2013 / 20 November

Options for a stress free commute in Bangalore


Gone are days where I haggle with the notorious auto drivers in Bangalore to get to where I want to go, instead of where they want to take me. Bye bye to tampered meters and “one and a half” charges after 7pm.

I have to admit that I hate driving in Bangalore. I’m prone to road-rage and want to spend the least amount of time behind the steering wheel, lest I vengefully bang my vehicle in frustration against the slow moving auto or car in the fast lane. I sometimes wonder how some of the these folks get their licenses in the first place, they have absolutely no road-sense and are ignorant of the rules of the road.

Bus?

I discounted commute by buses as an option, just because of the number of buses I have to change, the wait time between busses and long walks between the bus stops and the final destinations. There’s no point having to travel 2+ hours when other modes of transport can do it in much less.

AutoRickshaws

So with that, I switched to autorickshaws to reach my destinations. This ended up being more stressful, since more often than not, the auto drivers don’t want to go where I have to. Even if they do, they demand more money than the meter. Even if they do agree to the metered ride, some of their meters are tampered to add 30-150% of the actual fare.

Call Taxis

Then came call taxis in Bangalore, where I call the number and request for a taxi at a set time to head home. These taxis most often than not required multiple calls from the driver to figure out the address where he’s supposed to pick me up from. That’s if they turn up at the right time. I’ve had experiences where a cab I booked for 8pm ended up coming at 11pm! Though a better experience than the autos, these guys also didn’t have a proper fixed rate for the travel, and their fares kept varying depending on the operator. Also, it was next to impossible to get a cab on time during rush hours.

OLA and their magical app

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Then came OLA Cabs,with their mobile app, which allowed me to book a ride via a mobile app with the click of a button. Not just that, the app gave the drivers an approximate location for the pickup, so if the driver is really savvy,he doesn’t really need to call you at all to figure out the pick up location. The app also let me know where the driver is, excellent to figure out how long he’d take to reach. This is truly a huge improvement over the regular call taxis, since the folks at OLA managed to tackle the right problems with their app.

Of course, they’ve had their ups and downs while they grew their business, but for me it’s mostly been a positive experience. Even complaints which I did have to send across where well taken, with a followup call from the Ola team on what the corrective actions they’ve taken were.

In fact, cost wise, if I take their cab in the Compact segment, the fares are just marginally higher than the auto meter fare. Remember to account for the extras the auto drivers demand and the tampered meters in autos!

Compact Cars: Rs. 150 for first 8 km, Rs. 14/ km thereafter and Rs 2/ min for wait time.

Sedans: Rs. 200 for first 8 km, Rs 18/ km thereafter and the same Rs.2/ minute wait time.

Uber

Seeing this demand, Uber decided the join in and launched their Indian operation in Bangalore. Of course, they’ve come into market with Premium vehicles, but at a affordable rate. Their fleet consists of vehicles like the Toyota Camary, Mercedes Benz E Class and the Honda Accord. In fact, according to the Uber site for Bangalore, their current rates are comparable to that of OLA’s sedan pricing of Rs. 18 / km but with a minimum of Rs. 200. I don’t know if they’d increase that once they settle down into the market, since I’m sure they won’t be able to sustain at the rates they’re charging at present.

Their service is also app driven with apps for Android and iOS for you to download and use. The upside (or downside as some may see it) is that the account creation requires a credit card to be added on file, so that your card is charged automatically when you complete the ride. I find this convenient, since I don’t have to hunt around for change every time after the ride, I just thank the driver and get out.

In my experience, the Uber cab drivers are really well trained, and are a notch higher than OLA’s. Of course, that’s what you’re paying for the premium service.

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Meru, Taxi 4 Sure and others

Well others are not taking things lying around. Meru Cabs was initially mostly a airport drop and pickup service. Even though they were termed a city taxi, most of their drivers didn’t turn up for a city drop, but preferred the airport routes. They too recently released a mobile app allowing you the book their service via the mobile, which earlier required me to call their call-center or book via the web.

I use Meru as my primary choice for Airport drops, since they do always turn up even at odd hours. It’s their city commute which I’m yet to be convinced about.

Another app/service I tried out recently was Taxi4Sure ( they have a mobile app and you can book via the web as well),which I must add, I wasn’t successful in the two attempts at trying them out. To be fair, I tried them when I wasn’t able to get a cab on OLA and Uber. But two failed attempts doesn’t give me the confidence to try them again. You could have a better experience with them.

Urban Drive for  your daily Commute to work

If you drive to work everyday and your commute time is long, you should take a look at Urban Drive’s service. They provide a shared taxi service to pick you up for work and drop you back. Since you are sharing the taxi fare with a few others, you don’t have to pay for the full cost of the ride. Think of it as car pooling, except you don’t have to drive your car out at all.

They have monthly and weekly plans which you can subscribe to and the costs depend on the distance between your home and work. You can try out their pricing calculator to see how much a monthly plan works out to.

Choices, and more

It’s great having these choices for days when I don’t want to take my car out. Of all these, my favorites are Ola and Uber for my office/home commutes and Meru for the Airport Drops. If you do know of better options in Bangalore, drop me a note on twitter.

Coupons anyone?

If you haven’t tried out Uber, use this code to get Rs. 300 off your first Uber ride — 7ecl9 , or click this link — https://uber.com/invite/7ecl9. If you want to try out OLA, use this code to get Rs. 50 off your ride — 90AMWM.

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