I saw a glowing account of the Mumbai metro and felt the need to say something. I take the metro everyday and it has made my journey easier. But this is because I have no other options (broken roads, arterial junctions that are choked one-ways, badly timed signal systems). This does not mean that the Mumbai metro offers a great experience. Here are some things I’ve noticed that are alarming and really should be their responsibility:
- Signage is terrible. Not a single station I’ve been to, makes it clear which stairway leads down to where.
- Platform safety: When the metro was launched, there would be ONE staff member for the entire platform, ordering people to stand away from the track. This stopped after a month. Commuters are still new to metro travel. Daily, I see people fumble with elevators, card systems and finding spots to stand on the platform. Track crossing is STILL a danger. Of note, I took the Delhi metro a couple of years ago and there was a staff member manning every entrance into the coach, even though this was years after that station was opened.
- Security: The bag check machine was out of order for days. The security check people still don’t know how to use the metal detector machines they wield. Every day I subject myself to a boob-pat or a butt-grab that somehow passes for security. When I tweeted about it, the Mumbai metro handle said it was their security policy and asked me to cooperate.
- ‘Ladies compartment’: I’ve seen multiple instances of men getting into the ladies side — the commuters made them get down, not the staff. I’ve seen a boy who looks old enough to travel on his own, accompanying his mother on the ladies side. What age does the metro define a boy as not being allowed into the ladies? Given that the metro just has a detachable plastic strip dividing the sections, not a separate compartment, should a boy of any age be allowed into the ladies side of the line? If the boy is too small (baby), should the mother not travel on the general side? The metro’s ladies section is limited to putting one thin strip in a corner and two pink stickers on the platform. (Here are my thoughts on why they totally missed the point.)
- Andheri station: I frequent the lesser stations, not the terminuses. But Andheri station that has to be the busiest point, is terribly designed. It handles several times more commuter traffic than other stations. Yet, its platforms are much narrower, increasing chances of someone falling onto the tracks.
- W.E.H. station has an extra floor (which I hear, is because they forgot to account for the flyover on the highway and had to go higher to build over it). For the first month, there was a security guard posted there. Not anymore. It’s a dingy, deserted, open access floor (security is on the floor above) and full of blind corners where anything could happen.
We are lulled into a sense of superior service and safety/security by pretty colours and airconditioned spaces. But a spate of incidents in the last few years should remind us of how illusive these things are. Mumbaikars, keep your wits about you — travelling by the metro is no less difficult or dangerous than any other mode of public transport in this city.