Study finds auto-rickshaws a safe alternative to cars


EMBARQ India has launched its first publication, “Sustainable Urban Transport in India: Role of the Auto-Rickshaw Sector,” at Rickshaw Rising: An Auto-Rickshaw Entrepreneurship Summit in Mumbai.

Across India, auto-rickshaws make more than 229 million passenger trips per day. That number is expected to more than double to 482 million by 2031. The range runs from 15,000 to 30,000 vehicles in medium-sized cities (population between one and four million) to more than 50,000 in large cities (population greater than four million).

Now, the World Resources Institute and EMBARQ have released the most comprehensive report ever on auto-rickshaws.

The report, “Sustainable Urban Transport in India: Role of the Auto-rickshaw Sector,” by Akshay Mani, Madhav Pai and Rishi Aggarwal, examines the role auto-rickshaws play in promoting public transport usage and reducing private motor vehicle trips in cities. The report also provides a policy vision for the auto-rickshaw sector that improves sustainable urban transport in India.

The publication highlights the need for regulatory reforms to promote dispatch services and vehicle-related reforms to address emissions and road safety. Adopting these reforms is key to ensuring that auto-rickshaws contribute to a more efficient, clean and safe transport system.

“Given the current urban transport trends and challenges, such as rising emissions and road fatalities, there is a critical need to promote more sustainable transport options in India. Implementing the recommended reforms, such as promotion of fleet-based dispatch services and vehicle improvements, will be key to ensure that auto-rickshaws can serve as an effective alternative to private motor vehicles. These reforms are essential to mitigate the environmental and road safety challenges that currently exist in this sector,” said the report.

Here are some noteworthy points:

* Market size of auto-rickshaws varies from around 15,000 to 30,000 vehicles in Tier II cities (population between one and four million) to more than 50,000 in Tier I cities (population greater than four million). Mumbai has the largest market with around 150,000 auto-rickshaws.

* Auto-rickshaws serve 10-20 per cent of daily motorized road transport trips for people in Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune and Rajkot.

* Production of auto-rickshaws in India has doubled between 2003 and 2010.

* High concentration of particulate matter less than 10 microns (PM10) in Indian cities is a key public health issue. Auto-rickshaws running on two-stroke engines are a major contributor to PM10 emissions.

* Contrary to popular belief, auto-rickshaws are the second safest motorized mode of travel (after buses) for pedestrians, in terms of contribution to fatalities, in both Mumbai and Bangalore.

* However, safety of auto-rickshaw occupants is a key issue of concern, due to mixed-flow traffic conditions in Indian cities as well as current vehicle design aspects, which needs to be addressed urgently.

* Meanwhile, the population of Indian cities will grow from an estimated 340 million in 2008 to 590 million by 2030.