Thursday, August 12, 2010

The commuter strikes back

The commuter strikes back
Chethan Kumar Bangalore, Aug 11, DHNS

The recent hike in auto fares in the City has not gone down well with the commuters. No longer able to afford the high cost, many regular commuters are switching over to the alternative means of transport, mainly BMTC buses.

Even as there are several alternatives that the commuters have taken to, like transport pooling, using office transport, travelling with friends (more during the weekends) et al, BMTC seems to be the chief beneficiary with the majority of commuters stating that their preferred alternative is a bus.

Fed up with the rigged meters, unruly drivers, inefficient policemen, and other factors that make an auto journey in the City an unpleasant, high cost exercise, the latest fare hike was the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. The fare hike, won so easily by the drivers, may yet turn out to be a pyrrhic victory.

Says Natasha, a student from Bishop Cottons College who stays in Cook Town: “I’ve decided to leave home early on all days so that I can avoid taking an auto.” She says she used to take autos despite the less-than-polite behaviour of the drivers and their tendency to charge more than the fare on the meter. “But the fare hike was the tipping point,” she says.

Drivers too seem to be realising, ruefully, that their unions’ strong push for revision of fare hike may have backfired on them. Some auto drivers say that following the latest fare revision, many people have chosen to travel less by the three-wheeler and more by buses.

Driver Venkatesh J says: “The number of passengers taking my auto has come down by at least 30 per cent since August 1 and at nights I’m forced to go to areas that aren’t on my way back home in order to make up for the lull.”

Aditya, an IT firm employee says: “It’s time we made the auto drivers dependant on us and the best way to do it is by boycotting them unless it is unavoidable.”

“One day the distance between Frazer Town and Jeevan Bimanagar is 5.8 km and on another, in a different auto, is about 6.3 km and it even goes upto 7 on somedays.”

Driver Jagan concedes that his brethren are not entirely clean. “On the one hand passengers have to pay more than before and on the other the meters are rigged, drivers charge more than the rates, so such reactions are expected...”

He, however, expressed disappointment that people like him, ‘who are honest’ have to bear the brunt of wrongdoings of some drivers.

Support for ‘Meter Jam’

Bangalore, DHNS: ‘Meter Jam,’ the online campaign against refusal to drop at sought destinations and overcharging by autorickshaw and taxi drivers, which was started in Mumbai has been gaining momentum in the last week with Bangaloreans and Delhites also joining the one-day boycott of autos and taxis on Thursday.
Owing to the increased support for the campaign, the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has decided to make best use of the occasion by supporting the cause and plying additional buses in the City on Thursday.
The BMTC said that it will operate additional buses by pressing its spare fleet into service.
The campaign started in Mumbai has been posted in web portals like meterjam.com, Twitter and Facebook, where harried passengers have given several suggestions and responses.
In fact, some of them from Bangalore have suggested that this become a once-a-month affair like BMTC’s Bus Day.
If the suggestions are treated seriously by supporters it is expected to boost BMTC by wooing more people travel by bus.

It’s temporary, say unions

Bangalore, dhns: Even as many autorickshaw drivers admit that people are using alternative transport for autorickshaws, auto unions and some drivers in the City say it is a temporary phenomena.

They say that they’ve seen similar reactions from people every time the auto fares are hiked and that people will soon start using autos again. They add that the number of people refraining from using autos are also not too great in number.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Auto Rickshaw Drivers’ Union (ARDU) Working President Srinivas Murthy said: “This is a temporary phenomena, which will be sorted out once the process of recallibrating the meters is complete.”

However, not too many commuters seem to agree with this. Brunda N, a housewife, says: “It is not going to be temporary. The prices have gone up and still these men overcharge all the time. People will use other means of transport and if it is going to work well then why should we go back to autos.”

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