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YOUR SPACE: More autorickshaws, with better service, is welcome for Pune

Even as many have questioned the state government’s plan to give permission to 12,000 new autorickshaws to ply on city roads, experts say that this mode of transport provides ‘shared mobility’ and the CNG version is also environment frie

pune Updated: Nov 26, 2017 16:47 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
autorickshaws,better service,welcome for Pune
Activists say that autorickshaws sector employs about 50,000 individuals in Pune, but they don’t have any social cover.(HT FILE PHOTO)

The article ‘12k new autos to jam Pune roads, worsen air quality’ (HT, November 15) raises the issue that the number of autorickshaws is increasing and this is a problem as it will worsen air quality.

In my view, autos provide an option for ‘shared mobility’ or ‘intermediate public transport’. Such modes are better than private motor vehicles. This is because each shared or intermediate public transport vehicle would be used multiple times during the day, would carry more passengers as compared to private modes, while occupying a single parking space. Compressed natural gas (CNG) autos are already using cleaner fuel. Even in comparison to electric vehicles, vehicles run on CNG are cleaner. This is because in India, much of the electricity is from coal-based power plants. So, the carbon emissions from electric vehicles may be higher than those from CNG.

IMPORTANT SECTOR

As an occupational sector too, it is significant. The sector directly employs at least 50,000 individuals in Pune. However, there is the welfare of drivers to consider. Many auto drivers are not actually owners of the vehicle. Like other informal sector workers, they do not have any social security systems. Their occupational conditions should be improved.

Auto should not be the focus of criticism for air pollution, congestion, or road safety as they are and can be part of the solution, with appropriate regulation. The growth of private vehicle, and everything that causes that growth, should be recognised as the main issue that we need to address.

VIEWS, SUGGESTIONS

A discussion on this issue was done among citizen-activists in the sustainable transportation sector, following the news item last week.

Jayant Joshi of Save Pune Traffic Movement feels it is sad that autorickshaws are often looked down upon. The perception is that they ‘block’ traffic, while in reality, they help reduce private modes.

According to Jugal Rathi of PMP Pravasi Manch, while autos are shared mobility, a range of improvements is essential. Auto owners and operators must behave in accordance with the interests of the public. Unfortunately, autos often block the path of buses, cyclists and pedestrians, and operators are rude to customers. Jugal feel that autos should become integrated with, and act in a complementary manner to walking and public transport. Autos may be added in a phased manner.

Prasanna Patwardhan, chairman and managing director of Prasanna Purple and president, Bus Operators Confederation of India (BOCI), feels that autos are an integral part of public transport system and play a very important role in last mile connectivity. However, he too feels that some drivers ply as per their whims and fancies, because of which the sector gets a bad name. Improvements in the autorickshaw sector require usage of technology and apps to compete with cabs, driver training, focus on safety and security of passengers, screening so that bad elements do not operate as autorickshaw drivers.

The fixing and revision of fares should be transparent, and meter certification and corrections should be done in timely manner.

NGO Parisar founder Sujit Patwardhan’s view is that autorickshaw drivers must follow the rules, ply to destinations required by the traveller (not by the auto driver), should not obstruct bus stops, stop parking on road corners at crossings or causing blind turns, and should display the ID of driver prominently inside the rickshaws. This can’t happen without proper enforcement.

Sujit feels that autos don’t deserve to be curtailed; if any mode is to be curtailed, it is the personal auto vehicles.

NOTED POINTS

The consensus is that autorickshaws are important for the city, and improvements in this sector are essential. If properly regulated and planned, intermediate public transport services can complement the public transport system.

The report of the National Transport Policy Development Committee (2014) too highlights the potential of autorickshaws and other intermediate transport services to provide improved and clean mobility in the city.

It suggests a number of measures such as inclusion of these services in the overall multimodal integration efforts of cities, improvement of safety and convenience factors of these modes, and upgradation of vehicle technology to meet emission standards. It recommends low interest loans for attractive replacement schemes for operators.

It recommends moving from ‘closed’ to ‘open’ permit systems, accompanied by strict training and maintenance norms.

Owners and operators of autorickshaws must be engaged in the discussions on improving transportation systems in Pune.

The PMRDA, RTO, municipal officials, PMPML, traffic police and other departments and organisations related to this sector should not only talk among themselves when discussing the Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) plans, but also include such stakeholders. This will help them provide complementary services as an important element of a multi-modal transportation system in the Pune metropolitan region.

Sanskriti Menon

First Published: Nov 26, 2017 16:46 IST