Map Trap

I fail to understand why nobody has ever created a bus-route map of Chennai.

Creating a map should be a fairly straightforward business. Chennai buses do operate on time schedules — approximate time schedules yes, but still, time-schedules nevertheless.

Some 72% of Chennai’s population travels by bus thanks to obnoxiously high auto prices and yet first-time travelers or simply unseasoned bus users have no access to the simplest of all transportation information – which bus goes where and where does it stop.

Guaranteed, this is a difficult task and not one that can necessarily remain up to date, Chennai bus routes are plagued with way too many passengers and new diversions every now and then. Despite this, it ought not to be impossible to create a map with bus-stops and common bus numbers! Even if the effort turned out to be only an approximate representation of reality.

Common sense suggests that most rational people need a starting point, a reference or a flag-post of sorts from which they can extrapolate. This is how most decision making works. A proximate guide is as good an indicator as any in this case.

The lack of bus-route maps has nothing to do with the success of spontaneous order, it has to with a market failure of sorts; this is exactly what Hernando De Soto talked about- information is available and stored collectively (say in the minds of daily bus users) and yet for some odd reason there doesn’t seem to be any way to fix this information into a useful form; a map!

In the meantime, I appeared to have picked up one ‘American’ habit- listening to my i-pod on long lonely bus and train journeys to Kanchipuram and Nungambakkam occasionally amused by a cow, goat or a peculiar blade of grass.

PS: Here’s an excellent piece on Reason explaining the connection (actually, the lack of) between the bailout and free markets.

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