Mumbai Local Trains

I took the train for the first time yesterday. In most cities this task would not prompt congratulations from multiple locals, but the density of Mumbai is pretty unique. I went on a weekend to avoid the rush hour crush and for the most part the trip fine, really fun actually. I’m a sucker for train travel, my second favorite way to get around after walking.

There are multiple classes and types of train cars. To begin with, there are first and second class cars. I took first class, which is over 10 times as expensive but still less than $1.25 to ride to the end of the line. It’s much less crowded than second class, which seems like a heavily subsidized price to make transportation accessible to everyone. There are also separate cars for women, senior citizens, and the disabled.

There are no printed or electronic routes in the cars themselves, but I had one on my iPhone so that was okay. A loudspeaker announces the next stop almost constantly so once you’re familiar with the options it’s easy enough. Some stops have platforms on different sides, which is a bit tricky since you need to make sure you can get over to the right side when it’s crowded.

The doors on both sides of the car are kept open most of the time. When it’s crowded, people hang out the side of the car, which is super fun and honestly doesn’t feel that unsafe. It was raining for part of my ride, and the mist coming in from the doors was cooled everything down.

My only bad experience on the train was getting off at the Bandra stop when I came back home. The train car had been steadily filling since we left Churchgate and was wall-to-wall at this point. Luckily I was positioned on the correct side to get off, right near the open door, and started to step off as the train slowed to a stop. The problem was that five guys bum rushed the train before we even stopped, forcing me back inside and crushing me into a corner. I kept telling them that I had to get off, that there was plenty of time, but they wouldn’t budge. One guy even suggested I get off at the next stop. I sort of panicked and ended up being able to force my way out by taking hold of the door as leverage. It definitely frazzled me a bit.

I’m going to keep riding the trains, they seem like a fabulous way to get around quickly and cheaply. This first trip taught me that I need to have a strategy, and need to be very aggressive about getting off. It’s a common theme here, there is no concept of right-of-way on the street and contrary to my logical expectation nobody is going to let people off before they try to board a train. I’m not normally an aggressive person, I like to know the rules of a system and operate smoothly within it, but that approach won’t work in Mumbai.

Below is a video I took one night last week. Near the end you can see the standard boarding procedure of jumping on even though there’s really no room and the train has already started moving.