My Conversations with "Aam aadmi"
Since I don't have a car, I use autos to get around. These are the times when I'm either haggling over the fare or preaching about the necessity of lane-driving or when I've given up on both, wondering whether traffic lights add or take away chaos to our already chaotic lives.
But sometimes I travel in autos with drivers who have interesting and insightful observations that would put the best of our policy makers and bureaucrats to shame. One such driver insisted that despite the Metro Rail's intention to reduce traffic on the roads, auto drivers have not experienced a decline in passengers; definitely not near metro stations or on those routes. He reasoned that while the metro may make economic sense for a single commuter or even two, it is not so for three or four commuters . He said that since a ticket costs anywhere between Rs. 10 to 15 it is usually more expensive for 3 commuters. Further, since one had to either walk to the station or take an auto or cycle rickshaw there was an added cost.
Moreover, it is "inconvenient" to have your luggage checked at the metro station. Surely those taking the metro to the inter-city railway stations for outbound trains could be expected to carry more than a briefcase or a purse. As if all this weren't dissuasive enough, one finds that not all stations are equipped with escalators and parking facilities are practically non-existent.
Does all this imply that a public transport facility that is meant to cater to the masses actually does not experience economies of scale? Not really. I would be ignoring the dimensions of time and distance if I agreed to the well-reasoning auto driver.
The fares that he quoted would hold for short distances but not for long journeys like from Rohini to Central Secretariat, not to mention the time it would take for the auto to make the same journey. Once the metro is completed it will connect Delhi with all its suburbs and benefit the thousands who commute to Delhi for work. Moreover, parking is planned for two-wheelers, the owners of which are being targetted to use the metro system. As regards luggage, it is expected that the daily commuters would be mainly those commuting to and from work.
One will have to wait and watch if this policy decision withstands the laws and assumptions of simple economics or does economics, once again, not reflect the real world.