There are 703 auto stands across the city, according to the state’s transport department. So why can’t you step out of the railway station, queue up at one of these auto stands and hop into the auto when it’s your turn? Because 75% to 80% of these stands exist only on paper, say experts and auto unions.
The auto stands are supposed to improve discipline on the roads, reduce congestion and make travel easier for commuters. What actually happens on the ground is people frantically chasing autos and begging or fighting with drivers so they can get home after a tiring day.
Figures with the Andheri regional transport office (RTO) reveal that there are 557 auto stands in the western suburbs, between Bandra and Dahisar. At auto stands, drivers cannot refuse fares, RTO officers said.
“There are 103 stands in Andheri. Borivli (east and west) has the second highest number of such stands at 68. The aim is to avoid the chaos caused by autos, especially at these crowded areas,” said Pramod Desai, assistant regional transport officer, Andheri.
According to Abhay Deshpande, deputy regional transport officer, Wadala RTO, the eastern suburbs have 146 auto stands.
Allka Shah, member of the Road Safety Advisory Committee for the city police, said that barring both sides of railway stations in the suburbs, one can spot few auto stands on the streets.
“You have taxi stands at regular distances, but with autos, they just wait in clusters anywhere on the roads,” she said.
An official from Andheri RTO, on condition of anonymity, said: “The RTO depends on the state for funds to construct these stands. In the recent past, we have not received funds. In 2010, Mahanagar Gas Limited provided money for some stands.”
There are less than 200 stands in the city, claims Shashank Rao, assistant general secretary of Mumbai Autorickshawmen’s Union, the city’s largest auto union.
“The 703 stands are there only on paper. In reality, there are hardly any auto stands and the chaos is visible on the streets, especially outside malls and business establishments,” he said. “At stands, drivers cannot refuse fare. Building proper auto stands will be beneficial for the public as well as for the drivers.”
The need is for a collaborative effort between the auto drivers, the transport department and the traffic police to ensure more discipline on the streets, said Shah.
“Auto stands are not going to make a difference unless auto drivers follow the rules. At places where traffic policemen are near the stands, the drivers don’t dare violate the norms.
The transport department should ensure there are stands and the traffic police should overlook the entire system,” she said.
‘The stand outside station is useless as drivers refuse fares’
The stand outside the station is of no use, complained commuters. Chaitanya Joshi, 29, a doctor who lives in Lower Parel, said he had been outside the station for 15 minutes trying to get an auto. He wanted to go to the nearby Pandurang wadi, but no driver was willing.
He finally travelled the distance by foot. “The auto stand is useless. I asked 10 drivers and not one agreed to come. I come here often and every time I face the same problem. They won’t ply short distances,” Joshi said.
Sushant Marfatia, 25, a marketing professional who lives in Gokuldham, said: “Every day it’s a battle to find an auto that will take my home from the station. I end up walking half the distance most days.”
‘This auto stand is a relief from the madness outside station’
This stand was better organised, with autos queuing up in an orderly manner and plying commuters without refusing fare.
Pooja Agarwal, 42, a homemaker who lives at Upper Govind Nagar, said: “This auto stand is a relief when you look at the madness outside the station. I often walk from the station to this stand as a
five-minute walk is better than a 30-minute wait at the station.”
Anant Shinde, 43, who has been an auto driver for 15 years, said: “We are a group of drivers who have been plying from this stand for years. We don’t refuse commuters on ethical grounds. Also, it is not allowed at auto stands. You will also never find autos with rigged meters at this stand.”