Few topics in Chennai invoke such a similar passionate reaction, Auto Rickshaws! Over the years many permutations & combinations have been tried to arrive at a balanced and accepted ecosystem between the riders and the auto drivers. Some of it has had shot term impacts but tend to rebound later.
The recent announcement of the Tamilnadu Government to allow fresh auto-permits has been a good move in the long run in reducing the prices of auto permits in the Grey market. This has brought down the capital cost of the drivers and also would encourage a new generation of auto drivers to take to the business.
Another major issue that greatly affects the way the driver-rider ecosystem functions is the tariff rates. The 2 sides of the coin being, not updated often enough and one being too often hiked! To get the economic perspective of the driver, we did the following calculation:
By these figures, the per km cost would be around Rs 8.30. Your can always click the edit button on the above sheet to key in your own figures, to get the fare. Interestingly, the price hike of petrol by Rs 1 leads to a the per km charge hike of only around Rs 0.4
Interestingly, the official rates of the corporation (atleast the one from Chennai Central) is almost equal to this value and yet auto drivers seem to ask for more. This is because of the less distance(<100km) they clock everyday.
Revising the fare may not be the right step, as this may take the ridership numbers down for the drivers and lead to a downward spiral for the business. According to the Wilbur Smith Report, 72% of the Chennai’s trip length is short distance, i.e < 5kms. With such a large possible rider clientele, it should be right to expect the average daily trip distance to be far in excess of the current 100 kms. This is one reason why other cities like Bangalore and Delhi have lesser km cost as the average distance traveled / day is around 150 kms. Since the distance is less, charges are more and this leads to a cyclic problem. Another reason why auto fares as decided by the authorities tend be be so low is that the compensation per month is taken at 3000 – 4500 / month, which is much lower compared to the private car drivers, who earn a decent 7500 / month.
With the city investing crores in transportation projects, there is going to be lesser and lesser private trips on these routes. One way this could be capitalized is by introducing revenue sharing measures between Transport operator and the Auto driver so that there is an incentive for the auto driver to drop a passenger to the METRO or MTC route like Raj’s nice pet idea.
The ideal position would be for the driver to be able to do 100kms of driving per day. Auto’s should become part of a information sharing association, thereby giving rotational movement direction just like call taxis.
Though, the drivers problem can be seen as his personal issue, it also needs to be looked at from the perspective of them being ‘Our Drivers’ who carry the city around and it is in our better interest to sort this problem, because unless we understand and sort the underlying economic problem, all the measures would fall short of the desired outcome.
After all speaking from a transport perspective they contribute to 72000 PCU’s / day!