Monday, September 08, 2008

A Volvo moment

Almost every company worth its salt in Bangalore provides transport. Before some people jump the gun, let me remind you that the list varies from HAL - which is located as centrally as possible in the city to IT companies (anybody) to groups of companies (@ ITPL) to companies in nearby Hosur and others.

Why? Because if it were not for the company provided transport a majority of employees would never manage to reach work (don't even bother to add, on time). Yet, many people prefer to ride their own bikes and cars (that is part of a longer story).

This has been, in effect, the story of the city. Abysmal public transport waiting for a critical mass of users with users waiting for good public transport to drop on their laps. The Metro is supposed to be the panacea for all of Bangalores traffic ills, but while we wait for it, something else is doing very well.

But very recently, the BMTC started introducing Volvos - the first to introduce them intra city in India. Skeptics were aplenty. Too expensive, too elitist and what not. But take a moment to see the Volvos in the city during peak hours these days. Every Volvo which travels to the ITPL, E-city side if packed. During holidays, the Volvos to the city center is packed. Evenings obviously, leaving for home, the Volvos are packed once again. Whether it is due to the hike in petrol prices, whether it is due to the traffic or whether it is simply because the Volvo is the closest to reliable comfortable public transport in the city, the Volvos are here to stay. Affordable prices (surely less than a litre of petrol in most directions and a thousand times cheaper and haggle free than rickshaws), amazing comfort (nobody switches off the aircons and comfortable when the bus is packed with standees), very reliable, friendly staff in the buses too. I think that the success of the Volvos augurs well for the Metro, whenever it gets ready to service these high density workplaces (the current phase covers mostly random areas other than Ecity and ITPL).

I now suspect that the Volvo skeptics were all hired by the auto rickshaw unions.

Until the Volvos came about Bangalore public transport was an oxymoron. I can say this over and over again. True, there were bus services of various hues to choose from - ranging from the BMTC to private rattletraps to cab center jitneys, but the Volvo has truly made public transport respectable in Bangalore. More power to them. The next time you are in Bangalore, try them out...

And yes, they changed the way we perceived long distance travel in buses...

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