While several initiatives have been announced to make public transport in Mumbai safer and comfortable, chances are you still have trouble getting a vehicle to travel short distances, and don’t feel safe when taking a taxi or an autorickshaw at night.
Transport experts say they are disappointed with what they call the government’s failure to implement measures such as installing roof-top indicators and global positioning systems (GPS) in vehicles, which can go a long way in making drivers accountable and commute easier.
“While we expected the new government would take the commuter issues seriously, it is ignoring their interests like the earlier one,” said a transport expert.
At present, around 40,000 taxis and 1 lakh autorickshaws ply on the city’s roads. None of these have been fitted with roof-top indicators, a small multi-coloured instrument that indicates whether a vehicle is free or occupied, though the proposal was floated in 2012. Similarly, there has been no decision about the installation of GPS or panic buttons in the vehicles.
The transport department has also failed to implement the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority’s (MMRTA) decision of displaying driver details and helpline numbers in taxis and autos. Most drivers don’t follow the rule of displaying their identity badges. There is no efficient complaint mechanism against these vehicles either.
“The transport department is implementing only those decisions for which drivers’ unions are exerting pressure. It is ignoring demands of passengers, who can’t pressurise them,” said AV Shenoy, a transport expert.
However, the unions are not too happy with the government either. They say their long-pending demands such as releasing more permits, changing drivers’ uniforms and simplifying the process of getting taxi badges have not been met.
“Drivers can refuse fares because there aren’t enough taxis on the roads. If the government releases more permits, drivers will wait for commuters,” said KK Tiwari, leader of Swabhiman Taxi and auto rickshawmen’s Union.