Yesterday, i finally had my first trip aboard the Delhi Metro. I just had a (very) short trip. Connaught Place to Karol Bagh and back. Here's my two cents on the topic.
The stations are very clean - spic n span. The Connaught Place station (underground) is a junction of the Blue line and the Yellow line - its huge. You buy the ticket .. well.. its actually a token. Its a coin-sized plastic token. You use it just like your access badge at the company. When you hold it in front of the reader, the flaps open and you're through to the actual platform. The frequency of trains varies from 4 minutes to 6 minutes.
The signages and instructions at the station are immaculate. The maps of the Metro routes are clearly posted everywhere, along with detiled route information, station names and fares.
The Train Itself:
I dint have to wait long. The futuristic-looking train came along and silently slowed to a halt. It wasnt too crowded, although there were no vacant seats. The sliding doors opened and the people waited patiently for the alighters to get down first. I then boarded and was greeted with blast of cool air - the coaches are fully air-conditioned. The trains normally stop for only 30 seconds at a station but since this is a junctoin, it stopped for about a minute.
Soon, the train pulled off from the station: again it was silent and very smooth. I woulndt mind even if I dint have a seat for a half an hour ride. There's almost no jerks and even the turns are gentle (there are extremely few turns on the entire metro system anyways).
There are clear announcements in the train - to stay clear of the doors, which the next station will be, which side to alight (normally the left side). The announcements are both voice (in Hindi and English) as well as on a scrolling LCD screen. Again, there are maps above the door inside the train too.
My station was the third one and the 3.5 km ride took hardly 5 minutes and almost no effort at all. Totally relaxed, pollution-free, signal-free and enjoyable. This will be even more noticeable for longer distances - say CP to Dwarka.
Anyway, except CP, the other stations that were on the way were all elevated. I alighted at Karol Bagh, exited the station. I asked around for Gurdwara Road, which is an excellent shopping area (I had shopped there when we had gone to Delhi in 1999). I learnt that it was 3 kms away and i'd have to take an auto. I waited 5 minutes, dint find one and decided to return to CP. The ride back was as impressive (and as short) as the onward ride. This time I also got a seat and found it spacious, altough it was a plastic seat and hard on my boney bum :D
I strongly feel that such a public transport system is the need of the hour for urban India. Of course, the inconveniences faced during construction are far less on Delhi compared to what it will be in Bangalore. That still doesnt take away the merit.
But i also feel that the success of the Metro depends on the route chosen. Choose the wrong route and it becomes a disaster. The route should be a high density corridor for one. Secondly, it should be such that it saves time for the commuters compared to taking the road. Thirdly, there should be longer-distance links to city suburbs (like the under-constructions Delhi-Noida).
I feel an ideal topology would be 4 spoke centered at the heart of the city, and supplemented by feeder routes from suburbs, and a few links along the circumference.
I think i'l sign off on that thought - a clean, affordable, efficient public transport system for urban India of the future. Jai Bharat.