Is there a country, no, a city anywhere in the world in which people do not bitch about taxis and taxi drivers? If there is, I’ve not been to it.
Arab News reports on the situation in Saudi Arabia. It’s interesting to note that, even though taxis (called ‘limousines’ by most Saudis) have meters, Saudi passengers prefer to bargain for the fair rather than pay the metered toll. I’ve not seen Saudi taxi regulations, so I don’t know if this is authorized. It makes it harder for drivers to earn a living, though.
I confess to some self-interest here. I drove a taxi for a while when I was in college. It can be good and it can be miserable. Drivers aren’t personally responsible for traffic jams – unless they’re causing them, of course. Nor are they responsible for the weather. When those things slow down traffic and potentially run up the fare, it may make passengers unhappy, but what is the driver to do?
There are lots of ways to run a taxi system, some better than others. One basic necessity, though, is to have regulations and to apply them strictly. That way, drivers won’t be blamed for things beyond their control; passengers will know, from the moment they enter a cab, that the fare will be fair; drivers will make a reasonable income. If there are meters, their use should be required at all times.
Taxis, if run fairly, can add jobs to the Saudi economy. Right now, most taxi drivers are foreign, though. There’s friction between the two groups, but there’s also friction in Saudi society, where some complain that Saudi drivers are rude or mistreat female passengers. A strong taxi commission ought to be able to handle complaints about service or fares. It would, if it took its responsibilities seriously.
Call for reforming the Kingdom’s taxi system
Jeddah: Nadeem Al-Hamid
Limousine drivers work at least 12 hours daily to earn a living. They face a lot of difficulties and challenges while carrying different groups of passengers. Some passengers disappear upon reaching their destination without paying the fare while others may beat up the taxi driver and take away the money he earned that day.
Some passengers have accused limousine drivers of exploiting them by asking more money but they have denied this allegation.
Abdul Khaliq Muhammad, 35, a Pakistani taxi driver, said the fares they charge depend on the distance and traffic congestion. Driving during peak hours is very difficult and it takes long time to reach a destination.
Muhammad said 90 percent of all passengers reach an agreement on the fare price before starting the trip instead of depending on the meter reading. “The reason is that if they agree on meter reading they have to pay more, especially during rush hour when the vehicle will be moving very slowly. For a trip from Sari Street to Balad, we demand a fare of SR20 or SR25. But if we operate the meter, they have to pay SR50 to SR60, depending on traffic.”