September 30, 2007

Auto Rickshaws

My primary mode of transportation for intracity travel was the venerable auto rickshaw. Predominantly sporting an yellow and black paint job, these vehicles occupy an unique niche between private vehicles and public transportation. The peculiar shape and sturdy frame allows for it to navigate through dense traffic and diverse terrain without a care in the world. Auto rickshaw drivers are an interesting lot. Their driving skills are usually exceptional, allowing them to maneuver their three-wheeled vehicles through the most treacherous of road conditions. Their business ethics however, are suspect.

Officially only two ways to obtain a fare should be available – prepaid according to some standardized distance chart or according to the untampered meter which is to start running at the precise moment that the journey commences. In reality, it comes down to negotiating a price somewhere above what the actual rate should be. According to them, wherever you are going is either too far or too near, so you have to pay extra for the added effort or sacrifice.

Your destination will also be deserted even if it is the heart of a city with over 5 million people in it. They will have to drive back empty exactly to the point where you were picked up, so that means double the fare on the meter should be paid. If you want to accompany them on this return journey though, the fare again doubles. If it rains (August – November) or gets dark (after 6pm), 1.5 times the meter should be paid due to the personal anguish and physical stress placed upon them during these difficult times. If there is a traffic jam that means they will have to wait idly by without making much headway towards your destination. This will cause them to lose potential customers, so additional financial incentive should be provided.

Only 3 passengers and a driver are allowed by law unless extra moneys are provided. No change will be carried by the rickshaw driver at any time of the day or night, so the fare must be rounded up. Vehicles should only be refueled once a passenger is on board and not during the times when no passenger is present. Tea/coffee/toilet breaks and visits to shops/homes are permissible, but only for the driver. The meter may quite frequently be broken, too slow/fast, completely missing, or a figment of your imagination, so the charge will be greater.