New Delhi: Imagine a morning when you wake up with somewhere to go. Maybe it’s out of your regular public transport route. Maybe you have an odd number plate car on an even date. Maybe it’s in a part of the city you are unfamiliar with. You’re feeling adventurous but you also have somewhere to get to.
Even before the advent of Google Maps, most cities in the world had an easy answer to this. You simply had to plot your route out on the public transport map. You could take the scenic route, the shortest route, even the one that went past that place you always wanted to see but never got around to. You’ve got all the options in front of you in a user-friendly, legible, detailed format.
But for the residents and visitors of the national capital – which is India’s second-largest city – this is still not an option.
Before the metro came along, public transport in Delhi (like in other Indian cities) was based either on already knowing exactly what buses you needed to take or shouting out your questions to the conductor as the bus passed by. Buses still function this way though the Delhi metro has created a colour-coded map of its routes and stops.
In early 2015, Sudipto Ghosh, an architect and cartographer, and Shimonti Sinha, a textile artist and graphic designer, decided to bridge this gap for the citizens of Delhi. They tracked 100 of the most frequent Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) routes – of over 550 – as well as metro lines and HOHO bus routes and laid them out on a flat line map of Delhi. The bus routes were chosen on the basis of frequency; any routes with buses more than 15 minutes apart were left out of the map.
Delhi looks nothing like this yet the map shows a logistically accurate picture composed of roads intersecting at 90º and 45º angles. This is so it remains user-friendly and easy to read.
Unlike smartphone apps that are mostly configured to plot a route from Point A to Point B, this map has more of an air of discovery. It tells you where an area is and how connected it is by public transport, and lets you take the call on how to get there. And because it’s been able to pack in an impressive amount of information, it doesn’t need an Internet connection to be able to perform any computations on the fly – it’s all there.
It’s the right way to be for a map that is, as the creators put it, “an essential part of a city”.
The map could also be useful for transport authorities, throwing up at a glance areas in the city that lack buses and those that are too crowded with many buses getting routed through one or two highly congested junctions.
The ingenuity of the DTC bus numbering system also comes out through this map. At the time when S.K. Sharma was chairman of DTC, he and Ashok Khosla worked out the bus numbering system where the numbers mapped the bus routes. Imagine a clock superimposed on the city map. “A bus with a number such as 501 would tell you that the bus would go from the position of five to the position of one, and the zero in the middle would tell you that it goes via Central Secretariat or near about. This system has got diluted over time but you can clearly see this in the map and we have tried to enhance and bring out this forgotten system”, Sudipto Ghosh told The Wire.