No magic in this decision for commuters

The Hindu reports today that the DMK government has decided to regularise the large number of ‘TATA Magic’ vans that have been plying as share vehicles in Chennai with political patronage for a few months now. At the very basic level, these vehicles provide a marginal addition to public transit capacity on highly skewed routes (only a few areas are legally open to any share operator, and these Magic vehicles lacked even those permits). The operators also charge non-standard rates, and issue no receipts.

More importantly they represent the change of policy at the top. The DMK government had said earlier this year that it would give permits for mini-buses to operate in Chennai, but has reneged on it. Instead, it has chosen to use the supply bottleneck to favour its partymen. This is a deplorable approach to transport planning and demand management. Quite simply, this political party remains rooted in its repressive, feudal and patronage-dispensing past, and has refused to evolve with the times to provide a more egalitarian, liberal and secular government.

It would have been useful if the DMK regime had taken the effort to improve capacity along well-established lines, to augment Chennai transport: Augmenting bus capacity in real terms along major arteries, introduced mini-buses for smaller roads, and para-transit to connect these in interior areas and rail/bus termini. There is nothing terribly imaginative about all this. Mumbai has been following this model for years, with a well-regulated autorickshaw feeder system the kind the DMK cannot even dream of.

Disappointingly, the newspaper piece did not discuss the wider implications of the TATA Magic operation in Chennai and confined itself to the narrow permit question.

(This piece in a companion blog, Digital Journo is about the DMK’s failure to respond to rising oil prices by augmenting public transport).

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