Sustainable Urban Transport in India: Role of the Auto-Rickshaw Sector

Auto-rickshaws ensure connectivity and easy access throughout congested Indian cities. Photo by Jason Rodman.

Auto-rickshaws are an important part of urban mobility and a step to improving sustainable transportation, as well as quality of life in Indian cities. Integrating auto-rickshaw services as a feeder mode complements public transportation systems, ensuring connectivity and easy access throughout the city. Auto-rickshaws also bridge the gap between public transport and door-to-door services, providing an alternative to private vehicles.

To highlight the important role the auto-rickshaw industry plays in urban transport, the World Resources Institute and EMBARQ (the producer of this blog) released a comprehensive report, “Sustainable Urban Transport in India: Role of the Auto-rickshaw Sector,” written by Akshay Mani, Madhav Pai and Rishi Aggarwal.

The report will be launched Friday, February 10, at “Rickshaw Rising – An Auto-rickshaw Entrepreneurship Summit,” in Mumbai, India. The event is part of the “Catalyzing New Mobility” project supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Data from Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune and Rajkot show that auto-rickshaws serve between 10 to 20 percent of daily motorized urban transport trips. While a significant portion of daily passenger trips rely on auto-rickshaws, the population in Indian cities is estimated to grow to 590 million by 2030, increasing with it the share of those who depend on inexpensive and comprehensive urban transportation. The report explains that the total daily passenger trips in 87 major urban centers in India will more than double from around 229 million in 2007 to around 482 million in 2031. The efficiency, reliability and affordability of the auto-rickshaw industry will become paramount in the dense and congested cities of India.

The report highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the auto-rickshaw industry, providing policy recommendations to guarantee a future of success for an important sector in India’s urban sustainable transport.

Akshay Mani, project manager for urban transport with EMBARQ India, explains the many benefits of strengthening this form of sustainable transportation in India:

“Given the current urban transport trends in Indian cities and the resulting sustainability challenges such as emissions and road fatalities, there is a critical need to promote sustainable urban transport in India,” explains Akshay Mani, project manager for urban transport with EMBARQ India. “Implementing the recommended reforms – such as promotion of fleet-based dispatch services and vehicle improvements in the areas of engine technology and safety features – will be key to ensuring that auto-rickshaw services promote public transport usage as feeder modes and serve as an effective door-to-door alternative to private motor vehicles, while mitigating the environmental and road safety challenges that exist in this sector currently.”

To celebrate the launch of the report and commemorate the importance of auto-rickshaws to sustainable transportation, we bring you all of Akshay Mani’s posts about the topic on TheCityFix. Enjoy! (Be sure to check out EMBARQ’s collection of auto-rickshaw videos, too.)

Promoting Green Entrepreneurship in India’s Auto-Rickshaw Sector

Auto-rickshaw services in Indian cities are predominantly unorganized in nature, wherein services are provided by individual owners and operators competing against each other for the passenger market.  This structure, coupled with an improper governance framework, has created significant problems for both drivers and passengers, and it has resulted in negative externalities in the economic, environmental and social realms.

Q&A with Nirmal Kumar: Transforming Paratransit in India

G-Auto is an innovative auto rickshaw service started in Ahmedabad, India. G-Auto works to organize auto rickshaw drivers under a social umbrella, which provides safety and comfort to passengers, as well as income and job satisfaction to drivers.

Out of the Driver’s Seat: Are India’s Auto-Rickshaws Safe for Pedestrians and Cyclists?

Discussion of the road safety issues surrounding motorized transport modes should focus not just on the safety of in-vehicle passengers (passengers using the motorized modes) but also on how motorized modes affect the safety of other non-motorized users of the roadway system, such as pedestrians and cyclists.

Meter Jam: A Campaign to Boycott Auto-Rickshaws and Taxis

“Meter Jam” is the new buzz word among quite a few commuters in Mumbai this week. The Meter Jam campaign is the brainchild of three advertising professionals in Mumbai, who are using the power of online campaigning and social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to call upon commuters in Mumbai to boycott auto-rickshaws and taxis on August 12.

NyayaBhoomi: Champion for Delhi’s Auto Rickshaws

NyayaBhoomi, a Delhi-based non-governmental organization, has been playing an instrumental role in promoting auto-rickshaws and improving their services in Delhi since it was founded in 2002, under the leadership of Secretary Rakesh Agarwal. With more than 10,000 auto-rickshaw drivers registered as volunteer members of the organization, NyayaBhoomi, which means “Land of Justice” in Hindi, has been uniquely positioned to work closely with Delhi’s auto-rickshaw industry to create a just and equitable system for drivers and passengers.

Power of Film Reveals Delhi’s Auto-Rickshaw Issues

The challenges and problems faced by Delhi’s auto-rickshaw drivers and passengers have been highlighted in a film documentary titled “Third Wheel: Auto Rickshaws – Boon or Bane for Delhi?” developed by Prabodh, a non-government organization in Delhi. The documentary fills a critical gap in the understanding of the auto-rickshaw sector in Delhi, drawing on information from an in-depth survey of drivers, passengers, noted experts and NGOs.The film explores the impact of auto-rickshaw policies and trends, including how a cap on permits in Delhi affects the cost of auto-rickshaws (a more than three-fold increase in the market price from Rs 1.3 lakhs to about Rs. 4.5 lakhs), how an unreasonable fare policy affects drivers and passengers (leading to problems like overcharging and refusal to pay), and how converting vehicles to compressed natural gas increases costs to drivers (the maintenance costs of CNG engines are reported to be 7 to 10 times greater than the costs of petrol engines).

Why Auto-Rickshaws Matter for India

With rapid population growth in Indian cities and a rise in private car ownership, it is critical to reassessthe role of auto-rickshaws in the urban transportation landscape, not only from the perspective of providing an integrated and affordable public transport system but also in terms of the socio-economic imperative of encouraging auto-rickshaws as a means of livelihood for low-income, uneducated, or migrant populations.

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