Uber, the well known San Francisco, CA based taxi dispatch company has recently announced that it will start a two wheeler taxi service in Bangkok, Thailand. According to their press release, they are aiming UberMOTO, as the service is called, in cities where the traffic congestion is severe. This made me wonder if Uber or a similar taxi dispatching company will start such a service in India.
Motorcycle taxis are ubiquitous in Bangkok (Thailand). One can readily recognize them by their bright orange jackets scurrying through heavy traffic. One can find them standing in queue in major bus stops and city transit stations. They charge a flat fee for transporting pillion riders from a pickup point to a drop off point. They are popular with office goers, shoppers and men as well as women, because they are inexpensive and quick; they surpass buses in speed and mobility.
Motorcycle taxis are popular in many other Asian cities such as Hanoi in Viet Nam, Phnom Penh in Cambodia, and Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in China. One common characteristic of cities where the motorcycle taxis are popular is heavy traffic congestion due to increased automobile ownership and poor city planning. This is no different than the situation in cities in India.
In fact, Goa Motorcycle Taxi Riders Association (GMTRA) started a motorcycle taxi service called Pilot, back in 1980. This has been a successful operation providing an inexpensive and safe mode of last mile connectivity to various locations in Goa. There were rumors that the State of Maharashtra may introduce similar motorcycle taxis. But, when an entrepreneur in Mumbai started a motorcycle taxi service, the Regional Transport Office shut down the operation within weeks due to licensing issues. While authorities were shutting down motorcycle taxis in Mumbai, a few start ups have focused their efforts in introducing app based motorcycle taxis in Gurgaon and in Bengaluru. Unfortunately, the Karnataka government has issued a warning stating that the motorcycle taxis are illegal since motorcycles are private vehicles and private vehicles can’t be used for commercial purposes.
There is an obvious void in the last mile connectivity in all the major cities in India and it needs to be addressed. Possible solutions can be Two-Wheeler taxis or Ride Share. This requires that the government, the regulators and the citizens work collectively and creatively and come up with a solution. Motorcycle taxis will solve the last mile connectivity problems and therefore all the stake holders must come up with new workable regulations and guidelines since there are no regulations and guidelines in place pertaining motorcycle taxis.
One major concern with motorcycle taxis is safety. Many cities in India do not require the pillion passenger to wear helmet. If one takes necessary safety steps and necessary motor vehicle insurance, motorcycle taxis are likely to fill a niche in Indian urban spaces.