Grandma's Tales

January 30, 2007

Auto, auto! – 4

Filed under: Auto — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:21 pm

swami (Comment by swami) wrote this in response to my latest auto whine.
I heard auto business was affected by call-taxi’s, share van’s and such. And that auto drivers weren’t kings as they used to be. Did I hear wrong?
Don’t the share-auto, share-van types work out better?
Also, do you think the current meter rates in Chennai are fair? I don’t know what it is now. But when I was there (about 6 yrs ago) they worked out to Rs. 3.50 per km. And I thought it was too low if you get a good auto ride – which of course, was an impossibility. But then, I think when fixing rates for auto, you have to assume that it is a properly functioning auto with a decent driver (working to earn the honest buck) and other associated service levels. Thoughts?
Here they are swami.
A properly functioning auto, a decent driver – they must be around among the 50 thousand or so autos rattling the bones out of the Chennai population – but most of us haven’t met them.
The current fares are as follows. Rs. 14 for the first 2 kms and 6 for every extra km. These rates are already in force. But not enforced. Autos have been given 6 months to get their electronic meters going. In the meantime, each one has been given a printed card showing the difference in fares. There are also helplines. But there is no way to determine the distance. The automan just will not accept your measurements. And the fares thereof. You talk to them about the fare- cards and the standard answer is: “Ask the guy who printed them to drive you for those fares. Not me.”
This evening I asked the automan to take me to the beach which is exactly 2 kms away. I know because I had checked it while driving the car. The auto driver at the stand demanded Rs. 35. I said, “No, thank you,” and walked away. He began to abuse me. You don’t want to know what he said.
Yesterday, a guy saw me dressed in finery, guessed I was in a hurry to reach somewhere and demanded an exhorbitant amount. After rejecting three, I gave in. Did I say auto guys were actor-politicians (previous post)? I hang my head in shame. They are actor-politician-psychologists. Their capabilities are being wasted on Chennai roads.
Are the rates fair? Perhaps not. Then the best thing to do is to go on protest, represent and come to an agreement with the authorities. Not blackmail/abuse the public. Why did they accept the revised the fares? Because they know the fares will never be implemented. Please read these pages in six months’ time.
The guy I hired this morning had an electronic meter fixed. I asked him why it wasn’t functioning. He said he had six months to do it. I said it didn’t need six months to fix the meter. He mumbled something like, “The wires are gone.”
Competition from share autos? Not really. Since they have more space, they charge more. You need to be a group. If you are alone or there are two of you, you have to wait. These autos cruise along soliciting customers.
Vans and call taxis? Their fares have gone up. You have to book in advance, they turn up late and sometimes they don’t turn up at all. Happened to me. They cost roughly double of what the auto fare would put you back by.
Autos are cheaper (though their fares are arbitrary and illegal) compared to other modes of private travel. They are available at all times, except may be midnight. If it is just two of you, isn’t it better to hire an auto to the railway station rather than pay a call taxi?
The auto guys know all this. And they demand the fares far in excess of what they are allowed. Again, my argument: I pay you what you ask for, if it is not too over the top. But can you assure me a reasonably smooth ride in return?
This morning my automan crossed the signal on First Main Road, Gandhi Nagar on the pedestrian crossing while people were rushing across and went into a one-way street on the opposite side. He almost collided into an oncoming auto. We were saved by a whisker. My screams were of no avail.
This is demand outstripping supply. What we need is a topnotch public transport system. Air-conditioned buses/vans at all points of the city, on all main roads and major streets. Increase the fares, but assure us of safe, comfortable travel to work and back. How come this is never a poll promise for the poor-friendly governments?


  1. Autorickshaw – as a public transport is another important element in the city.
    First of all, one should note the difficulties of an auto-driver viz.
    1. Like in Mumbai (taxis), they should be aloowed to park vehicles along the sides of roads wherever possible – to avoid wastes of empty running.
    2. It appears that permits are sold at about Rs.1 lakh in the blackmarket – if that is the case why not the govt. issue more permits, so that their investments are not much.

    I had written an article to `The Hindu’ a the time of discussions on Auot-fare revision – which was not published – which I’m posting here-hoping that some little effort in the positive direction is taken. It is as follows-


    Recently we notice that the Government is contemplating to introduce an effective Auto-metering system – which is highly commendable and an important requirement for the city.

    Though Chennai could boast of one of the best Public transport systems (buses) until a few years ago, with the present multi-classed society it requires that several modes and classes of public transport catering to different classes/ categories of people are introduced for effectiveness. In this regard, the introduction of the yellow line and blue line buses signify a correct approach by the government to the needs of the people.

    Coming to the Autos (autorickshaws) – everyone will be aware that it is one of the most useful requirement of the city. If only Chennai had a honest metering system as in Mumbai or Bangalore, the city will be buzzing with autos and people will only be delighted.

    The reasons for its usefulness are as follows:-
    · A point-to-point mode of transport is the most preferred mode for anyone. This is possible only by privately owned vehicles (driven by themselves or by chauffeurs), taxis or autos. Among these the cheapest and most hassle free is the auto.
    · There is almost no waiting time to get an auto – it is available almost anywhere and almost round-the-clock.
    · In the present traffic scenario – no hassles/ stress due to driving.
    · Most importantly – no parking problems – one just has to alight where one wants and get another auto upon return.
    · The city’s traffic would be much lesser – as many would prefer to hire an auto instead of taking their own cars, especially employed people who do not travel much otherwise.

    But the present scenario deters many to hire an auto for the following reasons:-

    * Though there is an official fare fixed by the govt. i.e. Minimum of Rs.7 and Rs3.50 per km. thereafter, it is so low that the auto drivers might have to shell out their own money to make the trips. Although officially, a person can insist that the driver has to comply with that rate (and can make a police complaint if they don’t comply), one’s conscience always says that it is worth to pay more – as the costs involved are actually more.

    But, this where the real problem creeps in – if it is fit to pay more then how much? This situation has created a free for all with auto-drivers asking for fares that fit their imagination. Only a small number ask for a reasonable fare.

    * Today, a person gets literally tired of asking auto drivers to go to a destination for a particular fare, which the passenger finds reasonable.
    Regular office-goers arrive at a reasonable fare by themselves. But when they want to hire an auto they have to spend considerable time for negotiation.
    One might have to ask at least 5 to 8 autos in order to get an auto, which might agree to the `proposed’ fare. Many a time they have to pay more – as no one has the patience to keep on stopping autos and negotiating with them. This happens especially in mornings and evenings when people hurry to office/ home.

    · With public transportation like buses becoming almost ineffective (due to time constraints), many are pushed to buy their own cars, etc. – leading to higher vehicle population on the roads.

    · A stranger to the city will almost become dizzy if he wants to venture outside. He might not know the distance of his preferred destination and will have no idea of the fare to be negotiated. In these instances, they almost become a prey to the auto drivers – what is demanded should be paid (throwing reasonableness and justness to the backburner).

    All this confusion can be solved only by the will of the government. It is necessary that the government gets to solve the present chaos so that the society will benefit at large.

    What needs to be done is:-

    · To arrive at a proper fare, so that both interests (auto drivers and public) are safeguarded – especially that of auto drivers – only then can we expect them to comply.
    · Once the fare is fixed, every party should strictly follow the fare shown in meter (which should again be tamper-proof). Complaints of non-compliance should invite strict action.

    Once this is done, people will be greatly eased – as they can get into any auto to reach a place without the hassles of negotiation.

    The fare requested by the Auto-drivers’ association i.e. Minimum of Rs.15 for 2 km. and Rs.7 per km. thereafter appears to be quite reasonable.
    But government should introduce tamper-proof meters, which should also have provision for adjusting the fare by authorized companies whenever an increase/ decrease in fare is necessary due to fluctuating fuel and living costs.

    Let us hope that the recent government initiative provides for a measure of relief and delight to the city.

    Comment by Jayasimhan T — July 18, 2007 @ 10:53 am | Reply

  2. I agree with you, Jayasimhan!

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — July 18, 2007 @ 11:16 am | Reply

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