Are you willing to alter your commuting habits for a better planet?

oct commuting habitsCharles Duhigg’s ‘The Power of Habit’is an eye-opening read. It heightens the awareness about our personal good or bad habits, and also highlights how brands use the power of habit to sell their products and build empires.

However, the fact remains that habits not just influence individuals and organisations, but also impact the society. Take for example, the habit of commuting in a certain way.

After months of research, we identified three types of commuters and their commuting habits. Read closely and you might find yourself in one of the archetypes.

Mr. Mohan Dwivedi | Retired government officer

Dwivedi Sa’ab, as his current neighbours and former colleagues address him, is a retired government officer residing in Dadar. His usual day begins with a morning walk at 5. Dwivedi Sa’ab, in this slow-mophase of his life, has all the time in the world. As a result, despite having a car at home, he likes to walk to the market and to the park and to the dispensary and to the post office. He doesn’t have much of a social life, however, he visits his daughter over weekends and on occasions like Diwali, Holi, Dussera. On those days too, he ditches the car, walks to the bus stop and likes to take a bus. It’s been a habit of many years; in fact he used to go to office in a double-decker bus too. This mode of travelling often delays him and always makes him the butt of jokes and slight irritation. His daughter snaps, “Papa, why wouldn’t you ask me for my driver, he could drive you here. The car is just sitting pretty enjoying floral showers in different seasons. Plus, you are so old, we also worry when you take the public transport.”Dwivedi Sa’ab always has the same refrain. He says, “Beta, it’s too late to change his habit.” Deep down he knows he can’t cope up either – be it commuting apps or the sedentary lifestyle. Sometimes, he also jokes about the buses being empty and that he feels like a king being driven around in a  30 Lacks bus, with only a few passengers for company.

This ‘bus’ habit saves him the trouble of using the apps and also keeps him active. Dwivedi Sa’ab’s personal habit is not just good for his health, but is great for the health of the environment too.

Alisha Deb | Student & Dancer

Alisha is pursuing her Bachelor’s in Business Management, and is a dancer by passion. Her usual week is something like this – five days in college and dance class, thrice a week. A resident of Versova, her college is in Vile Parle and dance class in Khar. Alisha is also a product of a more environmentally aware generation plus too young to have a steady, fat paycheck. Hence, she rides a bicycle from home to college, college to dance class, dance class to home. She began this form of commute right after school. Being part of cyclists’ group in the neighbourhood has exposed her to the joys and benefits of cycling. Now, cycling to nearby places has become a habit.

Alisha also wears a helmet and who knows, she may even cycle to work in a few years. This form of commute keeps two things fit – her pocket and the planet.  The  toxic fumes in the environment sometimes leads Alisha to cough – to combat that, she been planning to buy a pollution mask. Other than that, the eternal optimist has she has no complain being on the road on a cycle – she has, in fact, mastered the art of staying safe in the city’s zig-zag traffic.

Rohan Shastri | Mid-level corporate

Rohan works as an Accounts Management person in an ad-agency. In his mid-thirties, as a middle level manager. He drives to work everyday, he drives to parties every Friday, and he drives to meetings every alternate day. His office is in Goregaon and most of his clients are in Worli. Although, trains are a faster way to get to his destination, but just like the thought of going to the gym never crosses his mind – likewise, the thought of taking the train never occurs to him. Rohan earns enough and can even claim petrol, and so, he doesn’t even think twice before hopping on to his car. His work is so taxing that ceases to push himself even on weekends. Whether it’s to the farmers market or to the salon, Rohan prefers to zoom everywhere in his car.

Rohan has arrived in life and he has made it a habit to arrive everywhere in his car – and by the way, he doesn’t arrive alone. He arrives with pollution, with reduced carbon foot-print, and with blinders.

As you would have guessed by now, it’s pretty clear that economic ladder, convenience, flexibility, peer-pressure define which form of public transportation people use. And the so-called arrived in lifeare the ones who don’t even consider buses, trains and taxis, and as a result, pollute the environment.

As we wind up this piece, the question we leave you with is – does ‘making-it’ in life give anyone a license to ‘break-it’ when it comes to the environment?

Until next time! 


Are you ready to ghost our cars and swipe our environment right?

Are you ready to ghost our cars and swipe our environment right?

A popular automobile brand used a thought-provoking baseline a couple of years ago. It went forth and stirred the consumer by asking – when was the last time you did something for the very first time?

The objective of the campaign was to urge the caught-up-in-the-rigmarole consumers to ‘reclaim their lives’. This idea helped change the narrative around living a meaningful existence and created a sense of independence.

Many years have passed since, it’s 2018 and a good time to ask yet another important question –

If you are a young, working professional – then,

when was the last time you ditched your car to hop into the local train or a bus?

The question in this case may not provoke much emotion, but what it certainly does is open up a conversation about environmental awareness and mindful consumption of resources. A conversation that can offer an understanding about the use of public transportation.

While on the topic of mindful use of means, we found inspiration in Japanese author Genki Kawamura’s ‘If Cats disappeared from the World’. It’s a wonderful account of how the protagonist begins to erase things from the world in exchange for a prolonged life. The book is poignant, at the same time raises a few interesting questions. When you read the book, it is hard to not think of the objects one could remove in order to give more meaning and quality to modern life or just learn from our own roots and go back to humble ways.

This very thought led to a group discussion where people contemplated the following hypothetical question –

What would happen if cars were removed from the world?

We found two polarised views and chronicled this debate for this blog. The debate may have been heated but the conversation around it turned out to be valuable.

Here are the excerpts:

For:Disappearance of cars? Great idea! Mumbai has about two million cars – getting to work will be a cakewalk once they are removed. Besides, less pollution, less congestion, better environment, reduced carbon-footprint. The list of benefits is endless; even the 2 million 2-wheelers should disappear!

Against:It’s not that simplistic and utopian. The disappearance of personal cars and two-wheelers means two issues if not more: (a) increased demand for taxis and autos, (b) far more crowded trains and buses. Currently there are only 4500 BEST buses, 150,000 3-wheelers and around 60,000 taxi-cabs. There may be an equal number of App-based fleet cabs. How do you expect these to accommodate the surplus crowd? Not many people know – but the local trains are carrying 5 million passengers already. Daily.

For:Some radical steps can be taken to fix that problem. It’s the internet-age, we are connected 24×7 through our laptops and phones, why do we need to travel back and forth to our offices every single day? Why can’t we have a better system of 3 days a week or flexi-timings? Working through video calling and other digital platforms is also digital India. If all working professionals begin to work in this truly revolutionary manner – public transport will not be as crowded.

Against:Okay, what about fares? Metro and first class compartment fares are already on an uphill climb for some. If cars disappear, wouldn’t it be an affordability issue as well? Wouldn’t the fares hike further? The costs associated with this option are ever-increasing. This sector would always be exposed to the challenges of viability gap funding to cover the fixed or the build-out costs.

For:It’s worth considering what component of the fares is fixed and what’s variable? If we agree that the roads are built by taxpayers’ money, if the health, education and other public services are supposed to be built using tax-base (which is increasing in India), why should one load the fixed costs on to the fares? Cant we innovate in the application of public finances ? Also, imagine going from Colaba to the suburbs in less than 30 minutes! Forget about metro – why not take the good old bus?

Against:Bus? Come on, who wants to spend over an hour and a half in Mumbai’s traffic, going from suburbs to the business districts?

In the end, the debate about the hypothetical disappearance of cars brought forth some important questions to ponder over:

  1. Could Bus Rapid Transit networks, BRTs, be a solution even in the island city?
  2. Are the Eastern and Western Express Highways fertile areas for conversation? Is it possible to build dedicated tracks for BEST and other private contractor managed buses?
  3. Or can better inter modal mobility systems be promoted? How about people moving from home to work in an all electric mode or  hybrid electric buses?

What’s your take?