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How many minutes before the next bus arrives?

Commuters wait for buses on Park Street. (Sanat Kumar Sinha)

As the tug of war between the state government and bus operators over fares continues, buses seem to have done the vanishing act. The victims are the commuters, forced to wait endlessly. Metro did a round of a few busy roads in the city to track the elusive buses and those waiting for them.

Where: JL Nehru Road-Park Street crossing

When: 5.45pm

What we saw: One could be forgiven for mistaking the stretch between Park Street Metro station and Metro Bhavan for a railway platform. More than a hundred people were seen waiting on the pavement for buses even as at least five traffic police cops tried hard to manage the surging numbers.

One-third of JL Nehru Road was barricaded for buses and waiting passengers but the crowd kept spilling over.

Shyamal Mondal, an employee of a private firm on Park Street, had been waiting for a bus to Andul for over 20 minutes when Metro spoke to him. “Earlier, the CTC T1 bus would arrive every five-seven minutes. Now, I have to wait for around half an hour almost everyday,” he said.

Passengers also complained of overcrowding, blaming it on fewer buses plying. “Getting onto a 40B to Thakurpukur had never been so tough,” said Piyush Shah, a laboratory in-charge at a secondary school on Park Street.

Common complaint: Number of buses to Howrah, like T2 and K6, has gone down

Where: Exide crossing

When: 6.30pm

What we saw: The scene seemed to mirror that on Park Street. With the footpath taken over by hawkers, commuters were seen waiting on the main thoroughfare and some of them even walked to the middle of the road to try and spot a bus.

“A month ago I would get a bus within five minutes of reaching the bus stop,” said Mukul Sen, an executive in a private firm on AJC Bose Road who had been waiting for nearly 15 minutes for a 3C/1 to the Ruby rotary. “Now, the reduced frequency allows me to smoke at least one cigarette, if not two, as I wait for the bus.”

Gautam Ghosh, a government employee, said he had had to wait for well over an hour on many days for a bus on route 21 to Thakurpukur. Other commuters said the poor frequency of the bus meant they had to go by route 21/1, a longer one, instead.

Common complaint: Few buses to Behala, Thakurpukur

Where: Chittaranjan Avenue

When: 7.40pm

What we saw: The clock ticked towards 8pm, but the crowd near Central Metro station would have one think it was closer to 6pm.

Ananda Dasgupta, a CESC employee, had been waiting for a bus on route 78 to the Sinthee crossing for over 25 minutes. “Earlier I had the luxury of even letting a bus go as I knew I would get an emptier one in five minutes. That is no longer true,” said the 55-year-old.

Common complaint: Few buses to Sinthee, Barrackpore

Where: Shyambazar five-point crossing

When: 9am

What we saw: The thoroughfare was milling with restless commuters and every bus was greeted with a mad scramble.

“Ever since S21 went off the road, my only option to Science City has been IC-21, which is extremely erratic,” said Partha Mondal, a resident of Mohanlal Street near the five-point crossing.

“Just like Netaji on his horse, we commuters seem to be stuck in one place,” said Sandeep Banerjee, 15 minutes into his wait for C12 to the Bypass.

Common complaint: Hardly any buses to the Bypass