UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Regulating the last mile : paratransit in Delhi Harding, Simon


Paratransit plays a vital role in cities in the Global South, including India. Paratransit modes - those which lack a fixed route and timetable - perform trips impractical or impossible on mass transit and, in Delhi, increasingly provide feeder services to the city’s metro rail and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems. Despite their critical role in the urban transit ecosystem in Indian cities, paratransit operators have a poor reputation amongst the middle-classes and the English-language media for overcharging passengers and flouting regulations. In response, the current policy approach to paratransit regulation is marked by judicial and technical interventions. These are seldom empirically driven, and often represent a relative neglect of the paratransit sector. This study aims to correct this neglect by providing a detailed empirical account of paratransit operations and the regulatory environment in Delhi. It makes the case that paratransit is a vital last mile mode, and that evidence based regulation of paratransit modes is critical to improving public transport in Indian cities. This study does this by analyzing existing paratransit regulation and demonstrating that the current approach involves a heavy burden of compliance that inflates costs for operators. It then presents an empirical analysis of the economics of operating an auto-rickshaw using a survey of drivers (n=301). It finds that overcharging may be explained by the structure of operators’ costs and revenues. A survey of passengers (n=689) provides data for a series of statistical models, which suggests that the incidence and magnitude of overcharging are explained by the economics of auto-rickshaw trip making and associated with such variables as trip distance and the location of the destination. It then seeks to explain the rise of battery-rickshaws as a mode paratransit in the city and the lessons provided by their sudden proliferation. A fieldwork survey of drivers (n=302) provides data on their role and operating economics. A passenger survey (n=540) finds battery-rickshaws are largely replacing cycle-rickshaws. This case study sheds light on the environment in which urban transportation policy decisions are made. The study concludes by presenting some policy recommendations for paratransit in Delhi.

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