Chennai Auto Rickshaw Puzzle!

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!


  • Raghuraaman V / November 13, 2010 at 7:23 am


    Nice calculation. I have a sugegstion. instead of owning the auto and getting good finance, which will make their starting cost 118 Rupees per day, they are probably renting the auto daily which is likely to claim pushing up the meter cost and furnish a false impression as if they are at loss. If ther eis a plan similar call taxis, call auto network comes, it will reduce the complications. it will make the process organised. promoters with network of autos should be encouraged so that multiple lending of auto will becoem streamlined.

  • srigopikumargnaneshwaran / June 13, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    very nice

  • Murli Kashyap / July 24, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Chennai Autos are a rip off . It is surprising that the govt does not enforce meter fare and looks like the Traffic police are hand in glove. I never will Chennai again because of high unregulated auto fares

  • np / September 5, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I ama new comer to the city.It is a nice city except the auto puzzle.The other day I saw @ Egmore even passengers not looking at them and looking fot buses.I will like to be enlightened as to why autos are charging exorbitantly even if they do not get adequate passengers.they can get volumes if they reduce price!

  • mike / October 2, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    sry not india gates.. its Gates india… 🙂

  • K Sivaraman / April 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm


  • G.T.BAKYARAJ / September 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    I am basically from chennai, the chennai auto fare is high than any other cities in India comparitively. For the past 25 years the auto fare in chennai is drastically increasing…..Atleast before ten years 90% of Auto owners are drivers but these days most of the auto drivers are driving rental autos at Rs200 per day. Simply auto drivers asking minimum Rs,40 to 100 for passing 5kms. The petrol price itself Rs72 and the auto give mileage 30 to 35 km per liter. So if they charge Rs100 for 5kms it means they are charging more than a flight ticket. Due to this chennai people suffereing like any thing especially middle and lower class people are the sufferes. The government is not at all involving in this issue. Government should control the price hike of auto fare but way of prepaid auto service and each auto should fix meter. In other states except tamilnadu autos are using meters without doubt and they charge base on the meter reading. This is the one and only thing can be done. These types of issues shows the inability of government.

  • koo look / August 26, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Auto drivers in Chennai are criminals.

  • SV Kothare / November 15, 2013 at 3:38 pm

                                          INCREASE NUMBER OF AUTOS !!!!                                              
    I come from Mumbai.There, the percentage of people that travel by train far outnumbers those that travel by cars and two wheelers.Try travelling by local train during working hours !!!
    What makes this public transportation system (local train) to tick in Mumbai.The answer is simple.Once you get down at your destination,getting an auto is just no problem.The rates are fixed and they are available in ADEQUATE NUMBERS.(You may compare the ratio of number of autos per 100 residents at Mumbai and Chennai).
    Chennai is too busy to build its local train and Metro network, but its support system (like number of Autos) for onward journey seems to be lacking.The only option now is to take your own bike/car and get rid of daily arguments.Imagine a person travelling from Tambaram to Mount Rd by his vehicle just because he is not sure of auto services at the starting point(2kms) and at destination (2kms)
    My title answers the present and future solution to the  problem.It gives more job opportunities,saves individual/national fuel expenses,gets rogues inline and the best  ‘it builds confidence in people to use the autos even more often and shun their cars/bikes’.This also has a fallout that the auto drivers now have more customers.
    Police is not the answer to all problems.My strategy will work now and in the future. Increase in number of Pvt Airlines did drop the rates for air travel ,so why should it not work here?

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