Revitalizing Namma Metro’s Last-Mile Connectivity: An Alternative Approach



**Metro Mitra: The Potential Solution to Bengaluru’s Auto Woes**

Bengaluru, the bustling city known for its traffic congestion and lack of efficient last-mile connectivity, has long been searching for a solution to its auto-rickshaw problem. While autorickshaws should be the ideal mode of transport for short distances, the absence of an effective price regulatory system has resulted in inflated fares and a surge in private vehicles. But could Metro Mitra, an upcoming app developed in partnership with the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL), finally reverse this decline?

The Metro Mitra app promises to be a revolutionary game-changer, designed exclusively for Metro users. Unlike other failed initiatives in the past, Metro Mitra aims to tackle the public’s distrust by providing a reliable and accessible system. Commuters, tired of the inaccessibility and frequent cancellations by autos attached to aggregator platforms, are eagerly awaiting a solution that actually works.

One of the primary issues plaguing the current system is the disarray at prepaid auto-rickshaw stands in many Metro Stations. Despite the presence of inflated rate cards, vehicles are often unavailable, and the counters are poorly staffed or closed. This situation forces commuters to engage in hard bargaining and often pay hefty fares. Additionally, during peak hours, the waiting time for an Uber or Ola can be frustratingly long.

However, Metro Mitra aims to address these challenges by operating exclusively from Metro Stations and extending its services to all existing stations across the city. To entice commuters who have long suffered at the hands of the auto-rickshaw system, the app will strictly follow the government’s meter fare model with an additional flat fare charge of ₹10. This additional charge will cover pick-up and technology-related expenses.

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The lack of inter-modal connectivity at several Metro Phase I stations has been a significant hurdle for commuters. Designated BMTC bus bays are a rarity, making it difficult for passengers to transfer easily between different modes of transport. Metro Mitra plans to rectify this issue by creating designated “Metro Mitra Zones” for auto drivers in close proximity to the Metro stations. The aim is to establish these zones at all existing stations across the city. By following the government’s meter fare model, Metro Mitra hopes to provide a reliable and affordable last-mile connectivity solution.

So, how does Metro Mitra work? Commuters can book an auto ride while purchasing a Metro ticket through the BMRCL app or its WhatsApp chatbot feature. After entering the destination in the app, an estimated fare is displayed. Once the booking is confirmed, the commuter receives a one-time password (OTP) along with other details about the ride. The app uses the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) model to facilitate these transactions seamlessly.

One of the significant contributors to public discontent with the current ecosystem is the behavior of auto-rickshaw drivers. According to Sampath C., General Secretary of the Adarsh Auto Drivers’ Union, the fault also lies with the driving schools and Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) that fail to educate drivers about the rules and regulations. During the 30-day period between obtaining a learner’s license and a driving license, drivers should be explicitly informed of their responsibilities when offering public service. However, this crucial information is often neglected, resulting in drivers disregarding basic rules such as not overcharging beyond stipulated time limits or taking more than three passengers.

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The Transport Department does have a functioning training program for drivers of heavy vehicles, wherein they receive a day-long training session before being issued a license. Sampath suggests that a similar approach should be adopted for auto-rickshaw drivers. He believes that conducting awareness drives and providing training sessions to auto-rickshaw drivers could alleviate nearly 70% of the existing problems. By injecting professionalism and imparting proper values and etiquette to the drivers, Metro Mitra aims to make a significant difference.

The beta launch of Metro Mitra, which involved around 50-60 daily rides, has already garnered a positive response from commuters. People are pleasantly surprised that drivers are adhering to meter rates, providing a sense of reliability that has been missing for a long time. The creation of Metro Mitra Zones, defined by the drivers themselves, ensures that rides within the zone are not canceled, providing commuters with a more dependable last-mile connectivity option.

Despite its potential, Metro Mitra faced a setback during its beta launch in Jayanagar. A section of the Auto Rickshaw Drivers Union (ARDU) objected to their association with the app, leading to the dissociation of the app from any union. Nonetheless, the platform plans to extend its functionality to 25 Metro stations by March 2024. The current beta-launch covers parts of R.V. Metro, Jayanagar, Nagasandra, and Hosahalli stations, operating discreetly to avoid conflicts.

The success of Metro Mitra ultimately depends on its reliability and sustainability. Currently, the geographical boundaries of the app are determined by the drivers themselves, known as the “zone.” When a commuter scans for available rides, they only see options within their specific zone. As data accumulates regarding the number of trips within and outside the zone, drivers can decide whether to expand the radius of their zones to attract more rides. This data-driven, driver-determined approach may hold the key to resolving the problems faced by Bengaluru’s frustrated auto commuters. Additionally, by collaborating with BMTC bus stops and the transport corporation, Metro Mitra could potentially transform the city’s transportation landscape on a grand scale.

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The successful Namma Yatri ecosystem, introduced less than a year ago, provides hope for the future of Metro Mitra. Namma Yatri, a driver-centric app that charges no commission, has already facilitated over 1.03 crore completed trips and recorded over ₹150 crore in driver earnings. With nearly 20 lakh registered users, it has proven that an alternative to the big aggregators is viable.

As Bengaluru continues to grapple with its auto-rickshaw problem, Metro Mitra presents itself as a potential solution. With its focus on reliability, adherence to meter rates, and creation of designated zones, Metro Mitra aims to revolutionize last-mile connectivity for Metro users. By addressing the shortcomings of the current system and instilling professionalism in drivers, Metro Mitra could alleviate the frustrations of Bengaluru’s harried commuters. If successful, it could pave the way for a true game-changer in the city’s transportation network.



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