Why commuters find share autos essential, even as they function illegally

Share autos bridge the gap in Chennai's local commute as they ferry passengers to the areas that are not connected with any of the public transportation.

With Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS), Metrorail, Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) buses and suburban rail network, Chennai is one of the metros in the country that have a more efficient local public transport system.

However, rapid growth of commuters has led to the emergence of an illegal, parallel system in the form of share autos. The fact that 15,500 share autos ply on the city roads each day indicates how this form of private transportation is plugging the gaps in the public transport space.

This Citizen Matters series on share autos provides details on the emergence of share autos, problems faced by the commuters and share auto drivers and the need for streamlining this mode of transportation. The current story is an analysis of why share autos play such a crucial role in Chennai’s commute scene.

The white vans, Ape autos (to the left) and three-wheeler share autos. Pic: Laasya Shekhar

Soaring demand for share autos

Chennai has four types of share autos — the three-wheeler yellow auto rickshaws, four-wheeler yellow ones, white Tata Magic vans and Piaggio Ape auto rickshaws, says S Balasubramanian, general secretary, CITU auto association. Share Autos constitute the intermediate para transit sector that facilitates flexible passenger transportation, without following fixed routes and schedules under the public domain, as the definition at Centre for Public Policy Research states.

They are seen stationed outside most of the suburban rail, metro and MRTS stations, to support last mile connectivity.  Share autos compete with MTC buses head especially for short trips. Metro rail is no competition, because its high fares has meant it is still struggling to attract regular commuters.

We spoke to more than two dozen commuters and share auto drivers in routes dominated by share auto services, while the MTC provided data about the bus services plying on the parallel routes. Daily commuters can write to the department (promtc123@gmail.com), if any of the mentioned buses are not witnessed in the routes.

Share auto routes Buses plying  on the route  Total no of services each day
Vadapalani to Anna

Nagar junction

113, 121F, 121H, 170C, 170CET, 170K, 170KCT,

70, 70B, 70LCT, 70W, 77J, B70CT, D70, D70CT, D70ET, D70M, M170B

T Nagar to Anna Nagar 47D, 47DCT, A47 10
Retteri to CMBT 113, 114, 114C, 114CCT,

114D, 114E, 114ET, 114G, 114P, 114S, 121,

121A, 121C, 121D, 121F, 121G, 121H, 121M, 170C, 170CET, 170K, 170KCT, 514, 514ET, 58V, M170B

Sholinganallur to Thiruvanmiyur 102A, 102CT, 523,

523A, 95, 99

Sholinganallur to


95, 95G, 95K, 99 70
Rajakadai (Tiruvottiyur)

to Parrys Corner

1, 101, 1B, 1C, 56J, 56P

56PET, C56C, C56CET, M56

Porur to Vadapalani 25G, 26, 26B, 26M, 37E, 37G, 37G*, 525, 538, 578A, 88A, M88, M88M 109
Vadapalani to Virugambakkam 12BET, 15F, 25G, 26, 26A, 26B, 26M, 26R, 37E, 37G, 37G*, 525, 538,

578A, 88A, M27, M88, M88M, S31

Kotturpuram to Guindy 21G, F54 35
Guindy to Tambaram 118A, 18A, 18M, 1B, 21G, B18, E18, G18 91
Tambaram to Camp Road 51A, 51K 51G, 51A Not known

Even though the above-mentioned routes are connected with MTC bus network, share autos are always full of commuters. The spokesperson of the MTC told Citizen Matters that the city has 3300 MTC and small buses used by 32 lakh commuters each day. The department has lost more than 7 lakh commuters to share autos and suburban rail, after the bus fare hike.

Fortunately for the department, the recent fuel hike and the slight increase in share auto fares has proved to be a blessing, as that has led to a slight switch to buses from share autos, said the spokesperson.

Share autos vs MTC buses

In all fairness, share autos play a critical role in the city’s transportation due to the following reasons*:

  • A majority of the above mentioned bus routes such as 113, 121F, 21G cover a distance of more than 25 km. This is a drawback for those who commute a short distance mid-route, as the buses are crowded with passengers from the origin points.
  • Poor frequency of the buses. 21G that connects Broadway to Vandalur zoo is rarely seen during the evenings. Buses from beach station and Vallalar Nagar bus stand are almost rare, and so, share autos are unavoidable.
  • Lack of proper bus shelters. For example, the absence of a roof at the Vadapalani bus stop is a factor of inconvenience to the commuters, especially senior citizens. Share autos are an easy call, in such cases.
  • Substandard, encroached footpaths are an indirect reason that discourage commuters to walk to the bus stop. Thus, share autos become the quick alternatives.
  • Poor quality of roads (maintained by Chennai Corporation) and far-off bus stops. MTC finds it difficult to run point to point routes at Central Station because of the one ways and diversions.
  • The fact that the commuters can board or get out of the share auto at any point on the route is an advantage.

A crowded 21G Bus. Pic: Laasya Shekhar

 What’s the way forward?

 Eight years ago, the state government passed the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) Act, which will regulate and integrate all forms of public transport through a single agency. Sadly the rules are yet to be notified

 In the next part in the series we will look at this and other approaches to formalise this sector.

*Based on conversations with Deepak Raghuraman, Lokesh Khannan, Sridhar Venkataraman, Prashanth Goutham, David Manohar, Rohini Aranyan on social media.


  1. k.krishnamurthy says:

    Everyone dos not want wait long time for short distance. Because of traffic problem buses can not come in time. If commuter does not know exact position of bus, his waiting will be meaningless .So he try to use other availabilities. After introducing GPS in buses this problem will be solved.

  2. b.dhanasekaran says:

    we can sit and travel in a share auto. they charge reasonably. if the state govt regulate share autos properly without charging any tax and mamools. govt can save huge tax payers money in providing transport facilities. the public transport system are white elephant to govt they provide illegal income to many politicians and business men.

  3. arvind says:

    It would have been great if the impact of the newly introduced share auto services by chennai metro was also analysed in this article.

  4. Chandra Shekhar A K says:

    If plying of share autos in Chennai is illegal, even more so is the illegal fleecing of the passengers by the normal autos by charging excessive fares and not running the meters. The Police who have turned a blind eye to the latter should keep their peace with share autos by legalising them as done all over India.

  5. kumar singh says:

    State Government should notify rules regarding share auto immediately, the share autos are helping public. auto unions have taken over space in front of many railway stations, the share autos are not allowed at junctions like kodambakkam, guindy, saidapet, velachery, adyar, mandaveli, triplicane, koturpuram etc. whereas many people would be willing to take share autos to reach near their home

  6. Raghu says:

    I can’t understand the illegality. After all, they (share autos) provide essential service to common public at reasonable fare, which actually the government should have done. Just ensure they do not fleece or engage in unlawful activities such as helping transport of banned goods.

  7. Laasya Shekhar says:

    The illegalities in a share auto and the ways to regulate them are explained here. http://chennai.citizenmatters.in/safety-fare-share-auto-chennai-regulation-6947. Please read.

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