Facing poor patronage, autorickshaws drop prices to stay afloat

Commuters traveling by autorickshaws can heave a sigh of relief, to some extent, as a number of have reduced their fare marginally in the city.
Facing poor patronage, autorickshaws drop prices to stay afloat
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Observers attribute this to the growing patronage for shared-use mobility services offered by app-based aggregators like Uber and Ola. Observing the trend, regular autorickshaws, which have often come under criticism for collecting exorbitant rates from commuters, have started reducing fares. Members of autorickshaw and taxi owners associations blamed the Transport department for delay in providing electronic fare meters, due to which, a huge number of passengers are increasingly choosing to opt for cab services. Members say they have no option but to reduce charges in order to stay in field that has grown highly competitive. 
According to the Transport department, there are around 75,000 regular autorickshaws, while close to 25, 000 cabs like Ola and Uber are being operated in the city. Further, around 10,000 autorickshaws are being associated with Ola, and those autos collect Rs 29 for four km, similar to cabs. 
S Balabubramaniam, General Secretary, Autos and Taxi Owners Association, South Chennai, affiliated to CITU, said that despite their long-standing demand to the government to expedite the process of providing new electronic fare meters, there has been hardly any response. “Our plight is being ignored,” said a member. Sometimes, they are forced to drive autorickshaws like a share auto to earn a meagre income, said another member. 
Balasubramaniam said, “We filed cases following the delay in the meter distribution process. However, the government does not seem to have taken any appropriate measures,” he said, adding that after the arrival of private cab services, the income for auto drivers has reduced to a large extent.
Meanwhile, a sizable number of commuters conceded that autorickshaws have indeed lowered their rates. “When I travelled from Pachaiyappa’s College to Central Railway Station (6.5 km), the driver demanded only Rs 50. Surprised, I had an informal conversation about fare and the driver said that since business had been dull for a while now, they were reducing the price to attract customers,” said S Thiyagarajan. He also said that during night time, the ordinary autos collect a mere Rs 10 for short distances. 
Daniel Robinson, programme manager, Chennai City Connect, said that inflow of cab services is a welcome one for the city. “Cab services will ease congestion in crowded areas like Central, Egmore, Koyambedu (CMBT) and other places. It will also ensure free traffic flow, as commuters will continuously be moving,” he pointed out. 
When contacted by DTNext, S Velusamy, Joint Transport Commissioner (Rules-I/C), said, “The Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu Limited (ELCOT) has undertaken the manufacturing of electronic fare meters and it is under process. We will provide such meters to the autorickshaw drivers soon.”

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