On page 1 of today’s Wall Street Journal is perhaps the most shocking bit of commuter-related journalism you’ll ever read. Eric Bellman tells the story of overcrowding on commuter rails in Mumbai, India; so bad is the problem that 3,404 people were killed while commuting last year (13 a weekday!), whether they’re crossing tracks, falling off trains or platforms, or (this one’s by far the worst) “sticking their heads out open windows for air.”
The trains are running at 2 /12 times capacity, as in, 550 people on a 200-max train. The Mumbai railroad even has a name for it: “Super-Dense Crush Load.” (Here we call it “Slippery Rail.”)
The story is told through the eyes of Jagdish Malwankar (no, not the kid voted off Idol last night). Malwankar has had a tough time of it of late; in January, 10 people fell on him while disembarking and he broke his foot. More recently, he was shoved onto the tracks, and two trains passed over him before anyone noticed. Also this year, poor Malwankar witnessed two commuters fall off the roof of the train and get sliced in half.
“Once or twice a month, I see people killed or injured on the tracks,” he said.
[Editor’s Note: Twice I checked to make sure the date atop the paper wasn’t April 1.]
Other highlights: the Mumbai system carries 20,000 passengers a day for each kilometer. To put it in perspective, Tokyo’s packed lines run 15,000, and the Long Island Railroad moves 420. Yes, 20,000 versus 420.
A few times a year, the article says, frustrated commuters riot–“rampaging through stations, lighting trains on fire and throwing rocks at police.” Yes, precisely what happened at New Roc City a few weeks back.
One positive: Jagdish Malwankar’s one-hour ride costs less than 25 cents. But should he upgrade to first-class, with fans and cushions, it’s five times as much.