Last week the Transport Department of Karnataka authorized 40,000 new permits for Rickshaws in the city of Bangalore. The only reason it concerns me is because on Friday auto drivers went on strike, so the “few” ones in the roads were charging almost twice of the regular fare.
Over the weekend I spoke to a few drivers to understand their impressions and they claimed basically two things: First, “Business will not be there”, which means in Hinglish language that there would be no business. And second, “Space is not there”, which means that there is no infrastructure to support that amount of traffic on the roads of Bangalore. The second point was solved by the Transport Minister when he said that “All new autos will not hit roads at a time. They will be introduced in a phased manner…” (Which anyway doesn´t solve much, unless they plan to come up with real infrastructure changes in a short period of time which seems unlikely).
Anyway, the first point is the interesting one when you analyze the historical trend of autos in the roads of Bangalore and the increasing population of the city over the last 15 years. The chart looks like this…
Basically we can argue that the number of cars is proportional to the growth of the population. Why? because the percentage yearly change of both variables has been constant, but this of course is no coincidence, it’s planned.
I think the problem relies on weather thinking that the 40,000 new autos would simply add up to the existing 100,000 on the roads. According to the Transport Minister, the Government is actually thinking on replacing thousands of old autos with incentives in an effort to reduce pollution. Pollution levels by the way, would come down by at least 50 per cent, once two-stroke engine autos are replaced by four-stroke autos, according to a study by the Transport Department.
Continuing with historical data, the average of habitants per autos in the last 15 years is 90. What auto drivers, and particularly the owners of the autos, should be concerned of, is that from 1995 to 2008 the number of two wheelers have gone up from 59,400 to 223,800, while four wheelers had gone from 10,700 to 50,500 respectively. So competition is not other autos, but the increased disposable income of people and their ability to buy a private means of transportation.
Certainly adding up or replacing autos on the streets would create more competition which would in theory lead to lower rates. But, since rates are fixed by meter, the the only thing that a user can aspire to is that at least the drivers really start to USE this meter… in this case drivers wouldn´t have to worry about competition and I can assure them that “business will be there…”