It is one of the most basic of human needs, but writing about it is far from glamorous. Some would even say boring. Transport is an increasingly important aspect of our lives, with an impact on our purse, our health, our time and our efficiency. The research firm AC Nielsen found that many people in Chennai would travel less, if cost of fuel went up beyond the peak of 2006 levels.
The automobile industry naturally approaches the subject as one of hedonistic city-living. It has colourful and mostly fake advertisements of cars speeding along roads on which there are no people. Of course, none of us imagine that we will do a Santro Xing daredevil stunt as Shah Rukh Khan used to, in real life. What we do is try to be comfortable in our cars, listening to music, inhaling tailpipe toxins and often adding to the coffers of mobile phone companies with unlimited conversations as we wait. You can write your own variant of gridlock description for two-wheeler riders, who are slightly better off because they can squeeze into small spaces. But we don’t do what we really set out to do — go from point A to point B, in reasonable time.
I have been addressing some of these concerns in a few articles in The Hindu. I find that a blog has actually reproduced one such mundane piece. You can read it here… The same piece is on The Hindu’s own website here.
A more recent piece deals with the neglected Mass Rapid Transit System that is finally ready after two decades of work in the metro. It is now completed, a 20 km line from Beach to Velachery and all set for formal opening after being cleared by the Commissioner of Railway Safety.
Incidentally, the Chennai rail system has been excellently mapped by the Indian Railways Fan Clubs Association, and the map by Arun Ganesh is comparable to the legendary London tube literature. Pity the Chennai Division of Southern Railway cannot do something similar, and help residents and visitors to this city. Well, at least someone has.