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Saturday, October 30, 2010

The bad bad years of DTC monopoly

All the controversy over phasing out the Blueline buses (the private buses) on the Delhi roads, and allowing Delhi Transport Corporation to resume its monopoly reminds me of how Delhi, especially transport, used to be twenty years back, when there were no private buses.
I used to wait for a DTC bus for sometimes close to an hour, sometimes even longer: on some routes, there were very few buses. The buses, when they came, were inhumanly packed, and it used to be hell to be inside one, with the temperature at 45 degrees in the summer.
The conductors were rude, and the collective ordeal made everybody quarrelsome, and often hot words and fisticuffs used to be exchanged.
All that changed when the routes were opened to private operators.
Yes, they drove recklessly, and they killed people.
But suddenly, there were buses every few minutes, and you were being actually courted to get into a bus.
I wonder if we are going to go back to those dreaded days with the banning of the Bluelines, despite tall talk of the thousands of new buses which have been inducted.
Surely, it would have made more sense to train the Blueline drivers better, regulate them better, and have them competing with DTC, than outlawing their existence altogether. Any monopoly finally degenerates, and DTC will surely do so, with staff resorting to flash strikes when they know there is no alternative to them.
As a result of those bruising years with DTC, I have been using my own transport, a bike, and then cars, in a very dogged way for the last 18 years. If the government goes and implements its stupid policy, you will definitely not find me using the public transport in a long long time...
The Metro? Ah, the Metro is getting really crowded: the result of poor modeling of commuter growth rates, and how to expand. Though, geographically, the Metro has expanded, the expansion of train frequencies has not really kept pace with the number of people using the metro. The result: the same crush which used to be on DTC twenty years back. And the crowds, when there is a glitch on the line, are scary. Guess we need a stampede before we  pay attention to the problem.
The lessons to be learnt? Adminstrators need to apply policy prescriptions, such as the correct level of State interventions, the farsightedness of planning for future growth as much as technical solutions, to problems. Going to the USA, and studying how they do it there is of no use, unless they practice it out here!!

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