Friday, July 21, 2006

Buses Here... (Travelogue)

I heard somewhere that the local transport system in India and especially in TamilNadu is one of the best in the world. I have always had great admiration for the TN bus services, especially the conductors. How they remember the exact amount everyone gives and tender the correct change back is awe-inspiring.

The same cannot be said for the buses here at US. The buses almost always go only in a straight line down one end of the road to the other. If we need to go down a perpendicular road, then we have to get down and catch another bus.

The bus fare is not based on the distance one travels. It is same whether you plan to go from end of town to the other or just down to the next stop. Therefore they have no need for a conductor. They just have a machine into which one puts the necessary coins. If you have a bus pass (which one can get at any super market) you just show it to the bus driver, who makes a note in some machine.

As there are no conductors, there is a cord running all the way through the bus and if any one wants to get down, they have to pull the cord, something like a conductor whistling for the bus to stop. There are display boards that might or might not let you know which bus stop we are approaching. So we have to keep our eyes peeled for the road names hanging on the signal corners or we might miss the stop. Remember there is no different rate for different distances, so no one cares where you get down and no conductor to let you know which stop you have reached.

The bus stops are always at the signals in cross roads. So the bus stops are called by the name of the two cross roads meeting at the bus stop… for e.g.: 8th street and Normandie Ave.

Funnily enough most of the bus drivers I saw were women. Made my heart feel good to see them.

Unlike our buses at Chennai, these buses will not stop if they have people standing in it. No hanging out of the buses, so be ready to cool your heels until one of the buses deign to stop. There are two kinds of buses here too like our LSS and ordinary. One stops at all stops and one only at specific places and is faster.

Amazingly polite people (made me a little uneasy and suspicious when strangers wished me), the travelers in the bus always wish the driver when getting in and thank them while getting out. I am still getting the hang of this though.

A note before I sign off. Do not depend on buses if you are not going to be in downtown. Yahan sirf Car chaltha hai... and kya car hain... Man! i have been drooling over them.. and the bikes (read motorcycles) are just outta the world

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