Can be the best option for last mile connectivity.

How come Bengaluru doesnt have share-autosImage by Akshaay Ajithan/Facebook
news Transport Monday, October 24, 2016 - 20:05

What if you could get an auto right outside your house to get to the nearest (but actually far) bus stand or metro station near your house? And get to your destination at rates that would not burn a hole in your pocket.

Although Bengaluru’s traffic had prompted practically everything from art to Twitter handles and memes, it hasn’t prompted serious exploration of the implementation of a share auto system. Functioning like mini-buses plying on fixed routes, such autos could fill the gaps between homes and bus stands, and be financially suitable to both service provider and service seeker if implemented systematically.

Share auto systems have been successfully functioning in cities such as Kolkata, where all autos (regular three-seater ones) operate in this manner and taxis are used for private travel. In Bengaluru, the popularity of Ola and Uber’s taxi pooling services may be indication that a concerted effort could be popular among commuters.

Picture of a share auto in Chennai by Vikram G, Facebook

Madhu Bhushan, a resident of Bengaluru, said that the share auto system could work well provided the transport department brought in some amount of accountability.

“An auto is an affordable luxury. The idea that one travels in a share auto sort of changes many things, especially the way people look at travel, because you would share it with others but you would sit, and not stand, as in a bus. If the transport department wishes it can do something to implement this. This will in turn cut down on a lot of vehicles on the roads,” Madhu says.

Shankun Doundiyakhed of the Bengaluru Bus Prayaanikara Vedike said “It is a very good option if they can implement it on the outskirts of the city where BMTC buses are few. It will not be successful in the city because auto drivers in Bengaluru are very disorganised. They stop anywhere, pick up passengers anywhere. This is not so in Chennai.  Auto rickshaw drivers in Chennai have designated spots from where commuters can hire them,” said Shakun. She added that a proper study of Bengaluru traffic must be done before undertaking such a project.

About a decade ago, there had been an attempt to introduce the system, but it had to be dropped for various reasons, says TV Raghavendra of the Federation of Karnataka Auto Rickshaw Drivers Union.

“The general commuter mentality in Bengaluru is focused on comfort. Even today, people prefer to travel in autos alone. The idea of three people being dropped off in random locations puts people off.” 

While he agrees that it could be feasible over short distances, he says passengers often make unreasonable demands. “They will say ‘You have come this far why can’t you drop me home?’ If we refuse they will approach the police. This is unnecessary for us,” Raghavendra says.

However, transport department officials and traffic experts dismiss the idea over claims of “safety” concerns and “illegal operations”.

Traffic expert MN Srihari told The News Minute that safety is a big concern when many autos across the city run illegally. 

“There is a huge safety concern because one does not know who is going to be the person sitting next to you and which route the auto would take. Unless there is a system in place to ensure the safety of the passengers, it is not a good option.”

Illegality

The question of illegality of share autos is dual. 

In Chennai, share autos are allowed on seven routes in some areas of the city, under the contract carriages licence, to ferry a maximum of four passengers. 

This means that they operate like taxis – you pay for the vehicle to take you to your destination and back, even if you are only travelling one-way. The charges therefore, would be higher. 

Buses, which charge you only the fare for one-way travel are issued licences under the stage carriage category. In practice, share autos charge fares on this principle – which is lower fare than permitted -  benefitting both the commuter as well as the drivers who make multiple trips on short routes. This eats into the earnings of auto drivers who are actually following the law.

In a different type of violation, regular-sized autos too function like share autos. 

In Chennai at least, there has been a demand to change the licensing system of share autos, so that they are regularised and benefit both drives and commuters.

Raghavendra says that in Karnataka auto drivers are given Private Service Vehicle Permit, which allows them to pick up passengers and drop them at any destination. 

If the share autos were allowed in Bengaluru under a 3+1 passenger permit, Raghavendra said that they would eventually end up ferrying more passengers by adding an extra seat. This would not only cause corruption, but also eat into the earnings of auto drivers who did not follow the system. 

Effectively, he meant that if the share auto system is to be implemented, it could not be done partially. All drivers must switch over to that system or remain under the current one. “We are in the unorganised sector. I could get together with five of my people and function like this, but it could either damage us, or damage the others do not follow the system. Why take the risk?”

In fact Raghavendra also says that other auto drivers might incur losses is this came into place.

J Gnanendra Kumar, joint commissioner (egovernance), Regional Transport Office shared Srihari’s  views.

He said that autorickshaw drivers come under unorganised labour. “We technically don’t have a say unless the law permits us to. The Indian Motor Vehicles Act does not mention share autos and hence we cannot propose it,” he said.

He said that people used pooling taxi services on Ola and Uber at their own discretion. “In fact, they got a permit only because they had an organised app and panic button features. If an agency comes forward to get all this in place, we are sure to allow a trial run,” he said. 

 

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