Taking the red bus home: a joyride in New Delhi

October 15, 2008

Riding home in the air-conditioned comfort of a gleaming red bus, I find it hard to believe I am travelling in New Delhi.

busnew.jpgSqueaky-clean seats, no crowds jostling for room, automatic doors and huge windows offering panoramic views of the bustling streets — it’s a far cry from the torture I have endured in the past.

Buses in India’s capital are not known for being commuter-friendly. The state-owned ones are mostly rickety slowcoaches while the privately operated Blue Line buses zigzag their way through traffic, dangerously negotiating bends and racing each other in a bid to pick up passengers.

Their abysmal safety record led to calls for banning the “killer buses” but with the city dependent on CNG-fuelled public transport to counter the rising number of petrol- and diesel-powered cars, an alternative was needed and fast.

With a state-of-the-art subway already in place and expanding, a revamped public bus transport system could further showcase the city’s potential as it gears up to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Swanky new low-floor buses were introduced in phases over the past year. Only around 500 of these non-AC (green) and AC (red) buses ply on Delhi’s roads right now — not enough for a population of 14 million. But more will be added in the coming months.

bus03new.jpgFor many of Delhi’s long-suffering commuters who spend precious minutes haggling with autorickshaw drivers, it’s cheaper and convenient to hop on to one of the AC buses, which usually charge double fare compared to the rest of the non-AC fleet.

It’s also a good idea considering the city’s roads are crawling with cars and newer vehicles are adding to the mess (cheaper cars like the Tata Nano will only make it worse).

To encourage people to take buses more often, authorities are experimenting with the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor — with dedicated lanes for buses, cars and two-wheelers. A pilot project in south Delhi has met with limited success, with daily traffic snarls reported by irate car drivers.

I am not sure how the government will solve the traffic problem but if you are ever stuck in Delhi on a hot summer day, I suggest you take a ride on the gleaming red bus.

That’s one joyride you won’t regret.


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Bus travel in India is coming off age. Bangalore was first city to get airconditioned volvo inter-city buses and now other cities have replicated the example set by Bangalore.

Good to know apni Delhi is improving. I have a dedicated blog on bus travel in india – travelbyvolvo.blogspot.com

Posted by bunny punia | Report as abusive

I was happy to see a red aircondition bus while standing full with perspiration in hot sun.I boarded in bus and bought tickets after few minutes the fan belt of A/C was broken and I was repenting for paying double.Another similar bus came but despite of the drivers request of our bus driver of another bus did not stoped.
I almost use to see daily dat the drivers of DTC excepts even just 20 rupee from blue line ticket sellers for either slowing the bus or not to stop at petential passenger geting places.
Time keeper will not inform you the right time of the departure of the DTC buses and the moment all passengers will board in blue line and pay the ticket money you will see that some DTC of the same route will cross your blue line after dat blue line bus will become more slow to grab the passenger.
who will change the nature and charector of the people working in thease buses.
Thanx to the leaders who run their own buses directly or indirectly and appointement in DTC made on various considerations.

Posted by prakash | Report as abusive

The salavation of Delhi lies not in AC buses (which is good of Banglore I am sure) but in Metro. Expand it, improve it and phase out autos and buses. Start taxing cars and double those with more than 1 in their family.

Delhi is surprisingly greener than most metros in India and is getting better. We need more underground system to speed up the process.

Posted by Nikhil Sharma | Report as abusive

I knew it had come come from you after all those BRT travails! I like the service too, especially no sundayz its so very relaxing..but there’s no entertainment value in it..i think they shud regularly play FM on it that will keep people in swooning control..

Posted by ONP | Report as abusive

In the 1970s and 1980s, I used DTU/DTC buses all the time thanks to being constantly broke all the time. I seem to recall the fares increasing from 35 paisa to a maximum of two rupees before I managed to buy a two-wheeler.

Possibly because I went insane thanks to my 20 years in India 1970-90 and have remained crazy, traveling by bus in Delhi remains one of my fondest memories to this day.

There was something about the much slower pace of life in India that the old DTC represented that invites nostalgia. No one seemed to have money, and no one seemed to be in a hurry.

The greatest joy was a long ride in a near empty bus. You felt a real sense of satisfaction ambling along along desolate stretches of road, seemingly going nowhere, with nothing to do except looking outside.

Posted by Ravi Rikhye | Report as abusive