A call for reforms in public transport sector

Written by Neha Pal | Neha Pal | Updated: Feb 19 2012, 06:38am hrs
There may have been several voices against auto-rickshaws, the most notable being of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit, asking to phase out the three-wheelers, but the fact remains that autos are the second-most popular mode of public transport across India.

A recent report by EMBARQ India, a not-for-profit organisation of The World Resources Center for Sustainable Transport, headquartered in Washington, suggests that if reforms such as promotion of fleet-based dispatch services and vehicle improvements are implemented, auto-rickshaws can emerge as an effective alternative to private vehicles. These reforms are essential to mitigate environmental and road safety challenges that currently exist in this sector.

WRI is a think tank formed for handling environmental issues across the world and is backed by global corporate giants like Shell, Caterpillar Inc, Sedex and New Yorks Mayor Michael Rubens Bloomberg.

The report, Sustainable Urban Transport in India: Role of the Auto-rickshaw Sector, by Akshay Mani, Madhav Pai and Rishi Aggarwal, examines the role auto-rickshaws play in promoting use of public transport and reducing private vehicle trips in cities. Even though policy makers are working on alternatives to provide consumers better modes of transport and companies like Bajaj are claiming its four-wheeler RE60 can replace auto-rickshaws, experts feel regulatory reforms for the auto-rickshaw sector would improve urban transport.

In November last year, SC judges KS Radhakrishnan and CK Prasad passed a judgment for issuing 45,000 new auto-rickshaw permits in Delhi. At present, there are around 55,000 auto-rickshaws in the city.

Says Dinesh Mohan, chair professor of Transport Research and Injury Prevention Programme (TRIPP) at IIT Delhi, Discouraging intermediate public transport (IPT) such as auto-rickshaws would result in increased private car ownership, since the service provided by auto-rickshaws, such as access, point-to-point connectivity and privacy may not be matched in many cases even by an excellent bus system.

Some recent examples of auto-rickshaw fleet management are Gurgaons tuk-tuk autos and Mumbais rickshaw fleet service called rickshawale.com.

On a per passenger basis, auto-rickshaws produce lower emissions compared to cars, due to their smaller engines. With conversion of auto-rickshaws to CNG in Delhi and conversion of 2-stroke engines to 4-stroke engines, emissions from this sector have been addressed to a large extent.

Akshay Mani, author of the report and project manager-urban transport, EMBARQ India, told FE, Given the current urban transport trends and challenges such as rising emissions and road fatalities, there is a critical need to promote more sustainable transport options in India.

According to Madhav Pai, co-author of the report and director, EMBARQ India, for every new private car in a city, a minimum of two additional parking spaces are required. An auto-rickshaw, on the other hand, only requires one parking space in the city.