Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Roads less traveled

[From my Metro Now column – another in a series of trying-hard-to-be-optimistic pieces about the traffic situation in Delhi]

Every dark cloud has a silver lining, we are constantly told, but the adage forgets to add that at times the lining must be surgically attached. This can be accomplished by grabbing the squirming cloud, pinning it to the ground, stitching the silver lining painfully into its side and then adding a few layers of cellotape as extra precaution.

The silver lining for the satirically named “bus rapid transit” corridor – a cloud that has been brooding above Delhi for the last few weeks – is that it will eventually free up a lot of retail space in our city. The reason is that many offices will empty out as people decide to make productive use of traffic jams and convert their vehicles into workstations. This is the most efficient solution to the current problem of south Delhi-based worker ants leaving their homes early in the morning and reaching their central Delhi offices in the late afternoon, just as things are beginning to wind up for the day. (All you can really do in office at that time is to go out for a long coffee-and-gossip break, which – as all conscientious and disdainful freelancers know – is the only thing offices are good for anyway.)

As more of these rapid-transit bus corridors mushroom across the city, I foresee a huge change in Delhi’s working culture. Since the government is too pigheaded to reverse a plan it has already set in motion, it will be forced to do the next best thing: equip all vehicles with free wi-fi, enabling people to turn the clogged roads into office spaces and their cars into cubicles (I only hope some nameless planning committee doesn’t decide to supply broadband cables with “special corridors” for different frequencies). Eventually, we will even be permitted to reserve specific spots along the road. Since auctions are the in-thing these days, public bids can be made for these spaces. I can just see it now: “How much for that 10ft x 8 ft spot in the shade beneath the large gulmohar on Josip Broz Tito Marg, right opposite house number 21? You, sir, in the brown safari suit?” School buildings will become redundant too, because it will be found that classes can just as easily be conducted in vans and buses (which can take a U-turn and drop the kids back home in the afternoon).

As the sage said, show me a city with a BRT problem and I’ll show you a city that can live and work on its streets.

What’s the point of getting out of the house at all, you may ask. Simple – after finishing your work for the day (which is around the time the traffic jams will start to clear), you can carry along the usual route and make it to office in time for evening conversation with friends. The rate at which Delhi is "developing", this will soon be the only way people will get any socialising done.

[Earlier posts on roads and traffic: A Hitchcockian road rant, Cutting Bluelines down to size, Jaywalkers]


  1. Dont you think with the way cities in India are growing, they should have considerably increased (or, perhaps, introduced) courses specifically on road designing.

    I think, it is only part of the problem, that people dont follow road rules.

  2. I liked reading your blog, but this is just another stupid rant that times of india publishes. Like how people have to cross the road when there is a bus stop in the middle but not otherwise (like times of india needs to think through this or read When reporters write editorials about projects they have no knowledge about, this is the crap we get.

  3. Dont you think with the way cities in India are growing, they should have considerably increased (or, perhaps, introduced) courses specifically on road designing.

    N: no idea. As the post should make clear, I'm not inclined to think about these things with any degree of seriousness. (That's one advantage of being a disdainful freelancer working out of home!)

  4. I think Bangalore's BMTC is planning something of that sort - Free wi-fi in the A/C volvo buses run by the government.

    By the way, your disdain comes across quite prominently in this post and comments.

  5. great description...I guess Delhi govt. just doesn't want to accept it's failure so now they are pumping more money in a project that is destined to fail!!!

  6. I would like to bet that the anonymous person who commented earlier is one of the fools who thought up the Delhi BRT project.


    A fellow BRT sufferer

  7. I guess our cities never had a planned growth. People keep on swelling a city and government is always playing the catch-up game. Insfrastructure is way behind. Added to it, we never follow rules while on road. This is what happened to Bangalore as well.