No doubt the proposed fare hike for taxi drivers is long overdue. However is it far to coincidental how the timing of the hike falls right in line with rumors of an election being called? Further, the public still waits for improvements in service that have also been long coming, where are they? There are improvements that could be made and systems put in place to measure service levels, and thus it should be expected that along with the hike, such announcements are forthcoming. We, the electorate, can hope that while the taxi drivers are getting their much needed fare hike, that we will also getting a much needed improvement in the levels of service.
Breaking news from the Royal Gazette web site suggests that as of December 1st we’ll be paying 10.5% more for our taxi service. No doubt this has been quite a long time coming as taxi drivers have watched their costs increase while their profits dwindle. Few can argue with the plight of taxi drivers as fuel costs skyrocket.
The timing of the hike is one which raises questions, however. It takes us back to that old question, if there was no pending election, would similar action be undertaken? For those who recall, the taxi drivers served as a major pillar of support for the Progressive Labour Party by ferrying party supporters to and from the polls in previous elections. More recently, taxi drivers have become frustrated with the ill-fated forced implementation of GPS which has not yielded the promised results and the despair of rising costs. Does the timing of this announcement make it far too coincidental? Would it be too much to wonder whether this is little more than pre-election pandering and if an election weren’t in the cards, the taxi industry would get nothing and be quickly forgotten about as they have in the past?
The other issue that comes to light is the lack of improvement in service over the years. GPS was a flop and no doubt many in the electorate will be disgusted by the rate hike should it not accompany strict measures designed to improve the reliability and service offered by the taxi industry. Thus, tomorrow’s more detailed announcements could take two courses of action. One which will prove that this is a case of genuine improvements for all, or the other, which suggests this is little more than simple electioneering.
If this writer were to take a guess as to what improvements could be made, he would propose that the Ministry of Transport would create a special auditing program designed to assess the service levels of the industry. This program would involve having random individuals test and rate the level of service offered around the island from response times, cleanliness, attitude, etc, all from varying locations and to varying destinations. Those drivers who refuse to drive to certain destinations should be met with an instant fine and suspension of their license. Other violations should also be met with fines and suspensions depending on their severity.
So, certainly allow the taxi drivers to have their rate hike for it is long overdue and they deserve it given the rising costs. However, the public should be weary to watch whether this is a case of electioneering or genuine intentions to improve service overall. No doubt improvements can be made and systems could be put in place to track levels of service, for to expect a commitment of improvement in service from the industry and our government at the same time as a rate hike would not be asking very much. For certainly, just as fare hikes have been a long time coming for taxi drivers, so have improvements in service for the electorate.