Regularisation of fares for conventional autorickshaws has had implications for those functioning illegally as share autos.

The recent drive to screen autorickshaws and fine those not using their meters or the revised rate cards, has resulted in many of these illegal vehicles getting impounded.

The city has around 3,500 illegal share autos, some of which brazenly flout accepted definitions of share autos but continue to ply due to their popularity among commuters. But their time seems to be running out. The transport department plans a special drive to bring all of them into line with accepted norms.  

“These vehicles are not share autos. They are permitted to carry only three passengers, but carry six. We are going to regulate them. This apart, there are 10,000 Tata Magic vehicles. The charge against them is also overloading,” said T. Prabhakara Rao, principal secretary and transport commissioner.

The decision has been partly shaped by the demand for a level-playing field from conventional autorickshaw drivers. In response to an outcry, the transport department has already cracked down on many Ape Piaggio and Tata Magic vehicles that function illegally as share autos. Around Tambaram, these vehicles operate primarily on three routes – to Mannivakkam, Chromepet and Perungalathur.

The majority of these vehicles used to operate in north Chennai, until they were shunted out of the circuit. Following protests by auto drivers’ associations, their numbers have dwindled in Vysarpadi, Moolakadai and Washermenpet

“Now, most of these share autos operate in south Chennai,” said J. Seshasayanam, general secretary, Madras Metro Auto Drivers Association.

While Ape Piaggio and Tata Magic share autos run afoul of the rule book by overloading, they seemed to be redeemed by public opinion.

“Share autos, including Tata Magic vehicles, fill a gap in the transportation system and lakhs of people depend on them daily. We need more of them and they need to be rationalised as soon as possible. Necessary changes in the rules should also be made so they can function legally,” said Raj Cherubal of NGO Chennai City Connnect.   

S. Elumalai, president of Chennai and Suburbs Share Auto Tholilalar Sangam, said share autos are a boon and pointed to the smooth functioning of 197 authorised share autos. The areas covered by these vehicles include Anna Nagar, LIC, T. Nagar, DMS, Guindy, Porur, Adyar and ECR.  

He also stressed the need for a comprehensive study by the government to make optimum use of the share auto system in more areas.

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