Thursday, May 14, 2009

Epitomizing on bus tickets

How much a bus ticket could tell you about the city you are living in? Probably a lot, probably nothing.

I have used public bus service in a number of cities in India: Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Alleppey. If you generally ask people who have traveled in buses in Pune and Mumbai, most of them will say that the bus service in Pune is nothing but shitty and B.E.S.T of Mumbai is the best service you will ever find in India. To a large extent I too agree with this point. Lately, I have also used ACT bus service in Canberra. For most of my life I have lived in Pune and have commuted in the PMT on a day-to-day basis. In Canberra, I mostly cycle, but had to use bus for some long distance needs.

Two incidences regarding strikingly different ticketing experience with PMT and ACT bus services is what made me write this post.

Back in India, when I needed to go to Pune University (where I was studying), I needed to hop three buses. One from Viman Nagar (where I live) to Pune station, from Pune station to Corporation or Shivajinagar, and from there to University. Pain, but had no other direct option, though this has improved now with merger of PMT (Pune) and PCMT (Pimpri). I would usually be going to Corporation instead of Shivajinagar as it is less crowed there. In all, it would cost me 18 Rs for one way trip. But one fine day I reached University by spending mere 13 Rs. It so happened that the bus from station to Shivajinar was very crowded. And I did not have 5 Rs change with me, so I gave a 10 Rs note to the conductor. Out of no reason the conductor was very pissed of with me and repeatedly refused to take the note and give me a ticket. I had no other option but to keep insisting that I *really* do not have change with me. Finally the conductor was so pissed off that he made me get down the bus one stop before the final stand, fearing that there would be ticket checker on the main stop and he would have to answer all my complains of him! Fortunately this stand is just half a minute walk from the main stand. In essence I did not pay the ticket for this route at all .. and it was *obviously* not my fault!

That day I reached University by just spending 13 Rs as bus fare! Though my initial feeling was not good, in the end it was all smiles for saving those precious 5 Rs ;-)

This was nearly a year ago, but had preserved the tickets for my rememberence.

Today, in Canberra, I had to take a bus to a place called Woden that is about 16Km from City. Normally I would either take an Adult transfer ticket or a Shoppers off-peak ticket (which allows for two way travel at concessional rates). But today while boarding the bus, the driver asked me to just get in, saying that the ticket machine is out of order! I said wow free journey :) But while coming back I was completely blown over, when I was last in the queue to get in the bus and the driver just asked me to get in and did not take a ticket! One whole round trip journey ... free! I just felt so good about the ACT drivers, I must say... and felt that the PMT conductor could have been much more considerate towards me.

Its not so important that I got a free journey or that I saved a couple of bucks that really made me happy. What made me feel more comfortable was the way a not so good situtation was handled by people who "manage" a public resource like transportation. Its not that PMT is all that bad, I know couple of very good conductors who can manage a fully crowded bus with a smile on their face. It is just that you meet some of those not so good once; quite often.

.. in the end as they say a "punekar" will always say that the best city in the world is ... ;-)