There is a lot heard and said about public transport in Mumbai. Apparently, it is the best in the country. The reason I say ‘apparently’ is ‘coz it is relative. The public transport system in the country itself leaves a lot to be desired. Here is a step to step guide to the transport in Mumbai so that you do not reach there with misconceptions.
1) Buses: The most horrible way to travel in Mumbai is by road. The roads are bad… the weather is bad… the traffic sucks… Bus timings are not fixed. I just had to go and wait for the bus to turn up. The frequency could be 5-30 mins. For example, everytime we had to go to Vashi from Mulund we would try to board a bus. There used to be an AC bus but it was later discontinued. After 20 mins of wait, we would just hail a cab.
2) Car: I was in Mumbai in 2009 and 2010. I would drive everywhere and it was torture. I spent 4-5 hours driving and by the end of the night would be too tired for anything. There were times when I was stuck in traffic at Sion and almost crying from the pain in my feet. While driving in Mumbai, you cannot take your foot off the brake and have to keep shifting between 1st and 2nd gear. Also, traffic begins at 8 am and lasts till 11 pm at night. Never drive in Mumbai.
3) Autos: Mumbai is one city when autos are on the road all day and all night. But, there is a catch. They never go the way you are going. Whether you want to travel a short distance or long, you can never be sure of finding an auto. I still haven’t figured out why… and how to get past this. You just need to keep your fingers crossed. There are other rules also that they follow- they never take U turns. For example, you need to get off on the left side of the road… you are coming from right… the auto will drop you across the road… so, you have to cross the road to reach your destination. Many times, they will drop you few feet away from the destination so you can stop being lazy and walk. I had to fight every time to be dropped at the same place. There is the general perception that all autos run by meter… it is not true. In some locations, they refuse to use the meter. I faced this problem everytime in Airoli and Ghansoli. I had to call for a meru every single time. I generally took the train from Nahur East. Most people get off at Nahur West… walk some distance… climb a few stairs… climb down another flight of stairs and then reach the platform. Nahur East is 5 mins away… I can take the auto till there… directly climb stairs… climb down another flight of stairs and then reach the platform. One day, the auto guy almost reached the West side and refused to go till East. I don’t know why… I had specifically mentioned East but he didn’t hear me. I refused to pay him. Such instances are very common. Andheri station is known for the notorious autowalas. You can expect 20-40 mins wait for an auto. Not that there are lack of autos, they refuse to take you where you want to go. Many people get off the train at Jogeshwari and then take the auto back to Andheri.
4) Train: Everyone will tell you the local train is the most convenient means of transport. Fastest? Yes. Convenient? No ways. I would board the 8.40 am ladies local for work every morning. It took 40 mins to reach Currey Road (against 1.5-2 hours if I drive). Fast. But it would get packed to the brim and I would end up squashed against someone’s boobs or hips or worse, smelly underarms. And this was the situation in the 1st class. The pass cost me 565 bucks every month. Add 60 bucks of auto/day. I spent less than 2k on travelling to work. Cheap? Yes. Torture? You bet. In the 9 months, I came across 5-6 instances where people almost came under the train while trying to catch it. I do not understand reason for the rush. Trains travel at the frequency of 5 mins during the peak period. Is life worth so little? I did not understand this attitude. And it is worse if you have to change trains. Say, you live in Western suburbs and office is in Eastern suburbs. Your life will be hell ‘coz you have to get off at Dadar… cross over the bridge and board the train for Eastern line. The few times I changed trains at Dadar I was scared of getting stuck in a stampede. It is that bad… on all days… weekdays and weekends. Life is worse if you stay in Navi Mumbai. Sometimes, you may have to change trains at 2 stations to get to your location.
5) Taxis: Mumbai is well known for cabs available anywhere and anytime. Below are instances of never finding a cab or rather the cab refusing to take me where I wanted to go or cab refusing to travel by meter:
– Andheri to Vashi/Mulund
– Vashi to Andheri
– Currey Road to Phoenix Mills
– Mulund to Ghansoli
– Ghansoli to Mulund
– Mulund to Lower Parel
There was a taxi stand near my house. The cabs were present all day all night… so were the cab drivers. They always refused to take us to our destination. The cabs asking for extra money is very common. You need to negotiate and not let them know your desperation. It gets worse during monsoons when they know you need them more than they need you.
So, that is Mumbai. Commuting is a torture and kills you little by little every single day.