Transport options in Siliguri

The city of Siliguri has no bus service. To go from Point A to Point B you have to use either smoke belching auto rickshaws or the cycle rickshaws. While the latter are an environment friendly and poor friendly option, it is not a convenient option if you are in a hurry or have to travel long distances. (Incidentally when I say poor friendly, I am talking about the rickshaw pullers, not of the passengers as the fare structures are much higher than in Autos.) You can, of course walk; Siliguri is, after all, not a city of huge distances, but at acute risk to life and limb. The footpaths on Sevoke Road and Hill Cart road are occupied by the business of commerce, and there are no footpaths anywhere else. You can cycle, but again cycling in Siliguri with the crazy autorickshaws and even madder Shaktimans is an adventure sport. I for one prefer to adventure at Himalayan heights, rather than on the streets of Siliguri.
The only thing that can make a Siligurian (somebody suggest a better name, please!) feel a little happier is that they are not alone in their misery. The Union Ministry of urban development commissioned a study on urban transport and the report has just been published. 30 cities, typifying urban India were chosen to be studied. They were tested for accessibility to public transport, congestion, walkability, city bus frequency, safety and slow moving vehicles and on-street parking interference. Chandigarh was rated the best, followed by Delhi and Madurai. Siliguri was not in the list of assessed cities. Gangtok was at the bottom of the list. I can testify to the correctness of this assessment as I have spent a couple of years living in Gangtok, dangerously dodging careering taxis driven by drunk or drugged youth all of whom double as cadres of the ruling party. (If you thought only West Bengal has a cadre bahini, think again.)
Vehicle numbers are growing at about 10 % every year in Indian cities, two wheelers are growing at an even faster speed, nearer 12 %.Siliguri is not alone in relying only on Autos for public transport, and the same fate is shared by people in Gangtok, Bikaner, Raipur, Agra and Patna. The share of people travelling by public transport has been declining in all cities, except Kochi. Private vehicles are increasing. The inevitable result: Vehicular congestion. In Kolkata vehicles travel at an average speed of 18 Km /hr, Delhi is even slower. However up to 58% of all trips are made on foot though in some cities it is as low as 16 %.The study has predicted that public transport will be used less and less as India “ progresses”.
What then is to be done? Cities like Siliguri already have a dangerous situation in the arterial roads especially in the mornings and the evening when travelling is at its peak. This leads to avoidable accidents, delays and inevitable air pollution. My solutions are simple.
*Introduce buses in the main routes, say Bagdogra- Burdwan Road, Medical College to Court More, PC Mittal Bus stand to Bagdogra, NJP. .
*Allow the cycle rickshaws access to only the smaller lanes inside the old areas of Siliguri.
*Construct a cycle lane on the main thoroughfares so that cyclists can move without the fear of being knocked down at any moment by an auto.
*Cut down on the access to the main thoroughfares from side roads and have proper traffic lights at all these access points.
*Introduce eco friendly autos before the Supreme Court forces you to do so.
*Have electric buses instead of diesel ones.
It is my opinion that simply these measures will make life in Siliguri much more hassle free. Together with this it is also important to make walking and cycling fashionable. Today somebody who owns a car finds it infra dig to walk. I love walking and often do so. If I walk into one of the Hospitals of Siliguri the person on duty at the entrance invariably asks me “Sir, Car?” It is inconceivable for then to imagine that I might be walking because I want to. No middle class lad nowadays dreams of cycling, they insist on a Motorcycle at least. However in the West which we take so much pride in aping most of the time, it is fashionable to use public transport, it is fashionable to whizz past on a cycle, it is fashionable to walk. I agree that walking on Hill Cart road and Walking down the Mall in London are not really comparable, but whose fault is that?


y-axis! said…
hey...this was a very interesting read... who did u say was working on the next great indian novel?

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