It’s cool. It’s roomy. It has a screen that plays Amitabh Bachchan clippings and tells you how big the Big B is. And you can see — from inside air-conditioned comfort — that your carrier is making quite an impression on the road, that the pressed-for-time and difficult-to-impress Mumbaikar is actually stopping to stare as you pass by.
But being cool has its downside in Mumbai. The city’s traffic reduces the King Long bus — the swishest set of big wheels right now — to a common plodder that takes three hours to do 45 km.
The drive itself, during those rare moments when the bus can do more than 30 kmph, is smooth. The twin air-suspensions ensure that you do not feel a bump even when you see the potholed road through the tinted windshield and brace your bones for the worst. The fares, too, are reasonable. Rs 65, for an air-conditioned drive from Dahisar to Backbay, is okay; the Rs-10 tickets for shorter distances may be even better value for money. (Check the fare-chart; BEST says the maximum fare is Rs 55 but conductors charge Rs 65).
But what can kill is the never-ending wait for your destination if you are travelling from one end of the city to the other. Three hours for a trip that takes one by train is not something that the regular Borivli-to-town office-goer will fancy. The tinted glasses, the comfortable seats and the hardy air-conditioner will tempt but not lure away the average commuter from the bone-crushing, but much quicker, train commute.
For shorter distances, however, the King Long bus has whatever what it takes to draw commuters away from trains. The promise of insulation from the heat and the dust — and the cattle-class travel of trains — for 20-25 minutes and Rs 10 is something definitely worth trying out if you are travelling between Borivli and Malad or between Bandra and Vakola.