Thursday, October 09, 2008

Consistently inconsistent - Auto rickshaw meters in Bangalore

Inside Bangalore city, autos were supposed to be the best mode of transport in a cost-effective way. Compared to other metros like Chennai, Bangalore had a well regulated meter system in place, which was hassle free. Especially for IT employees, autos used to be used to be viable alternative to commute to workplace, back and forth. There were numerous folks who use autos to commute on a daily basis without any worries. In fact many of them preferred auto journeys, given the city traffic conditions. Added to that auto drivers were friendly and co-operative, thereby making the journey comfortable. Unfortunately over the past three to five years auto rickshaw journey has gone from pleasure to pain, and getting worse day by day. After traveling in an auto, individuals end up having head-ache, tension apart from emptying their pockets.

Based on our recent study, many of the city residents experienced set of different problems with auto-rickshaws. First problem is about getting an auto to reach the destination. Majority of the auto drivers are not ready to take in any passenger even though they run empty autos. Upon asking the place to reach, many of these drivers behave very rudely by not even responding back in a proper manner. Nowadays in order to get into an auto, one needs to spend at least 20 minutes, after asking for at least 4-5 autos that are not ready to picking them up. The reason these drivers will give for not taking in a passenger is very simple: "We will not get proper savari from the point we leave you". Given Bangalore's volume of working population and city's recent growth, its hard to believe that, these drivers will have any problems with getting passengers. However, this is the uniform response one gets by talking to any of the drivers on the way. Also one need to be happy if the driver responds properly even though he is not interested in picking up the passenger. Turning face on the other direction, murmuring in Kannada or giving a vague look are some of the behaviors exhibited by these auto-drivers, which makes an individual feel "Who is the customer? Who is going to pay whom?”

The problem gets even worse after boarding the auto. Majority of these autos don’t have proper meters and they jump like crazy. According to the latest official chart, seven rupees is charged per kilometer with minimum charge being fourteen rupees for first two kilometers. But one has to be lucky if the meter functions properly. Based on our observations for 11 kms, fare ranged anywhere between 80 to 120 rupees, whereas it is supposed to be 77 rupees. Even though meters are installed on autos they are not properly maintained. Some of them still have very old meter ,which just show up the fare information. Some show up kilometers traveled and fare and some are electronic. The latest electronic meters were supposed to be more reliable, but eventually end up showing incorrect numbers. To put in simple terms these meters behave consistently inconsistent. When auto drivers were asked more questions for the malfunctioning of the meter the response could be anything. Some accept it with a vague smile, some respond rudely, some even don't respond. Eventually the customer's heart beats faster every time they see the meter jumping in a disproportionate manner.

Here is another point that makes it even worse -- extra charges. Asking for extra charges over and above the tampered meters has become the norm these days. Some years back drivers used to ask for 50% extra, only after 10:00 PM in the night, which is no longer true. During peak hours, like 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM, asking extra has become a day-today affair. On rainy days it becomes hits the peak, where these drivers straightaway asking for an atrocious flat charge without even thinking twice. Also if the passenger is not aware of the route or new to the city, these drivers take the longer route instead of proper one. For busy working professionals finding auto, paying extra charge and reaching their workplace adds stress to their mind. Many solutions, like booking autos thro' SMS or phone were proposed, but nothing seems to work practically over a long period of time.

Which are the factors has made auto journey a pain? Is it increasing IT employees in the city? Is it increasing demand makes these drivers feel that they can demand any amount? Is the difference between haves and have-nots is increasing, which is making auto-drivers to find some way to make money from wealthy IT employees? What is the government is doing about it? There is definitely an optimization problem, waiting to be solved. At one end there is a huge need for autos and vast amount of people ready to pay proper fare. But where is the solution?

13 comments:

Shanmuga said...

Yes Anna.

I also faced the same problem when going to MSR from your house. Fare used to range between 80-120 according to meter. Some autowalas even used to ask 10-20 more than the meter. I used to do split journey via Philips Millenia, Ulsoor to avoid this 10-20 Rs extra. :)

girish said...

Funny that! I was just reading Admag ystday out of curiosity and it saddened me to see that what *I* consider to be a pretty skilled job - that of driver well-versed with the city - got no real premium over unskilled posts such as office boy or watchman. Drivers are lucky if they can demand 5-8K as salary. :)
With a capital investment of around 50K for a 2nd hand auto (probably costs close to 2 lakhs for a new one) plus bribing RTO/officials for the limited registerations available, huge downtime while waiting to fill LPG, etc, I really wonder how much they can possibly be making. :)

Sulthan said...

Hey the post is to the point and Kudos to this wonderful post!

Every time when you stand for hire an auto -- keep in mind -- you can go to the place where the rickshaw is going not to the place where you want to go.

As far as authorities are considered, they are least bothered for this issue. It is estimated that there are 80,000 rickshaws in Bangalore town and a major share of the drivers have a criminal background.

Also would like to bring a point to note. We all know that there are few pre-paid pick up points. I happened to be at Forum and want to go to Brigade Road Signal -- The pre paid gave me a bill of 40Rs instead of the 34. Is tat justified?

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