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Metro : Reality Check for Speed, Money and Hopes

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Metro RailPublic Transport

Summary: This article tries to analyse Metro project and expectation from it. If they are reasonable? Also have the people who decided for metro really considered existing system's potential and limitation correctly? If yes than what was cost and efficiency prompted them for alternative. Its a hard to answer but it will be true reality check for metro.

Let me start with defining Metro. Metro is unidirectional transportation medium making it simple to operate. Metro has no signals or crossing and hence very fast. In other words, just to get similarity, a dedicated lane for the 4 buses. 

Lots of advantages and everyone cites example of success of Delhi metro.

(Its an old article but still my point will be valid if we double the numbers in favor of metro)

If you read this article note the facts about Delhi metro

  1. Projected commuter numbers were 21,80,000 == actual is 500,000
  2. Operational profit Rs 346.52 Cr ( 60% from fare and rest from adv etc)
  3. Cost of Metro is Rs 10,571 Cr
  4. Most of projected/promised data points is not achieved. ( Not even 20% of it) 

 So now lets start concentrating on the promise of Speed, Money and Hopes.

  1. Speed : Metro covers a specific route. We have metro starting from center extending in 4 direction. One moves out of center more people will have to come to road and travel. If one considers P2P (point to point) connectivity time elapsed in journey using metro it will not be significant gain. People in Delhi avoid social problems like goons etc. Lot more people leverage Public transport to avoid driving stress. Speed is serious delusion which Bangalore has to think, considering how people will come to metro stations. In the end I would like to add one can have Jet speed to travel but what is appropriate is our decision.
  2. Money: From above fact please note Delhi metro is making "operational profit". If you consider 10,000 Cr (cost of Metro) at 3% per annum interest rate, interest itself will be 300 Cr. Do I need to add more on this point?
  3. Hopes: An important fact about metro is that it keeps on moving. Giving a false/delusion that they are not wasting any time. One observation which anyone can see themselves, in peak hour what is the difference in time on road when one is using Volvo and Car. I can assure you its not more than 7 min for 5 Km.  Considering strong support system required around metro station, one has to do lot more planning.

 So what is Metro? A delusion to hide existing inefficiencies and obsolete system. And like most of the things they give us more expensive alternatives. These alternatives are bigger and more complex "fakes". 

In the end I would like to answer following comment which I had from one reader from my previous blog (excerpt)

"Come Metro, you will see commuters having a good estimate of their travel time. And not just that Metro will reduce the travel time by more than half
between the most important points in the city. Metro is clean, efficient and
sustainable mode of transport. Let welcome it and not doubt it utility."

 I will answer point by point. 

  1. At cost of 10000 Cr investment if I get good estimate of travel time, is it worth? In existing system is it possible and how much it will cost?
  2. Regarding reducing travel time I think one should be fair here. If one assumes today we have made all our best effort to improve and no chance of improvement then I agree. But I do not agree with the assumption that we have achieved best from existing system. Hence comparing travel time with rotten system to more sophisticated system is not fair.( Give Public Transport Buses another chance was the point of my last blog ) .
  3. Metro is clean, I think group already know number of trees cut for the same. Also cleanliness at metro stations will be maintained at huge cost ( See Delhi Metro). If we spend same amount and dedication we can clean our whole city.
  4. Efficient, once again I will say that comparing rotten system with sophisticated one is not appropriate.
  5. Sustainable: Amount of time it take to develop, I doubt by the time we have full fledge metro we will have another rotten system (called metro) to be replaced by the new one. 

Extending my response to gentleman, I can challenge that I can make Volvo profitable within 3 months to prove my point. I would say that how to get that chance I do not know but making profitable I certainly know. I can reveal my plan to respectable authorities if they are interested genuinely. So lets do reality check and balance speed, money and hopes. Be fair and lets not get hypnotized by the Metro. 

A relevant must read article a very thorough analysis of my points are already done. (excerpt)

"Let us put this in perspective of travel demands of Delhi. According to the Transport Department of Delhi, the total number of trips per day in the city total to about 1.2 crore. This means that Delhi Metro is benefiting only 3 per cent to 4 per cent of the citizens of the city, with no benefit to anyone else in the country. If we take a modest 8 per cent as the cost of interest plus depreciation on the project’s capital expenditure, we get a subsidy of Rs 35,000 per passenger per year. This certainly cannot be justified as a public expenditure in a cash-poor society. The obvious question that arises is, why does a small minority of Delhi’s population deserve such a huge national subsidy?"



Srivatsava's picture

Many thanks.

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Many thanks for considering my comment worthy of writing a full post reply.

I would love to understand your concern and the intent behind you saying this. You are talking here of efficient usage of resouces. I guess you less interested in Metro vs Bus debate, but want to emphasise the 'inefficeiencies' .

I do not believe that the public transport space in Bangalore ( read BMTC) is optimal in terms of speed, capacity, etc etc etc. But, as a BMTC user, I take strong exception to you calling it a rotten system. You have no idea how good our buses are, vis-a-vis other cities of similar size that run only buses for PT.

I would be foolish to say that Metro will start carrying all of bangalore (if and) when it starts in 2011. Using any form of PT is a 'cultural' issue. Mumbai culture is to use a combination of bus and train. It will take some time for delhiites and Bangaloreans to get used to it. Till then, lets strive hard and put all our efforts to make best use of the 11K crore investment of the government. Anyway, I am not too keen on this debate since, despite our debate and protest, metro will go on in resounding way.

Your point on costs is important. This again is a 'cultural' issue. We have been taught my our parents not to spend much.

Fortunately, I have always maintained that the solution for everything in this country is to spend more. My colleague recently told me that 30 years ago, a 1.5km stretch of a highway in Chitradurga was cemented/concreted and that road was still good and needed little maintenence. I told him that the work done 30 years ago had deprived about 1000 man-days of labour ( assuming 30 people working for a day to asphalt one km and annual re-coating). If more and more of our roads are concretised for lower maintenance, we will  lose more and more such employment opportunities for our poor.

You are a software engineer and I sell software services. Let me tell you that we value work not by the project/contract value or profits, but by the possibility and probability of a long contract. We love maintenece projects, since they are going to guarantee revenue for a long time. As a country which needs to provide employment to millions of uneducated people, creating more opportunities and spending (probably unnecessarily) only does good for this country. Lets appauld the people behind Metro for creating all kinds of jobs.

-Srivatsava V

silkboard's picture

Why waste time on it?

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Bharat, point by point answers can be given and arguments traded yet again. In the interests of positivity, you and we have got two choices

  • suggest alternates (that is, if you think its a Metro vs something else thing as opposed to Metro and something else like the bus)
  • suggest complimentary systems and plans to make sure the Metro investment doesn't get "wasted".

Touching upon your points:

  • Speed - it isn't about absolute speeds as in xyz km per hour. Its more about the volumes that can be carried in sustainable ways. You know, stuff like high volume trunk routes, and peak hour carrying capacity.
  • Cost - Let us say you win this one. But, whether PT should be a profit making business or a subsidized welfare - this itself is a matter worthy of debate.
  • Hopes - yes, you are partly right there. Metro would probably not do much in terms of absolute speed by itself (also refer to the definition of speed above). That is why the "inter modal" connectivity is so much important.15 minutes to the station, 30 minutes in the train, and 15 minutes from the station to my home/office in a bus etc - 1 hour invested in such a commute would take me 30-40% farther than it does today and with lot less carbon and stress.

Leaving the cost point out for now, do realize that city needs real "trunk" routes to carry heavy volumes and create transportation patterns. The so called "rotten" bus system (which I don't think deserves to be called "rotten") is not going to be out of the picture ever. Not fixing it (or making it better) is anyway not an option.

I would say that

  1. Let us get on to DPR for Phase 2 like real geeky hawks. Analyze it like crazy.
  2. Let us push BMTC to be data driven in route planning.
  3. And let us get BMTC and BMRC to connect really really well (when are these two merging?).
  4. Last - demand more trunk routes, by modes other than Metro - push BRT or versions of it, or commuter rail, or mono - whatever.

I do agree with your dream bit - Metro can't be sold as the fix-all. And perhaps debates like these have their place, but first and foremost, what is already locked in must not be allowed to go waste.

vinod_shankar's picture

Long term Social benefits vs cost

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Why do we always look at public transportation from the  monetary angle only and ignore the social benefits associated with such systems.  Take a look the other social benefits accrued to people, then per capita will drastically come down.  Some of the benefits are mentioned here

1. 3/4 of our gasoline is imported, hence shiftting predominantly from bus based PT to metro will help also in saving valuable foreign exchange and will reduce green house emission as SB has mentioned.

2.With metro we will have reduction in congestion , which in turn will reduce fuel consumption and carbon.

3.Reduced number of vehicles also means lesser capital costs on road infrastructure and road maintainence.

And also read this report of social cost-benefit analysis done on the delhi metro

It clear show the benefits will overrun the costs in the long run.  In conclusion it also states that delhi metro provides incremental income to the delhi public by saving other costs. So to me metro is long term bet, for the short term we need to look at ways to improve our present bus system.And also nobody here is under the assumption that metro is the panacea for all our transportation woes, the hope is the metro will act in sync with our present BMTC and provide people with a better sustainable PT system in the long run.


Why aren't  we pushing for alternatives like BRT.  I'm sure we can run the BRT on few of our widened roads in bangalore.  Why not push for BRT on the ORR.?With service roads available for the most part of the outer ring road, we can definitely have a BRT on the ORR.From whatever i have seen there is very little push for BRT in bangalore...

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