What a commuter wants…

… is a reliable means of transport to get them from point A to point B. Of course, it helps if the commute is pocket friendly, comfortable and fast. While taxis & autos in Mumbai adhere to the fare meters (unlike certain other metros), refusal is a universal problem shared by all commuters irrespective of the availability. The first generation of private cab services like Meru, TabCab, EasyCab did try to sort out this problem to an extent, but never managed to have enough cabs available or offer fares competitive with kaali-peelis or autos (AC notwithstanding).

Ola also jumped into this space following in Meru’s footsteps before significantly restructuring their pricing model upon Uber’s entry. These 2 taxi service aggregators reached near kaali peeli fare levels and offered a much more reliable (read disincentivised refusals) and more readily available service. In fact, Ola even tried to get kaali peelis on their app, but the effort seems to have fizzled out after a promising start.

The rest of the script is also playing out just like in the rest of the world and even a city like Mumbai, the so called commercial capital of India, has witnessed 2 taxi strikes within a couple of months. While the first strike was accompanied by Mumbai commuters discovering the basic Economics concept of supply and demand thanks to the Uber surge pricing, the second one has shown how disabling surge pricing makes life difficult and reduces the availability of cabs. Either way, the commuter has gotten the wrong end of the stick.

I just hope that we find a better solution than the other countries to this whole standoff between the incumbents and upstarts. Too bad the kaali peelis and autos don’t think of adopting a no refusal policy – something that’d get Ola and Uber in real trouble.

Forget Uber, here’s Ola kaali peeli

As an office goer in Mumbai, who commutes by taxis, I’ve had my fair share of trip refusals and ended waiting for upto am hour to get a willing cab. The recently launched Ola Cabs feature of hailing a good old kaali peeli in Mumbai has been a real time and hassle saver for me this past week. I’ve used it 3-4 times already & the experience has been quite smooth. Hope it flourishes from here as it solves problems for both the commuter and the taxi driver. Just hope that it doesn’t run afoul of regulators and unions.

One caveat of you’re using their windows phone app which doesn’t seem to have this feature yet.


Taking the New Bhakti Park-Dockyard Eastern Expressway

I tried the recently opened Eastern Freeway in Mumbai to get to office today, and ended up covering the first 10 km in less than 10 minutes. The remaining 8 km took over 20 min, thus taking the same amount of time to get to office (Cadbury House) as my usual route via Lalbagh. The taxi fare came to Rs 225 vs the usual Rs 175.

The entry\exit for both the flyovers is at the end of Bhakti Park, behind the Odyessey building. Here’s the route in detail (from Bhakti Park to Mahalaxmi Temple) captured via the My Tracks Android app synced to Google Drive.

Not going to change my regular route for this, but it is definitely a quick way to get to CST or Colaba. This possibly makes CST closer to Bhakti Park, Chembur & Vashi (via the extended expressway) than Dadar in terms of the time taken. CST should take 15-20 min at most via this route from Bhakti Park & Chembur.

For how to embed Google maps in a wordpress blog, checkout: Google Maps — Support — WordPress.com.

You Pay More in Mechanical Metered Taxis

I’ve been doing quite a bit of travelling in taxis in Mumbai over the last 4-5 months, and one of the interesting things I noticed that the fares on the taxis with mechanical meters usually comes out higher than taxis with digital ones. This is especially true when there is a significant amount of waiting time due to heavy traffic. Here’s my theory on why this is so:

Faulty waiting time calibration on mechanical meters

On mechanical meters, we use a reference chart to convert the meter reading to the appropriate fare. All this was fine when the meters came out originally many years back and the meters were calibrated for a particular waiting fare rate. However, after several fare hikes that just raised the rate per km & not the waiting time rates, this calibration has become erroneous.

An example is in order to explain this. Say, initially 1.00 on the meter meant Rs 10 (per km) and 0.10 on the meter corresponded to 2 min waiting time at the rate of Rs 0.50/min (effectively meaning that for every 0.10 you pay Re 1, i.e., the same as the per km rate). Here, we have a uniform multiplication factor of 10 for both distance and waiting time.

Now, let’s say that there have a series of revisions and the rate per km has doubled, but the waiting rate is still the same. So, we should have 1.00 on the meter corresponding to Rs 20 (per km) as the distance rate, while 0.10 still signifies a 2 min waiting time at the rate of Rs 0.50/min. Therefore, the multiplication factors are now different for distance (20) and waiting time (still 10).

However, the fare charts are created only keeping the distance fares in mind, due to which you have the following scenario: For a trip of 2 km with a waiting time of 10 mins, the meter will read 2.50 (2×1.00 + 10×0.50×0.10) for both old and new rates.

  • As per the initial rates, the fare would be Rs 25 (meter: 2.50×10 or rate breakup: 2×10 + 10×0.50)
  • For the new rates, the actual fare should be Rs 45 (2×20 + 10×0.50)
  • However, the new rate chart prepared would have only factored the increase in per km rates and would suggest a uniform multiplication factor of 20 for the meter reading, due to which you would end up paying Rs 50 (2.50×20)

Long live digital meters?

In the case of digital meters, they are recalibrated (at least in Mumbai, but not so much in Kolkata due to which the same problem exists) for the new fares without changing the waiting rates. Due to this you end up paying the actual fare (Rs 45 from the example above) when you use a taxi with a digital meter.

Of course, if the driver forgets to wind his mechanical meter before your trip, you end up avoiding the waiting charges altogether which gives you the lowest possible fare. So, I guess there’s a flip side to the whole mechanical vs. digital meter argument.