The last leg gets tougher

The last leg gets tougher

Since the functional stretch of the Bangalore Metro is so limited, there are very few citizens who can depend on it for the entirety of their commute. Capitalising on this fact, autorickshaw drivers in the City now group in makeshift stands around the stations on the MG Road-Byapanahalli line, charging exorbitant fares for the shortest of distances. This problem is somewhat eased around the MG Road station, since rickshaws aren’t allowed on the stretch of road immediately in front of it. Besides this, there’s a prepaid auto stand right opposite. But commuters face problems on a daily basis at stations like Ulsoor, Indiranagar and Byapanahalli, complaining that the last leg of their journey is generally the most stressful.

This is the same policy that autorickshaw drivers employ outside crowded public spaces, like malls, movie theatres and even tech-parks. “They know that there’s going to be a crowd and they won’t have a tough time getting passengers,” says Raghav, a professional. He works in Whitefield and frequently takes the Metro to and from Byapanahalli, where he says that the problem is common. “Besides, when there is a group of autorickshaw drivers and all of them are quoting increasingly ridiculous fares, commuters generally don’t have a choice. There’s very little room to bargain when it comes to pack mentality. It’s exactly what happens outside large office complexes and tech-parks — the rickshaw drivers are convinced that they can get away with any price they choose to demand.”

This is especially the case during peak hours, when commuters are in a rush and don’t have the time to bargain. “I frequently experience this problem at the Ulsoor Metro station,” says PLN Murthy, a taekwondo instructor. The general perception is that autorickshaw drivers fleece outsiders, taking advantage of the fact that they don’t know much about the routes in the City. But Murthy has a different opinion — he feels that Bangaloreans are equally harassed during their daily commute to work.

“Despite being a localite, I still face issues. The autorickshaw drivers charge random fares and the question of putting the meter on never arises,” he adds. He’s quick to mention, though, that there are some exceptions to the rule. “Not all autorickshaw drivers are this thoughtless — some of them insist on plying only by meter. Unfortunately, they are a minority.”

Srinidhi, a student, has also faced this problem. In fact, he says that it isn’t restricted to peak hours. “I’ve faced this problem at night as well. My family and I were trying to get an autorickshaw outside one of the Metro stations and all of them were asking for double the fare. People are generally in a hurry after disembarking from the Metro and the drivers take advantage of this. It’s also a huge problem for tourists and other visitors to the City,” he says.

Sharanya, a freelance writer who frequents Bangalore because she has family here, believes that increased police presence outside the Metro stations would make a difference. “Commuters don’t have a problem in front of the MG Road station because there’s a prepaid stand there. This is especially helpful since the area is a hotspot for tourists, who want to shop or try out eateries on Brigade Road — many of them aren’t aware of the routes and rates in the City. If more such stands were to be set up, it would definitely make a difference to commuters,” she concludes.

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