In the last five years, I must have taken a bus on route number 460 from South Delhi to Connaught Place a few thousand times and the last thing I could associate with this nearly hour long journey was comfort. Monday, however, was very different after I boarded an air-conditioned bus recently brought by the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC).
I had initially planned a round trip on the Mudrika route, where DTC had introduced two air-conditioned buses on June 5. After waiting for nearly two hours in the hot and humid weather, there was no sign of one of those cherry coloured beauties. I moved to Moolchand in hope of finding a bus of route number 522, where the DTC has deployed three such buses and I had a better chance.
I didn’t have to wait for long — an air-conditioned bus on route number 460 (Badarpur-New Delhi Station) came to a graceful halt near the bus stop. As the automatic doors opened, a gust of chilled air and a dour Krishan Pal, conductor of the bus, welcomed commuters on board.
“No DTC passes are allowed in this bus and the minimum fare is Rs 10,” Pal announced for everyone’s benefit. Some commuters, who had thought it was just a differently coloured low-floor bus, were stopped in their step but most boarded it anyway.
The bus was everything a public transport bus on Delhi’s roads is not expected to be — spacious, comfortable bucket seats, agreeably polite staff, an even pace, a thin crowd due to the slightly steep pricing and of course, air-conditioned comfort.
“It started on this route just today and most people are not aware about this bus. That is why I have to stand next to the gate to inform them,” Pal said. Thanks to the AC, he didn’t mind doing it though, he added.
Ved Prakash Garg, a Badarpur resident, didn’t lose a second to think when he saw the bus waiting at the bus stop. “I hate travelling in Blueline buses because they are jam-packed and the staff is uncouth. I would have taken an auto rickshaw to Connaught Place if I hadn’t seen this bus,” he said.
Other passengers, like Rohini resident J.K. Gosain, have already made up their mind to stop traveling in auto rickshaws forever. “I had some work in the DDA office near Dilli Haat and was planning to take an auto to the Central Secretariat Metro Station. If we get such buses all over Delhi, I don't need to take out my car at all,” he said.
Virendra Singh, a government employee, said that with rising fuel prices, no one would drive a car if such buses were available. “People are willing to pay if you provide us the comfort but the government has to provide such facilities first,” he said.
Before I knew it, we had arrived at Jantar Mantar and my Rs 20 journey was over. As the automatic doors again opened, the humid air welcomed me back to reality.