Finally, Meter Down in Chennai!
Chennai | August 27, 2013
On Sunday, August 25, the Tamil Nadu government made a landmark announcement on the revision of auto-rickshaw fares in Chennai. Fares for auto-rickshaw services were last revised in Chennai in 2007. Starting August 26, the minimum fare for the first 1.8 km is Rs.25 with an increment of Rs. 12 for every additional kilometer. Waiting charges have been set at Rs.42 per hour and night charges are 50% extra, in force from 11pm to 5 am. In a significant move, fares have been revised along three components: the minimum charge for minimum distance, per kilometer far rate (running fare), and a waiting fare rate. On July 28, the Supreme Court of India had given the Tamil Nadu government four weeks to fix new fares; a deadline that expired on August 26. Auto rickshaw drivers will have to collect new fare cards from regional transport offices (RTOs) by September 15; all auto-rickshaw drivers will have to reset their meters by October 15.
According to a 2010 study conducted by the Chennai City Connect Foundation, auto-rickshaws in Chennai are the second largest movers of commuters, ferrying over 1.5 million commuters daily. However, the unorganized nature of services have created significant problems for passengers, as drivers resort to rampant overcharging, especially on short distances. With little or no use of meters, passengers are forced to constantly negotiate prices with drivers, and end up paying exorbitant fares. To address this issue, small-scale fleet auto services have been initiated by entrepreneurs such as Namma Auto and Auto Raja with their own fare structures. However, it is imperative for the government to ensure a proper reliable and standardized fare system for the large share of unorganized auto-rickshaws in Chennai, to improve quality of service for commuters.
Since August 2012, EMBARQ India has been partnering with the Chennai City Connect Foundation on a comprehensive Intermediate Public Transport Policy (IPT) for Tamil Nadu, and specifically to address the problem of unregulated auto fares in Chennai. Balchand Parayath, of Chennai City Connect said, "EMBARQ India along with Chennai City Connect Foundation assisted the Tamilnadu Transport Department by developing an IPT policy document which talked about the need for a mechanism to monitor and revise fares based on a set of criteria. A presentation on comparing auto fares in the different cities helped the Transport Department in their discussions on fares in Chennai - especially when discussing the minimum fare as recommended by auto unions".
So far the new fare system seems to have been welcomed by both commuters and drivers. The Government, with its new fare policy decision, has taken a significant step in addressing the fare issues facing Chennai’s auto-rickshaws. However, the need of the hour is to ensure that the enforcement mechanisms are in place to enable on-the-ground implementation of the fare policy, and compliance by drivers.