The Mumbai Monorail ride

On 1 February 2014, the Mumbai Monorail, the city’s newest (and third form of) public transport was inaugurated. Or rather the first leg (Chembur to Wadala), of the first phase of the Mumbai Monorail was inaugurated. A much-anticipated addition to Mumbai’s public transport system, the Monorail saw 20,000 people queuing up for a ride on the first day itself. The days following the inauguration saw newspaper reports with pictures of long queues of people patiently waiting for their turn to take a ride as well as experiences of people who had managed to go on one. Though I had wanted to take a ride during the initial period, I decided to wait till the novelty wore off and the crowds lessened.

And then on 11 March 2014, I read a newspaper report that claimed that the Mumbai Monorail ridership had fallen to 92,771 per week. This meant that only regular commuters were using the Monorail now, except perhaps on weekends when people still came out to “check out” the Monorail. So, two days later and at 7.30 in the morning, I was standing outside the Chembur Monorail station and looking up in anticipation of the ride to follow. Join me as I take the ride to Wadala and back on the Monorail and check out its efficiency and efficacy.

Mumbai Monorail, Public Transport, Mumbai
The Chembur Monorail Station

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Mumbai Lens: The two bus stops

Deonar Bus Depot is a major bus stop in Mumbai on a route that links Navi Mumbai to Mumbai via Chembur. A few important bus routes originate from this stop and many other routes pass through the bus stop. At last count, 19 bus routes have this as a bus stop. And considering the number of bus routes that plying by Deonar Bus Stop, it is a fairly crowded one, especially during office hours. So, one would expect that being a major one, Deonar bus stop would have some seating space and shelter.

Wrong. This is what the bus stop looks like:

Mumbai, Bus Stop
The wait for a bus. Oh for a bus ! This photo was taken around noon

And then there is this bus stop on Marine Drive in South Mumbai. This bus stop services just two bus routes and I have rarely seen it crowded.

Photo: Nita Jatar Kulkarni. Please click on the photo to go to the original page.
Photo: Nita Jatar Kulkarni. Please click on the photo to go to the original page.

Both the bus stops are constructed and maintained by the cash-strapped and corruption-ridden Transport Division of BEST. That still doesn’t explain why two bus stops in the same city maintained by the same organisation have to be so different and get such differential treatment.

Why? Oh why?

Mumbai Lens is a photographic series which, as the name suggests, is Mumbai-centric and is an attempt to capture the various moods of the city through my camera lens. You can read more posts from this series here.

The Docklands Light Railway and the London Docklands

The London Docklands is the name given to some areas of eastern and south-eastern London. Till the middle of the 20th century, the Docklands was where the various docks and dockyards used to be. Though the docks were originally built and managed by a number of private companies (for example, East India, West India, etc.), it was not till 1909 that it all came under the management of the Port of London Authority.

Redeveloped London Docklands near Canary Wharf. For those used to seeing a predominantly Georgian London, this view of the city can come as a bit of a surprise !

Today, the area is a mix of the commercial and the residential, and old housing estates and newer steel and glass structures as a result of massive efforts at redevelopment of an area that used to be predominantly labour class. The introduction of the Docklands Light Railway or DLR in 1987 fulled the development of an area that did not have good transport connectivity. The Docklands area has always been a trade hub for centuries; today, it is a hub of a different kind—the central business district of London is located here.

Tower Gateway DLR Station

The DLR is a fully automated light metro or light rail system to exclusively serve the Docklands area of London. It is quite distinct from the London Underground, and is also part of Transport for London. During my year’s stay in London in 2008–2009, I remained ignorant of the DLR largely because the Tube Bus took care of most of my travel requirements and I rarely travelled to the Docklands area.

Then one day, while returning to Central London from a day trip to Greenwich, the DLR turned out to be the most convenient mode of travel, and to use a clichéd term, travel was never the same again. It is a trip that I still remember, as a very different London emerged through that journey, very distinct from the Victorian and Georgian London that I had come to associate London with and love.

Such was my fascination for the DLR, that on one rainy and cloudy day, I spent a few hours travelling by the DLR, getting off at stations that caught my fancy and exploring the Docklands area on foot. I saw a very different London that day. A quieter London, steel and glass apartments, residences converted from warehouses, an airport by the river, colourful buildings, and so much more.

Presenting a sampling from that lovely day of a very different London courtesy the DLR journey that I took in July 2009 ! 🙂

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The London Underground

I lived in London for a year (2008–2009) and though walking was my preferred mode of getting around the city, it wasn’t always possible to walk to my destination. So that’s where the Tube or the London Underground came in as the fastest, though not necessarily the cheapest, mode of travel. Travelling by the Tube made me re-look at perceiving public transport as only a means to get from point A to point B. It showed me that it could also be a place to showcase art, make a design statement, and a place that reflected the ethos/culture of the area it serviced.

Transport for London is the company overlooks the public transport in London through the Tube, buses, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), trams, trains, etc. Though I used all these modes at some point during my stay in London, I loved the Tube and the DLR the most. I loved it so much that I photographed the unique aspects of the various tube stations I passed through, its various lines and routes, escalator and tube etiquette, etc. I never tired of admiring the little and big things that made each station unique and special. Even today, the Tube remains eminently gush-worthy. 🙂

About 2-3 weeks back, BBC Entertainment channel in India started airing a programme on the London Underground. This programme, which airs every Saturday at 9.00 pm, looks at “London’s 140 year-old Underground system” and “what it’s like to run the world’s most complex train network”. In other words, it is a behind-the-scenes look at the people who run and manage the Tube.

Bond Street Station

Not surprisingly, this has become my favourite television programme and has inspired me to write this blog post today. But this post is not about the efficiency or a behind-the- scenes look of the Tube; it is simply a post on the beautiful tube stations of the London Underground — the ones that caught my eye with their unique design, art or architectural element.

So are you ready for some station hopping?

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The BEST jugaad

Sometimes in the midst of trying to balance work, home, commuting, blogging, reading, indeed living, I am brought to a screeching halt by something very ordinary, something very simple. Something that always makes me pause and think about the details that I often miss, the little bits of creativity around us, and the gentler and hidden things we overlook.  Getting a bus pass made was one such incident 🙂

I commute to work by Mumbai’s BEST buses. For the last 2 years or so, I have found it convenient to get a monthly or quarterly bus pass made, which till about a year back, had been outsourced by the BEST to a third-party. But due to reported discrepancies in collections as well as non-functioning of the smart card bus pass, the contract with the third-party was abruptly terminated. A press release from the BEST stated that they would be issuing the bus passes themselves.

So once the announcement appeared in the newspapers regarding the issuing of smart card bus passes, off I went to the nearest bus depot, which happened to be BEST’s Deonar Bus Depot. The security guard at the gate helpfully pointed me towards the right direction or where the bus passes were being issued from. Soon I found myself looking at this:

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