Sustainable Urban Transport in India: Role of the Auto-rickshaw Sector

This report addresses how the auto rickshaw sector can play a key role in improving sustainability for urban transport, and addresses negative perceptions of rickshaws. We also introduce new models of regulation and reforms that can be adopted for a more efficient and safer system and enable the rickshaw to have an optimal role in the transport mix.

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Executive Summary

As the demand for urban transport increases in India, so too does the popularity of the auto-rickshaw. Production of this type of motorized three-wheeler has doubled between 2003 and 2010. In major Indian cities, it is responsible for a significant share of motorized trips. Strategies to improve urban transport must include a policy vision for this increasingly important sector. To that end, this paper examines the role the auto-rickshaw sector can play in promoting sustainable urban transport in India. It develops a policy vision for this sector and presents recommendations on reforms to address sustainability challenges.

The Avoid-Shift-Improve (ASI) framework, one of the key approaches to promote sustainable urban transport, is the basis of this study. The ASI framework is based on three key strategies: (1) avoid unnecessary trips, (2) shift to more sustainable transport modes, and (3) improve performance in all modes (Dalkmann and Brannigan 2007). In assessing the role of the auto-rickshaw sector in promoting sustainable urban transport, this paper looks specifically at how auto-rickshaws can contribute to Shift and Improve strategies, using a two-pronged approach:

  • Examination of the role of the type of service (contract carriage) provided by auto-rickshaws in promoting sustainable urban transport, as part of the Shift strategy;
  • Assessment of the need for improvements in the type of vehicle (motorized three-wheeler) in the auto-rickshaw sector to promote sustainable urban transport, as part of the Improve strategy.

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