There’s got to be a better way out.
I’ve been taking the bus or trishaw everywhere this week. It sucks. I’m a fan of public transit, it’s just that Colombo doesn’t have it. If you take the bus you spend like Rs. 20 max, but give up hours of time. If you take the trishaw you spend Rs. 200 min and save time. I, however, would rather pay Rs. 100 for a bus system that actually worked.
The incidental downsides of the bus are that it’s hot, dirty, uncomfortably, crowded and girls get routinely molested or harassed. Significant, yes, but the most significant downside is time. Unless you’re on Galle Road, the probability that the bus will stop on the road you’re going to is low. Colombo is also not highly urbanized, the probability that you’ll end up near is also low. The ‘city’ is actually residential, terrorism induced sprawl, so you inevitably have to walk. What this means is that a regular trip can take half an hour, but something at rush hour can take up to two.
Trishaws are fast and can cut through traffic and, more than ever, are meterized, so prices are kinda fair. They’re still too high for daily commuting. In Montreal I paid $20 a month for a student metro pass, I think $40 was the usual fare. That covered the metro and buses. In Colombo, taking trishaws, you can easily spend Rs. 1000 a day.
It’s a tradeoff. It breaks down to how much your time is worth. Let’s say you’re going from Dehiwela to somewhere in Rajagiriya. Including walking, that’ll take at least an hour and cost say Rs. 20. Or you can take a trishaw and get there in 30 minutes (for a cheap Rs. 300). If a half-hour of your time is worth Rs. 280, you’ll take the trishaw. After a while, however, that really adds up.
The problem is that there’s no middle ground. There isn’t a more expensive bus that would suit middle class travelers. There also aren’t concentrated urban areas where people work, offices are usually converted homes in the Colombo suburbs, down random lanes and far apart. Hence the middle class has to get cars, which makes more traffic, which makes public transit work worse and everybody’s life worse. Then you’re working to pay off the car to get to work and FML.
We need middle class public transit. A train system from Fort down the coast, through Rajagiriya, connecting A/C buses in bus lanes, and rezoning of Colombo’s center to move businesses into high density areas. And soon. I’m willing to pay for decent public transit that would replace trishaws, and even a car, and if you combine a lot of the middle classes, that’s a decent investment to make.