By Orville Williams
After requesting an adjustment to the fare structure for several years, taxi operators across the island will finally see the much-anticipated changes come into effect on Saturday, May 15.
That announcement was made by the government yesterday, following discussions with representatives from the taxi associations in Cabinet on Wednesday.
The taxi operators have been voicing their displeasure with the lack of response to their request from the government, particularly during the past year, when their livelihoods were severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
They were also displeased with what they deemed unfair attempts from certain factions to paint the request as unfair, repeatedly clarifying that they were not asking for an increase in the fares, but rather a change to the structure under which the fares are applied.
For example, rather than asking for a change in the cost of a fare from St John’s to Jolly Harbor, the taxi drivers explained that they were only requesting that the ‘outdated’ system that sees one single fare being applied to a full passenger load, be changed to a more modern approach, where fares would be applied based on the number of passengers.
Despite that past back-and-forth, the announcement of the changes has been welcomed with open arms by the taxi operators, including President of the United Taxi Company, Ian Joseph.
“I’m like the cow jumping over the moon now [because] it has been a long fight for taxi drivers. I mean, nobody has looked on us for any sort of adjustment since 2007 and you have to appreciate that all the costs of operating would have skyrocketed between that time and now.
“So, to get the government to finally understand our plight, we are elated. You could speak to any taxi driver; taxi drivers are elated today,” Joseph told Observer.
The adjustment to the rates – that would ordinarily be applied to a passenger load of four persons – will also take into account the reduction in the number of passengers permitted in any one taxi, due to social distancing regulations.
Information Minister, Melford Nicholas, explained further details of the change, confirming that the adjustment would apply across the board and not solely to the tourism sector.
“That rate change would now affect two persons, simply because they’ll be permitted to carry fewer persons in the taxis [due to] social distancing. So, the Cabinet did take note of the representation made by the three heads of the various taxi associations and this is going to cover the whole span of taxi services nationwide, not just within the tourism sector.
“The effect of it is that, in so far as tour guides and tour operators who would certainly contract with these taxi associations, those rates will be subject to those bilateral negotiations. [However], for the normal person who would be requiring a taxi to [transport] them from the airport, if two persons [were] to get into a taxi, then those applicable rates will take place,” Nicholas explained.
The Minister also confirmed that taxi operators who have been vaccinated will be outfitted with unique identification that displays their vaccination status. This, in a bid to make the flow of engagement with prospective passengers easier.
That move follows a disclosure from the taxi association representatives, that visitors have been querying the vaccination status of the drivers, upon entering the vehicles.