BENGALURU: AFTER spending two hours of countless frantic attempts at booking a cab through an app-based service to go for a meeting on Saturday morning, Shahana K, finally gave up. A resident of Shantinagar, Shahana had used three taxi providers’ services to get to MG Road and none worked.
One of the cab providers had even confirmed her ride, but later called to say the drive must be cancelled due to traffic. Shahana’s is not an isolated case. Ever since the Karnataka government imposed a ban on surge pricing, commuters are finding it next-to-impossible to book app-based cabs during peak hours.
While Ola refused to comment, Uber admitted that surge pricing was to blame for unavailability of cabs. “Pursuant with the Karnataka High Court orders, Uber has turned off surge pricing in Bengaluru. With no surge pricing, the availability of cabs has become unreliable. The unfulfilled rate (percentage of riders not getting a cab when they request for it) has gone up from 3% earlier when surge was applicable to about 40% now.
“Lack of surge pricing discourages drivers from doing trips during rains and other periods of peak demand,” an Uber spokesperson said.
“Cabs were always available and the fare is also affordable as compared to auto-rickshaws. But now it is really impossible to get a cab, especially during peak hours after the ban on surge-pricing,” said Shahana. She said the government should first take action against errant auto drivers before cracking down on cab operators.
“Many auto-drivers are arrogant and refuse to come for short journeys. Commuters are left in the lurch because of the government’s ban on surge pricing.”
About 50,000 taxis in Bengaluru are affiliated with Uber and Ola. Some cab drivers say it takes longer to reach the pick-up point, especially during peak hours. “It’s not feasible to ply during peak hours without additional incentives, because of heavy traffic,” said an Ola driver, who has stopped accepting requests via apps during peak hours.
Radhakrishna Holla, president of Bangalore Tourist Taxi Owners’ Association, who opposes app-based cab services, say commuters should depend on public transport like buses. “Traditional cab owners don’t have any plan to come up with a mobile- based application as it is not feasible for us. But they can book us in advance with a phone call”.
State transport commissioner Rame Gowda said private cabs are creating artificial shortage to divert the attention. “We are not seizing vehicles of these app-based taxi operators because of the interim order of High Court. The app-based taxi operators have been fleecing customers in the name of surge pricing.”
According to Karnataka On-demand Transportation Technology Aggregator Rules, 2016, a licence is mandatory for cab aggregators that have a minimum fleet strength of 100 and a maximum of 15,000 cabs. However, the transport department has granted licences to only 100 cars of Ola after inspections. It has received applications from five operators, including Uber.
According to the new rules, cab operators can charge only `19.50 a km for an AC car and `14.50/km for non-AC vehicles. The new rules also curb surge pricing and mandates cabs to have GPS or GPRS-enabled monitoring system, fare meters and panic buttons.