Of small roads and big buses in Himachal’s capital town


By: Raghav Tomar

Shimla: Overflowing buses, jostling passengers, fighting bus drivers and exhausted traffic policemen…Shimla has it all. A nightmare for an outsider, travelling in the local buses in Shimla has become troublesome for the Shimla-ites also. What needs to be done is a revamp in the way the local transport of the capital of Himachal Pradesh functions.

Ask a person living in Shimla ‘What’s the transport situation like in Shimla?’ and prompt will come a reply-‘there are enough buses running in the capital!’

But what’s the reality? Sure the number of buses is sufficient to serve the city during routine hours. However what happens during the peak hours is a completely different story. With people rushing to their offices, kids rushing to schools and colleges, the real state of affairs comes to light. Passengers hanging onto a latch or a handle while literally hanging outside the bus is a common sight even though with the city police acting strictly lately, it’s been a problem largely reduced. Now it’s that last person on the door trying to squeeze in an extra inch so that he can just close the door.

So what do we believe are the problems here? OK… let us enumerate some:

1. No Space!
Heavy rush during morning and evening hours? Sure, we all agree on this. The conductor keeps shouting “beech mein ko hojo jee! (move towards the centre of the bus)” from both the doors. But with the bus already brimming over, where is the poor passenger supposed to go? Out of the window?

2. Where’s My Time?
So you travel by the local bus daily? Ever imagined how much time you spend sitting in that bus crawling its way, stopping on a hundred stops for that 5km ride? I know you must be about to say-“but there’s no other way!” I will come to a possible solution later but right now the point to be taken down is that large time taken to cover small distances is another big issue.

3. Afraid of the Dark?
Now…either the Shimla administration is of the view that nobody goes out of his/ her house after dark or the bus drivers and conductors are afraid of the dark? (Maybe they fear Lord Voldemort!). Any of the reasons be, a person arriving in Shimla after around 2100hrs has to be ready to shell out his hard earned cash to the insatiable taxi drivers because buses on most of the routes vanish in thin air around this time(Lord Voldemort at work again???). It is amazing how a bus ride of Rs.6 from Main Bus Stand to Sanjauli turns into a taxi trip of Rs.130 in the night!!!

4. Ladies First to Ladies ‘last’
So for all you gentlemen out there who offer your seats to the standing ladies, I thank you all and appreciate your efforts in making the Indian society look civilized. Now, for all the other able-bodied ‘ungentle’-men, please tell me what pains you to get up and give your seat to those ladies trying to hold onto that roof rod?
I know after all that stuff I have written above, you must be ready to tear my piece apart by giving your thumbs down to my solutions. Do that, I don’t mind but please have at least one look at it. Who knows…you might get a good topic to discuss while waiting for that irritating local to arrive!

1. Let Me Go Non-Stop!
What I mean here is that the bus operators in liaison with the administration should start non-stop busses for long distances. For example if a bus starts from Sanjauli with a non-stop tag to HP University, it can easily get filled with complete number of passengers from there itself. This way, it wouldn’t have to stop in between and it will reach HPU in least amount of time. A classic example of this is Kadamba Transport Corporation, state roadways of Goa. They have normal (read crawling…which are the buses running in almost entire India) as well as non-stop buses running between important cities. Both the buses run from the Bus Stand and differ in the fare by a few rupees. The crawling…uhh…I mean the normal buses run just like any other place. It’s their non-stop services which makes the difference:

a. A person sitting on the bus stand gives the ticket after which you can go and sit on any empty seat. The number of tickets given is exactly equal to the number of seats available in the bus. (No Standing allowed! Great na?)

b. When the bus fills up, the driver starts off and stops at the bus stand of the destination only. A new bus takes the designated, empty place and the same procedure starts again.

The advantages of this system are:

a. Passengers don’t have to jostle around for empty seats.

b. As there are no mid-way stops, the time taken is considerably less. And in today’s fast world, time is money.

c. Since the tickets have already been issued, there’s no need for a bus conductor, thereby saving both manpower and money for the transporter.

d. With the bus not stopping at any authorized/unauthorized stops, the traffic moves smoothly.

e. The passenger doesn’t have to leave home with an addition half hour cushion for the unknown bus delays, etc!

f. Travelling is comfortable with ‘each one gets one’ seat system!

2. Let us brighten up the night
Ok…maybe not many buses are needed after 2100 hrs or 2200 hrs; maybe there aren’t enough people to justify running buses every 5mins but at least a bus can be run every half hour. An ideal way to solve this problem would be:

a. After 2100 hrs/2200 hrs, the buses can be run every half an hour.

b. After 0000 hrs, the difference can be increased to one hour.

And so on…

3. Ladies come first and always first
So all the guys out there, let us take an oath to stand from first to last stop but not let that old aunty or that school girl stand while we remain parked on the seats.

If not, then the administration can follow the example of Mumbai’s renowned bus service, BEST where the seats reserved for ladies are vacated by the men sitting there. They do it by themselves gracefully, or embarrass themselves by waiting for the conductor to ask them to move, is their personal choice.

4. Crack the Whip
Last but not the least, the Shimla Traffic Police, even though doing a great job in keeping the narrow roads of the city clear of jams, needs to wake up to the menace of overloading by bus operators. Only then can we expect a smooth an unhitched ride in the city buses.

With this, it’s time for me stop knocking this keyboard because I have said what I wanted to convey.

If you are just a reader, I welcome you to send me your thoughts on this.

If you are a transporter, I request you to take some immediate steps in the right direction so that others follow suit.

If you are an authority of the Shimla administration, I appeal to you to kindly consider the steps mentioned above. I am not an expert on this subject; in fact I am nobody to comment on the issue but just another passenger. Therefore, you, knowing the actual realities can decide in a better way of what’s right and what’s wrong.

And…if you are anyone with a complaint/suggestion/comment, it’s most awaited.

(The writer is a student of University Institute of Information Technology, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla.)

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