Bengaluru

Are app-based taxi services losing patronage in city?

Commuters argue that almost all platforms are ‘inaccessible’ when it comes to redressal of problems faced.

Commuters argue that almost all platforms are ‘inaccessible’ when it comes to redressal of problems faced.  

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Frustrated with uncertain service, many are going back to other modes of transport

When app-based ride-hailing start-ups like Uber and Ola drove into Bengaluru, they brought the promise of guaranteed rides with minimum fuss. However, the honeymoon period appears to be on the wane with an increasing number of users complaining of high fares, unavailability of taxis and autorickshaws during peak hours or when it rains, and especially dropped rides. The last of these was one of the reasons why commuters shifted from autorickshaws to these apps.

Frustrated with the uncertainty of the service, riders are going back to other modes of transport, including their own cars, public transport or car-pooling with friends, colleagues, neighbours, etc.

Many users The Hindu spoke to said they were frustrated with the long waiting time, the rising number of ride denials and cancellations by drivers and unreasonable spikes in fares. “These platforms are no longer a reliable option for commuting in the city,” said Suman Joshi, a senior IT professional, who embraced shared mobility a few years ago after selling her car.

Another commuter, Sudarshan Kumar, said he was disillusioned with the service provided, as almost all platforms are ‘inaccessible’ when it comes to redressal of such issues. He recalled an experience that left a bad taste. “When I was trying to book a cab once, the app booked two cabs against my name. Only one turned up and I took the ride. But I was charged a cancellation fee towards the erroneous booking. I've asked for a refund, but the company denied it,” he said.

Kavery Hedge, a homemaker, had a similar experience, “Riders are short-changed and taken for a ride. Rides are often cancelled after a wait of 20 plus minutes. They are unduly levied cancellation charges even when the drivers are cancelling rides. Uber doesn’t even have a customer redressal forum. Their app-based feedback system is a mockery.”'

Drivers unhappy

Driver partners on these apps, too, are unhappy as their earnings are shrinking month after month. They say it is impossible to clock as many trips in a week as stipulated by cab aggregators in a traffic-choked city and earn profits.

Gunentu Sarkar, a driver with once of the aggregarors, said, “ earnings have dropped by ₹500 to ₹1000 a day. The city is so congested and some days I am able to do only three or four rides. I try my best to stay away from rides to BTM Layout, Silk Board, Electronic City, Whitefield, etc.”

Ravi Kumar, another driver, said his earnings have been dwindling in the last few months. “I used to earn up to ₹70,000 a month three years ago, now I don’t even make a half of this,” he said.

Fare cap

In January 2018, the Transport Department had notified maximum and minimum fare slabs for taxis operated by aggregators in the city. These were fixed depending on the cost of the vehicle.

For example, for class ‘D’ category vehicles (below ₹5 lakh), passengers had to shell out ₹44 for the first four km, after which the per km fare ranged from a minimum of ₹11 to a maximum of ₹22.

Cab drivers had opposed this decision stating the move could only benefit the aggregator, not the drivers or the passengers. On many occasions, they demanded that the department repeal the fare order. Many passengers also said the slabs brought little relief to them.

As per an Uber study, the State-introduced fare cap mechanism has broken down the economic viability of the shared mobility model by bringing down the net earnings of its driver partners in Bengaluru by 20%, compared to drivers in other cities.

Prabhjeet Singh, director, business operations, India and South Asia, Uber, says, “We believe free market dynamic pricing which allows fares to move up and down down freely without a fare cap is the best answer for a sustainable shared mobility market place.” He adds, “Dynamic pricing is ideal for riders and drivers as it keeps prices competitive for all.''

The cap regime has created a vicious circle. The reduced driver earnings are resulting in huge supply shortage and this scenario in turn has been killing demand for cabs, he added.

Home-grown ride company, Ola, however, refused to comment when asked to share their experience under the fare cap regime.

Drop in registration

Drivers say that as the revenue is falling over the years, the number of people running taxis has also come down. The registration of taxis in the city has fallen for the consecutive second year. Taxi registration dropped for the first time in in 2017-18 with 16,595 vehicles. The downward trend continued in 2018-19 with registration of 16,274 taxis.

Another driver Rajashekara said, “Due to poor revenue, high target fixed by the aggregators, growing traffic and high operational cost, many drivers have shifted to other work. I know many people who could not repay bank loans and their vehicles were seized.”

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 8:17:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/are-app-based-taxi-services-losing-patronage-in-city/article29560536.ece

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