Tuesday, March 11

A better public transport

Conversation in a car in Kolkata.

"The Delhi Metro is better than Cal Metro."
"Come on, we had a Metro many years before you even thought of one."
"But ours is a larger network."
"Ours is much older."
"Our is air conditioned."
"Ours cheaper. Everyone can afford it."

This exchange set me thinking. The Kolkata Metro began construction in 1973 and the first line opened in 1984. But since the standard at that time was carriages with open windows and no air conditioning the trains look a little outdated.

But the present network has been in use for more than a decade and so is frequented by all kinds of people. Unlike in Delhi where people are still reluctant to completely abandon their cars, in Kolkata the metro is the first choice for most people living and working near the network. And since there is already a link to the Dum Dum airport, traveling by the metro is a practical option.

Like Istanbul, Kolkata has a variety of transport systems. Growing up in that city in the 1990's must have been fun. If you got bored of the Metro there was always the tram. At other times you could take a boat across the river. But the sad part is that apart from the Metro, the other transport systems are falling apart. Just eight months ago I was imagining that Kolkata was the nearest when it came to Istanbul, but the mind can play tricks when you are away.

This time when I had a closer look, in terms of travel options Kolkata has a long way to go in offering a variety of travel experiences to the international traveler. In the case of most tourist friendly cities around the world, good public transport is the one big plus point.

So instead of arguing whether the Delhi Metro is better than the one in Kolkata we need to look beyond the shores and compare our systems with the best in the world.

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