Bangalore is better known for its never ending traffic snarls rather than as the IT capital or garden city. Though the metro may ease commuter woes, commuting in the city is harrowing made worse by the ever increasing auto rates.
Unlike Mumbai and Kolkata, where a taxi can be hailed on the street, getting a taxi in Bangalore involves endless online bookings and prayers to ensure that the booking is successful. This inability to hail a metered taxi, rankles commuters and policy planners alike.
Nitin Pai, who runs a policy think tank in the city says: “This informal rule, thanks to pressure from auto unions, that prohibits customers from hailing taxis directly is detrimental to the interests of commuters. pressure from auto unions, people cannot directly hail a taxi. Taxis will ensure that the congestion on the roads will be reduced and people will get a cleaner and efficient option to travel in the city. You are not left at the mercy of autorickshaws and or unscrupulous taxi operator. Of course, no one is saying that rickshaws must not operate. But it is important that customers get a choice in this matter.”
Jayadevan P.K., a new media journalist agrees, “It will be a lot less painful if we had taxis in Bangalore. What makes taxis in Mumbai great is that they seldom refuse to ply. However, the city will need better and bigger roads for the taxis to operate. I think taxi operators are using mobile apps to ensure more bookings, which is an encouraging step.” Prashant Puri, a consultant says, “Most taxis follow meter rates, do not try to fleece the customers and feels safer. My house is around five kilometres from the main road and I get charged astronomical sums when I am forced to use autos. It will be much more convenient to use taxis or public transport.”
Puri says that Bangalore must focus on ensuring that end-to-end transport options are provided. “Buses stick to the main roads, thus leaving people who stay away from the arterial routes dependent on the whims and fancies of rickshaw drivers, unless you have a car/bike of your own. If the government operates some sort of a share taxi system, it would help everyone.”
Vinod, who tweets constantly about the perils of commuting on Bangalore roads in peak hours contends that the basic problem that Bangalore faces is the lack of an efficient public transport system.
“I do not think that bringing in options to hail a taxi on the go will ensure a better commute. It will probably ensure that people start ditching buses and take to taxis, which will lead to more snarls.”
He adds, “I think it is mostly an attitude problem. People in this city like private transport too much. I do not think the metro service will change the snarls, because people will continue to use private vehicles. A lot must change for people to take up public transport in a big way.”
However, Vinod sees merit in the idea to phase out rickshaws and replace it with taxi services. “It will make for a nicer commute and will ensure that more people can be transported for less cost. It will need an attitude change to get more people to use any public transport options.”
What does the average rickshaw driver feel about this debate? “I think that people generalise about auto rickshaw drivers a lot,” says Murugan an auto driver on M.G. Road.
“We play a vital role in keeping the city on the move. We have some bad elements, but most of us are honest people who want to make a living. Our agitations are also often driven by a need to make a honest living.
As with other big cities across the world, it is imperative that the government takes steps to make the daily commute a tolerable affair and ensuring better roads and flagdown taxis will be an important step ahead.
The people on their part can start by using public transport instead of private vehicles.