A workshop by Chennai City Connect and EMBARQ India
Photo: Akshay Mani / EMBARQ India
August 27th 2012 | Chennai: EMBARQ India participated in a workshop in Chennai on Friday, August 24th, 2012 organised by Chennai City Connect, on promoting policy reforms and innovations in Chennai’s auto-rickshaw sector. EMBARQ India partner, Nirmal Kumar, founder of G-Auto service in cities in Gujarat, and Padmasree Harish, founder of Easy Auto service in Patna and Bangalore, were also at the workshop to showcase their initiatives to officials in Chennai.
The objective of the workshop was to bring together interested stakeholders from the government, civil society, and the private sector to discuss the current challenges facing Chennai’s auto-rickshaw service, and opportunities for reforms in policy as well as in the implementation of innovative ground-level projects.
The workshop had two sessions:
• The first session was held at the Transport Commissionerate of Tamil Nadu at Ezhilagam Building, Chepauk. It was attended by the Transport Commissioner Mr. T. Prabhakara Rao, and his team comprising of Joint Transport Commissioner, and Assistant Transport Commissioners from various parts of Tamil Nadu.
• The second session was with the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) officials at the State Crime Records Bureau (SCRB) in Santhome. The key participants included the Additional Police Commissioner – Traffic, Transport Commissioner, Chief Planner of Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), Managing Director of Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL), Chief Engineer, Highways, Tamil Nadu, Joint Commissioner, Corporation of Chennai, Managing Director of Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC), and ITDP.
Balchand Parayath, Chief Executive Officer of Chennai City Connect, set the context for the first session, highlighting the focus areas of the session.
Akshay Mani, Project Manager – Urban Transport, EMBARQ India gave a presentation, focusing on three important areas – fare policy and approaches for fare estimation for auto-rickshaw services; permit policy options and considerations; and a case study of innovations in the auto-rickshaw sector across India. This was followed by presentations from Nirmal Kumar about G-Auto service, and from Padmasree Harish about Easy Auto service. These entrepreneurs highlighted their initiatives and discussed how their services are resulting in triple-bottom line benefits for passengers, drivers, and their cities as a whole. A key aspect that was discussed was the role of the government in enabling the implementation and scaling up of these services, through the right policy and institutional set up.
The key outcomes of this session in terms of priority areas for reforms included the following:
• Need for fare policy reforms in Tamil Nadu that address the current problems with fares and rampant overcharging of passengers
• Need for permit policy reforms at the State level, to address the current issues with high permit costs, and their impacts of economics and quality of service, as well as permit reforms that can usher in the implementation of organized fleet auto-rickshaw services.
The second session with CUMTA officials was inaugurated by Raj Cherubal, Director – Projects, Chennai City Connect, who spoke about the objectives of the session. This session’s primary focus was on how CUMTA members can work together to promote ground-level improvements in auto-rickshaw service in Chennai, such as entrepreneurship initiatives, infrastructure for auto-rickshaws, and regularisation and seamless integration of share-auto services in the city.
Akshay Mani presented some examples of entrepreneurship initiatives from other cities, including fleet auto-rickshaw services, smart-technology entrepreneurs, and advertising, which are not only improving the experience and quality of service for passengers, but also providing additional earnings for drivers, through revenue-sharing mechanisms. He highlighted how private businesses and market driver innovations, with support from the government, are bringing about significant improvements in auto-rickshaw service in many cities.
Akshay also spoke about the issue of share-autos in the city, such as the prevalence of these services as a result of gaps in public transport, their lack of regulation and poor infrastructure, and issues around safety. One area of interest that was expressed by the participants was the opportunity for seamless integration of share-auto services as feeder modes with mass transport projects such as the Metro rail.
The session ended with closing remarks from Additional Commissioner of Police – Traffic, who spoke about the need for CUMTA officials to work together to promote innovations in the auto-rickshaw service in Chennai, as has been seen in other cities. The three important areas that were highlighted as immediate priorities included i) promoting organised fleet auto-rickshaw service in Chennai, which address the current issues with the unorganised sector, ii) enhancing infrastructure for auto-rickshaws throughout the city, and iii) studying the current situation with share-autos and identification of the best way forward to account for these services, with the larger objective of achieving a high quality integrated public transport system for Chennai.
Chennai City Connect, with its local presence and strong stakeholder partnerships, will be taking the lead in carrying forward the priority areas identified in the workshop, to promote the role of auto-rickshaws as an important part of the urban transport system in Chennai.