Black-and-yellow taxis far behind in the race against app-based cabs in south Mumbai
While the number of black-and-yellow taxis in south Mumbai has seen a sharp drop – from 57,810 in 2016-17 to 44,566 in 2018-19, the number of tourist taxis, a majority of which are used by app-based aggregators, has increased to 74,911 in 2018-19, from 60,752 two years ago. The number of autorickshaws, meanwhile, has gone up to 2.12 lakh, from 1.37 lakh in 2016-17.
According to regional transport officers (RTO), the dip is despite the state de-freezing the permits for both autorickshaws and taxis from 2017, after a 20-year gap. The dip in earnings owing to the app-based cabs and high cost of vehicles, most owners didn’t buy new vehicles after their old ones were scrapped, according to RTO officials. With app-based cabs emerging the preferred choice owing to comfort and other reasons, taxis are mainly limited to the island city.
Taxi unions blame it on the shortage of drivers, besides troubles in getting roadworthiness certificate. “Due to tough working conditions, new drivers don’t want to drive taxis now. They do not want to work for 12 hours or more. Instead, they prefer to work as a driver on private vehicles,” said AL Quadros, veteran leader of cabbies in Mumbai.
AV Shenoy of Mumbai Mobility Forum said that in the island city, several drivers have shifted to share-a-taxi service, instead of normal ones, for extra money. “Ola-Uber cabs are unaffordable due to surge pricing. Rickshaws are not comfortable riding long distances and can’t ply in the island city. The dwindling number of black-and-yellow taxis is bad news for island city passengers. BEST, even with the increased strength, can’t fill up this gap,” he said.
The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking, which ferries 22 lakh commuters daily in its fleet of 3,337 buses, has announced a significant fare cut. Although the date if implementation has not yet been fixed, passengers will pay ₹5-20 and ₹6 -25 for rides on regular and AC buses, respectively.
Taxi drivers fear the fare cut will further hit them financially, especially on the sharing routes. “The taxi business will be over once all Metro lines are operational. Why would people take taxis, if they get a faster, air-conditioned Metro ride,” asked Sandeep Kadam, a union leader.