What surprised me was the newspapers’ howling. Then, I realised that most journalists — especially editors — ride in cars or taxis or autos. In this, they were no different from industrialists and senior bureaucrats. I remember being told by a senior politician how, at a meeting, everyone was moaning about how buses now actually went faster than the ministers’ cars. The senior politician hid his amusement in his moustache. Just a few days ago, his peon had been talking about how chuffed he was about the BRT.
Four years later, I assumed things had settled down. But apparently not. Someone filed a petition and the Delhi High Court (the judges use cars, of course) has asked the Central Road Research Institute to conduct a study on how the BRT might work if it was ‘normal’. This, although a survey shows that 40% car owners accept that the BRT reduces traffic snarls. Another survey shows that up to 85% of respondents are willing to use buses if the network improves.
What the CRRI will say is anybody’s guess, but I believe that true feasibility studies can only be conducted by people who actually use public transport. I feel that everyone who writes about BRTs should be forced to commute in buses or cycles for a year.
For too long, transport and urban planning policies have been framed by those who ride in cars. More and more flyovers are built. Existing roads are eaten up by cars parked on either side. Spaces earmarked for gardens or homes are converted into parking lots. But there’s no additional taxing of families who saddle the city with two, three and four cars. We talk of ‘world-class cities’, but in cities like Vienna, Munich, Rome, and even New York, certain areas are car-free.
If Mumbai had no-car zones, we’d be a better-looking, healthier city. But oh, our fear of sunshine! So, here we are, building a city where nobody can walk, or cycle, safely, and where we drive to gyms so we may walk on a stationary treadmill. And we pop pills to make up for the lack of K and D vitamins that the sun could give us for free.
Remember the moaning about skywalks? People were saying it was a waste of money, because who uses skywalks?
Well, I do.
Well, I do.
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