With Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS), Metrorail, Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) buses and suburban rail network, Chennai is among the few metros in the country to have an effective local transport.
However, rapid growth of commuters has led to the emergence of an illegal, parallel system in the form of share autos. The fact that 15,500 share autos ply on the city roads each day indicates how this form of private transportation is plugging the gaps in the public transport space.
Citizen Matters series on share autos provides details on the emergence of share autos, problems faced by the commuters and share auto drivers and the need for streamlining this mode of transportation. The current story is an analysis of why share autos play a crucial role in Chennai’s commuting scene.
Soaring demand for share autos
Chennai has four types of share autos — the three-wheeler yellow auto rickshaws, four-wheeler yellow ones, white Tata Magic vans and Piaggio Ape auto rickshaws, says S Balasubramanian, general secretary, CITU auto association. Share Autos are the intermediate para transit sector that facilitates flexible passenger transportation, without following fixed routes and schedules under the public domain, as the definition at Centre for Public Policy Research stated.
They are also stationed outside most of the suburban rail, metro and MRTS stations, to support last mile connectivity. Share autos compete with MTC buses head especially for short trips. Metro rail is no competition, because its high fares has meant it is still struggling to attract regular commuters.
We spoke to more two dozen commuters and share auto drivers in routes dominated by share auto services, while the MTC provided data about the bus services plying on the parallel routes. Daily commuters can write to the department (firstname.lastname@example.org), if any of the mentioned buses are not witnessed in the routes.
|Share auto routes||Buses plying on the route||Total no of services each day|
|Vadapalani to Anna
|113, 121F, 121H, 170C, 170CET, 170K, 170KCT,
70, 70B, 70LCT, 70W, 77J, B70CT, D70, D70CT, D70ET, D70M, M170B
|T Nagar to Anna Nagar||47D, 47DCT, A47||10|
|Retteri to CMBT||113, 114, 114C, 114CCT,
114D, 114E, 114ET, 114G, 114P, 114S, 121,
121A, 121C, 121D, 121F, 121G, 121H, 121M, 170C, 170CET, 170K, 170KCT, 514, 514ET, 58V, M170B
|Sholinganallur to Thiruvanmiyur||102A, 102CT, 523,
523A, 95, 99
|95, 95G, 95K, 99||70|
to Parrys Corner
|1, 101, 1B, 1C, 56J, 56P
56PET, C56C, C56CET, M56
|Porur to Vadapalani||25G, 26, 26B, 26M, 37E, 37G, 37G*, 525, 538, 578A, 88A, M88, M88M||109|
|Vadapalani to Virugambakkam||12BET, 15F, 25G, 26, 26A, 26B, 26M, 26R, 37E, 37G, 37G*, 525, 538,
578A, 88A, M27, M88, M88M, S31
|Kotturpuram to Guindy||21G, F54||35|
|Guindy to Tambaram||118A, 18A, 18M, 1B, 21G, B18, E18, G18||91|
|Tambaram to Camp Road||51A, 51K 51G, 51A||Not known|
Even though the above mentioned routes are connected with MTC bus network, share autos are always full of commuters. The spokesperson of the MTC told Citizen Matters that the city has 3300 MTC and small buses used by 32 lakh commuters each day. The department has lost more than 7 lakh commuters to share autos and suburban rail, after the bus fare hike. Fortunately for the department, the recent fuel hike and the slight increase in share auto fare turned a blessing, as there is a slight switch from the share auto commuters, said the spokesperson.
Share autos vs MTC buses
In all fairness, share autos play a critical role in the city’s transportation due to the following reasons*:
- A majority of the above mentioned bus routes such as 113, 121F, 21G cover a distance of more than 25 km. This is a drawback for those who commute a short distance as the buses are crowded with passengers from the origin points.
- Poor frequency of the buses. 21G that connects Broadway to Vandalur zoo is rarely seen during the evenings. Buses from beach station and Vallalar Nagar bus stand are almost rare, and so, shareautos are unavoidable.
- Lack of proper bus shelters. For example, the absence of a roof at the Vadapalani bus stop is a factor of inconvenience to the commuters, especially senior citizens. Share autos are an easy call, in such cases.
- Substandard, encroached footpaths are an indirect reason that discourage commuters to walk to the bus stop. Thus, share autos become the quick alternatives.
- Poor quality of roads (maintained by Chennai Corporation) and far-off bus stops. MTC finds it difficult to run point to point routes at Central Station because of the one ways and diversions.
- The fact that the commuters can board or get out of the share auto at any point on the route is an advantage.
What’s the way forward?
Eight years ago, the state government passed the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) Act, which will regulate and integrate all forms of public transport through a single agency. Sadly the rules are yet to be notified.
In the next part in the series we will look at this and other approaches to formalise this sector.
*Based on conversations with Deepak Raghuraman, Lokesh Khannan, Sridhar Venkataraman, Prashanth Goutham, David Manohar, Rohini Aranyan on social media.