a tip on the lingo at both the places-

Delhiites have ‘bus stops’, have automatic closing doors on low floor buses which come in red, green and orange colours. The buses are run by the Delhi Transport Corporation, DTC.

Mumbaikars have ‘bus stations’ or ‘bus sthaanak’, have NO doors on standard floor buses and are all red. The buses are run by the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport, BEST. Double decker buses don’t run on Sundays and are limited to a few routes.
 
View from the upper deck of a double-decker bus in Mumbai. Note the difference in height and the Devnagri numbering of the bus routes
Please do note the intended humour and puns at various places! ;)


Finding the bus route number:

Unless you are the unknown-adventure-lover and like getting lost, you would most probably do your homework and check Google Maps for the transit info from your home to your destination before setting out on the commute. So now that you have the bus numbers, you set out to the nearby bus-stop to wait for the bus.

Reading the bus number:

A few minutes pass, but the bus is no where to be seen. You start re-checking.

Delhi- You would be easily able to read the bus route numbers at the stop. Only a little enquiry from other people waiting can confirm that you are waiting for the right bus. But don’t forget, it’s Delhi, you might want to confirm by asking a couple of more people.

Mumbai- You would have to know the Devanagri font to read the bus numbers. And although some bus stops may provide you with route information on big boards on the sides of the stops, when a bus approaches, say it is #241, you would look at the bus to check its number and back at the bus number on the stop’s board and match each digit. Ok, you got the 4 in the middle, and probably that is a 2 at the first place, but is it a 9 or a 1 on the third place? Don’t worry, this would take a while and a little practice to get used to. (It’s a new city, remember?) But probably as you make all the deductions, the bus has already left and you have to go through the entire process once again. No worries, you are just learning a new script and are already drenched with sweat! (God knows why they do not have the numbers in the normal Indo-Arabic font in Mumbai, I thought it was an internationally accepted convention to use Indo-Arabic numerals!)

Getting a ticket on the bus:

You finally get on the bus.

Delhi- If it is an almost empty bus, lucky you. If you got enough space to get on the bus and stand comfortably, give a pat on your back! Well, Delhi bus conductors tend to sit on the seat just behind the back entry and in case it is an empty bus, you might want to take a seat and wait for the conductor to come and give you a ticket. They won’t. They probably even wouldn’t ask you if you have a ticket/pass or not. But when the ticket checking squad enters, you would be caught unaware without ticket and would have to shell out a hefty amount. It was only after my first bus journey on the then new DTC low floor bus about 4-5 years ago, that I got to know that one had to collect the ticket from the conductor while entering the bus. And yes, carry ‘change’. The conductors would never ever have ‘change’, mostly Rs.5 coins, and you would be unwillingly adding to ‘black money’.

Mumbai- If you are in Mumbai, don’t be surprised at getting on an empty bus at almost all times except the morning and evening office commute hours on some specific routes. (Everyone is using the local trains!) Once in the bus, take a seat anywhere you like. You are most likely to find a window seat. Sit calm. The conductor would come over to you, ask your destination and give you the ticket. Believe it or not, the conductors seem to be carrying a bag pocket full of all 1, 2 and 5 rupee coins; so getting exact ‘change’ is no problem. If you try deciphering what’s written on the ticket, remember- it’s all in Marathi.

Interior of a typical BEST bus in Mumbai. I saw some buses with the LCD TVs and CCTVs- Way ahead of Delhi!

Reaching your destination:

You tell the conductor to let you know when your stop is about to come. He agrees. You take a seat on the left side of the bus, so you can see the bus stops when they are about to come. Still you have the ‘Maps’ app open on your phone, just in case. (You are here to discover a new city, remember?)

Delhi- You rely solely on your phone and keep an ear to the conductor’s words to make sure you don’t miss the stop as you slowly realise that half of the bus stops do not have any place written on them. Where they are, it’s clearly visible. Where they aren’t, probably it was never put up or the bus stop was not renovated for the Commonwealth Games and there has been enough defacement.
 
A typical Delhi bus stop. Note the bus numbers on the left and stop name on the right.
Mumbai- All bus stops in Mumbai, thankfully, are consistent. They have the name of the place written both in Marathi and English. It is usually black font on a grey or pale yellow board at the centre of the stop. Keep an eye. Because probably by the time you have read the name of the stop, the bus has started moving again. Unlike Delhi, everything here is still hand-painted, and the boards are usually difficult to decipher at night time. (A tip which everyone gave me during my Mumbai trip- Download the ‘m-indicator’ app on your phone. It really helps!)

So all you do is anxiously keep an eye on the map, the passing surroundings outside the bus window, and an ear for the conductor (and wish he remembers to let you know of your approaching stop).

Getting down:

Mumbai- Inform the driver and he is going to stop at the bus stop allowing you to get down comfortably.

Delhi- Inform the driver and in case you are a young man and there is no senior citizen or lady getting down with you, you would be expected to get down from the slowing down but still running bus. (Don’t forget Newton’s laws, or you might be stumbling and falling down. I learnt it the hard way, many years ago!)

Some more tips (The 'better-know-this' guide):

Delhi- The Metro hasn’t reached most places and taking a bus is usually easier. Could be a nightmare to get on a bus for commute every morning and evening, considering the huge rush and the completely unreliable schedules. Probably that’s why Delhi boasts of 74 lakh registered private vehicles on the road and probably that’s why your bus is stuck in the jam at almost all times. Also, Delhi bus drivers are not the safest and so, although you might cover your 10 km distance in as less as 20 minutes, the low floor DTC buses could break-down at any point.

Mumbai- Most of Mumbaikars prefer the local trains and hence, the buses are considerably empty. People aren’t hanging out of the door of the bus like they comfortably do in Delhi. (They prefer hanging out of the locals in Mumbai) Beware- while buses in Mumbai might be very easily accessible and you wouldn’t have to worry about last mile travel, they are very slow. A 10 km distance may take anywhere between 40-75 minutes. (When I was travelling in the buses in Mumbai, before chucking them for the local trains, I did wish- Get a driver from the Delhi buses to man the buses in Mumbai!)

Also note, I found Mumbaikars a lot more disciplined than Delhiites- while Delhiites would wait for the bus doors to open and barge in as soon as they can, Mumbaikars prefer standing in a queue (usually at the depots) and getting on buses!


There must have been a first-time when you travelled in a city bus, how was your experience? Have further tips to share about Delhi/Mumbai bus travel? Something important that I perhaps missed out? I am listening!

12 comments :

  1. Mumbai crowd's more helpful than Delhite anyway, even bus travel is more peaceful and disciplined in Mumbai than Delhi.

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    1. I agree. People in Mumbai are way too humble and more helpful than Delhiites.
      Thanks for the comment :)

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  2. Nice post to guide new travellers to the cities.

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  3. Well, I almost always got a seat in Mumbai! They give an intriguing electronic ticket which i like..so there goes my bias! :)

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    1. I presume it's intriguing because you can't read Marathi, right?

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  5. Good post! I myself covered travelling in city bus on my blog... from chennai POV :) (bestvish.blogspot.com)

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    1. Thanks Vishwas.
      I went through your post via indiblogger. Nice perspective there. I am yet to visit Chennai though :)

      Delete
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