A cap on taxis in Wellington?

January 31st, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Dave Burgess in the Dom Post reports:

There are too many in and it is time to put a limit on them, the mayor says.

The taxi industry agrees and has called on the Government to introduce legislation to cap or reduce numbers in the city.

It is no surprise the taxi industry wants a cap – because that would protect incumbents and lead to higher earnings for current drivers.

It does not mean it will be a better service for those who want to hire taxis.

There are 1237 taxis licensed for Wellington City. About 400 were on the road before deregulation. This tripling of taxis in the past 20 years has led to overcrowded taxi stands and dubious parking practices as drivers clamour for business, especially in the late-night Courtenay Place party zone.

I regard it as a good thing that when you want to go home from Courtenay Place at 2 am, you can easily find a taxi.

I’d support tougher tests for becoming a taxi driver – both in English skills and location knowledge. But I don’t support an arbitrary cap on cab numbers.

You know what would be useful though – a website showing each taxi firm, and what their fares are.

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63 Responses to “A cap on taxis in Wellington?”

  1. ben (2,377 comments) says:

    Oh no. I see Celia Wade Brown is an economic illiterate, or at least her voter base is. A mountain of overseas experience makes perfectly clear that the cost of capping taxi numbers vastly outweighs the benefits. Presumably Ms Wade-Brown is counting on all the people disadvantaged by the measure aren’t voting for her anyway. So she is either an economic incompetent, or cynically ambitious for a second term. Or both.

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  2. ben (2,377 comments) says:

    Here’s what I’d like to know. If the council decides to cap taxi numbers in Wellington then substantial economic rents will be created for the industry. How, in New Zealand, does the council capture those rents? Presumably something as overt as “please write me a cheque for $100,000 for my election campaign” is out of the question. So what is the quid pro quo? Is it a promise by the taxi cabs to display “vote Celia” in front of every passenger? Is it a refund of all fares by councillors? Is it is promise not to campaign against the mayor? What is the deal, which does the council listen?

    If the council can’t capture those rents, then why does it introduce the cap if there is a non-zero chance of annoying the very many users of cabs in the city?

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  3. Nick R (507 comments) says:

    Difficult to see how capping the number of taxis is going to benefit anyone except current taxi drivers. But I agree about tougher tests. There is a huge difference between the drivers and cars on the road during the day/early evening, and the ones you find late at night…

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  4. thomasbeagle (77 comments) says:

    I do find that there are too many taxis clogging up Wellington streets. My solution would be to increase parking enforcement against them, not limit the number of taxis.

    I don’t want a Melbourne-type situation where “getting lucky” refers to catching a taxi home from the bar, not whether you’re going home with someone.

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  5. La Grand Fromage (145 comments) says:

    I thought Wade Brown was a soap dodging green but turns out that she is a Winstin Peters style racist.

    This policy is a targeted attack on Wellington’s immigrant community who will be the ones hurt by this.

    Personally a 2am drunken conversation with a bloke named Mustafa, who can barely speak english, about the Bangladeshi ship wrecking industry is always the perfect end to a night on the wets.

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  6. PaulL (5,971 comments) says:

    Once a cap is in place, it’s very difficult to remove. Too many entrenched interests. And caps ultimately always hurt the passengers in order to benefit the drivers. At 2am in the morning, I’d rather a driver who speaks little English and doesn’t know the way home, than no driver at all.

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  7. RRM (9,836 comments) says:

    Shoot that one who drove through the front of Maccas and maimed someone – for a second time. That would free up a few more jobs for the rest of them to scrap over.

    While we’re at it, shoot the one who rear-ended me when I stopped at the pedestrian crossing in Courtenay place in 2006, too. (His name was Sheik Mohammed something-or-other, which is not really relevant of course, except that it is!)

    No cap on numbers, but make them pass some sort of advanced driving test, e.g. the Institute of Advanced Motorist’s test. There should be more to being a “professional driver” than just collecting money…

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  8. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    If taxis were capped and fares were regulated we’d see a problem like in Sydney – taxi plates cost upwards of $200k and you can never find one when you want. On top of that the cabbie doesn’t even make much money – the value is in the (artificial) capital gain in the plates, so it’s also very difficult to reform the system without putting people out of pocket.

    You know what would be useful though – a website showing each taxi firm, and what their fares are.

    I’m sure you could knock up a rough one in under an hour.

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  9. peterwn (3,246 comments) says:

    Taxi numbers used too be capped in the pre-Rogernomics days and consequences were taxi licences changing hands for very high goodwill prices and a shortage of taxis. A further consequence is that it would be almost impossible for a new firm to enter the market. Of course the industry would love it – just like the breweries loved 6 o’clock closing (they owned most of the pubs then).

    One consequence of taxi licencing was that an Auckland taxi taking someone to the airport was not allowed to backload, anyone going downtown had to catch a ‘South Auckland’ taxi which similarly could not ‘backload’.

    Celia had better watch it – or she will be a three year mayor like Christine Fletcher was.

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  10. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    Isn’t this an immigration issue rather than a taxi issue? And what about Winz involvement? How much of your money have they spent on this?

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  11. artemisia (235 comments) says:

    As a taxi user over many years – pre- and post-regulation – I am totally opposed to capping. There were many times in the old days I waited for a cab at a downtown rank for upwards of half an hour. No fun in a Welly winter. Never happens now. No problem with the traffic and parking rules being enforced though. But basically – let the market decide. People would not own/drive taxis if there wasn’t some upside for them.

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  12. ben (2,377 comments) says:

    The market as it is already caters to passengers who are concerned about drivers who speak english and know their way around. Wellington Combined and Corporate Cabs are instantly recognisable and offer a higher quality product. You pay for more, and get a more reliable result.

    Other passengers don’t care about this, or when its busy will take anything going, and there are the small, less well known companies.

    There is no justification at all for the council to discriminate against one side of this market. Consumers BENEFIT from the choice, consumers are perfectly able to work out who is who and make their own decision. Nobody is protected by regulation except cabbies rents.

    The one and only reason there are so many cabs on the road is because there is demand for them. There’s no secret here. It is a system that works. Cab fares are already ludicrously expensive in New Zealand. Capping cab numbers will only increase those rates, perhaps substantially.

    This is obvious stuff, pleased most of the posters on here can see it. Celia Wade Brown is apparently unable to believe consumers understand anything, or doesn’t think cab fares are high enough. Jesus H Christ – perhaps she could focus her attention on actual problems, first it was getting cars out of Courtenay Place for no obvious reason, now its limiting access to cabs. How about adding a lane or two to the motorway, not expanded since 1977?

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  13. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    DPF – I’ve just had a look around the net regarding your idea for a website and I can certainly see your point. Looked at Wellington Combined website and they don’t have their tarrifs online. I haven’t even bothered with the rest.
    I’m heading to NZ next week so I might have a project to do while I’m there, calling the cab companies and asking for their tarrifs.

    [DPF: That would be excellent. What would be useful is starting fare, per km tariff, per minute tariff, phone order charge and airport pickup charge]

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  14. dime (9,859 comments) says:

    Gotta limit those evil carbon emitting cabs!

    Be like Sydney, where it costs about 200k to buy a taxi license plate… That works great. Honest.

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  15. ben (2,377 comments) says:

    gazzmaniac: how about making it a Wiki? Getting up to date info is important, and relieves the overhead.

    Could also be a good focal point for opposition to any attempt by the council to impose a cap.

    The socialists never go away, do they.

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  16. rouppe (967 comments) says:

    When it costs me at least $75 to get from Wellington to Porirua by taxi I think restricting supply (and therefore increasing demand and therefore price) is not smart.

    The trains and buses are gone from the schedule by 11pm. So at that price one already starts to consider the merits of a hotel room overnight which is a ridiculous situation.

    Around Christmas time I took a taxi from home to the Sandbar in Mana, which is 5 or 6km and it cost $18. Bloody ridiculous. Only reason I didn’t walk was cause it was raining.

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  17. Manolo (13,586 comments) says:

    here are too many taxis in Wellington and it is time to put a limit on them, the mayor says.

    A fair but ignorant call expected of a Luddite like Celia Wade-Brown, the unfortunate mayor of Wellington.

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  18. RRM (9,836 comments) says:

    Just read the article – the woman’s lost the plot. Does she think Indian Doctors and Civil Engineers WANT to drive taxis?

    The only reason WINZ is able to “steer these people into the taxi industry” is, they don’t want to be out of work completely.

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  19. Chris2 (762 comments) says:

    As a university student in the late 70’s in Wellington I drove a cab for extra money.

    There were only two companies then and to ensure drivers earned a living and the public were properly served during the busy periods companies had an arrangement whereby every week 20% of the drivers were rostered off the road from 10am-3pm and compulsorily rostered on from 4pm-7pm and 7am-10am. It meant we all earned a decent living.

    When a fellow driver pissed you off the best joke to play on them was to wait until they were first in the queue on the south Karori Road taxi stand. We’d call up the taxi company requesting a cab saying we were calling from the ‘phone box at Makara Beach. The poor sucker would get the job to drive to Makara but there was no radio contact down there so when they got to the beach and found no passenger waiting for them they would have to drive back up the hill to Karori before they could get a signal and call the dispatcher.

    By then we had called the company again to complain that the taxi arrived but had driven off without seeing us. So the operator would then send the taxi back down to Makara beach again. Ah, happy days. Better radio transmitters and cell phones have put an end to that lark!

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  20. scrubone (3,095 comments) says:

    the woman’s lost the plot

    Technically, in order to lose something you have to have it in the first place.

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  21. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    It’s an incredibly inefficient system to have ~1200 people sitting around on their butts all day waiting for someone to take a taxi. I’d find it hard to believe that there are 2400 taxi rides a day in Wellington and that’s only 2 rides per taxi – that leaves, very roughly, 6 hours of sitting around.

    Anyway, the real problem is that the airport (which serves up the most passengers for taxis) has made a cosy deal with a taxi company to only allow one cab company to use their ranks. This has pushed all the other taxis out into the city which has made for the apparent glut.

    If you believe in competition then you can’t let companies close down competition.

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  22. TripeWryter (715 comments) says:

    Twenty-or-so years ago I interviewed a long-time taxi driver who was retiring. He had mixed feelings about the impending deregulation.

    On the one hand consumers would get more ‘choice’ over whom they offered their money to, on the other he doubted that the much-touted fare reductions would happen. Drivers were already operating on the minimum then, he said.

    I’ve taken taxis twice in the last year (in a hurry, family emergency, paid for by family), and I’m left wondering how a trip of three miles can cost $20. It’s even more in the middle of the night. Fares have never gone down.

    In the late 60s and 70s I used to attend hearings of the Transport Licensing Authority for the newspaper I worked for. These were fascinating affairs.

    Would-be taxi-owners had to apply for licences that either had become vacant because a driver was leaving the industry or because the authority had decided to issue new ones.

    The authority consisted of a magistrate (SM), someone from the old Department of Transport, and another bureaucrat, from the Department of Internal Affairs.

    The poor sod (there were no sodettes, from memory) applying for the licence turned up often with a solicitor, and maybe an accountant.

    He had to submit all his accounts. Anybody could object. There had to be references. He had to be of very good character. I recall one poor man being subjected to a three-hour inquisition over his accounts, and having to answer how could he possibly support his family on the $15 left over after he had paid his expenses.

    He was turned down, because the authority didn’t believe he could support his family adequately.

    It was an eye-opener to how things were done those days. But then again, most New Zealand rural towns had taxi services because people could not afford cars then.

    There was even a Transport Licensing Appeal Authority.

    As for the mostly immigrant drivers. I’ve talked to some of them away from their taxis. It is appalling how in New Zealand we cannot use the skills of many of these people. Most, it seems to me, have decided to sacrifice their career aspirations and concentrate on their kids gaining an education and qualification.

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  23. davidp (3,580 comments) says:

    mpledger>I’d find it hard to believe that there are 2400 taxi rides a day in Wellington

    I’ve seen public servants get an expensed taxi for a distance of 500m in order to avoid rain. Take government, the airport, and Courtenay Place and they’d have no problem at all generating those rides.

    mpledger>Anyway, the real problem is that the airport (which serves up the most passengers for taxis) has made a cosy deal with a taxi company to only allow one cab company to use their ranks.

    Not true. Any taxi can queue at the airport. The deal is to give one taxi company a monopoly on queueing closest to the terminals. The other taxis are only 10m away in the next lane. Which isn’t unreasonable on the airport’s part… they have the right to control who does business on their premises and auction off things like queuing positions.

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  24. moaningmoa (68 comments) says:

    Ummm, quick thought, but given an attempt to restrict them by the WCC, would only impact those Taxi companies based within it’s geographic borders?

    If so wouldn’t the other companies just “base” themselves out of one of the other cities, Lower Hutt for example.

    Oh, and for the record, regarding prices, I caught a “green cab” home after my work’s christmas party late last year, and it was at least a 1/3 cheaper than any other company I’ve used. Will definitely be getting my business going forward…

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  25. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    The website is going to be alive very soon, the domain name will be taxiprice.co.nz. Just waiting on the order to go through…
    I have contacted the companies I can find easily on the net and asked them for their tarrif details, however I do not have access to a NZ telephone until later this week. If anyone has a few minutes to assist and do a ring around your assistance would be most welcome.
    taxipricenz at gmail.com

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  26. TripeWryter (715 comments) says:

    @moaningmoa: ‘Will definitely be getting my business going forward… ‘

    Better than going backwards, I suppose.

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  27. TripeWryter (715 comments) says:

    Gazzmaniac: I hope that on your site you will spell ‘tarrif’ as tariff.

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  28. moaningmoa (68 comments) says:

    @TripeWryter….. Oh darn, I used that phrase (sorry was dealing with some governement beaucrats today).

    But in seriousness, given it was a $40 saving over the standard cost I’ve incurred getting home, I was pleasantly suprised.

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  29. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    Thankyou Tripe

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  30. nasska (11,277 comments) says:

    TripeWryter @ 3.51pm

    I never had much experience of the taxi industry but your comments sure brought back memories of the Polish shipyard which used to be overseen by the Transport Licensing Authority.

    It was worse than you state. At least in the general cartage sector on top of jumping through the hoops of finance & character you essentially had to be sub contracting to another carrier to have a hope of getting a Goods Service License. Every application would be opposed by the Road Transport Assn who would argue that there was insufficient work for existing carriers. They would even oppose someone buying an business with existing licenses. Railways had a right of veto & nearly all long distance carrying (over 40 miles) had to be offered to them. If you were lucky enough to get through this bullshit the license would be issued with enough conditions to make it near worthless. The vast majority of 60’s & 70’s transport firms would be bankrupt within 6 months operating under today’s conditions.

    Everything was geared to support the status quo & protect existing operators.

    Not everything changes for the best but I’d hate to go back to those days.

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  31. ben (2,377 comments) says:

    gazzmaniac: great stuff

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  32. Viking2 (11,416 comments) says:

    The vast majority of 60′s & 70′s transport firms would be bankrupt within 6 months operating under today’s conditions.

    witness that there are very few still in existence.

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  33. MT_Tinman (3,136 comments) says:

    Capping the number of cabs, accompanied by far tougher license and area knowledge test is a fantastic idea.

    Proving once again that even idiots can come up with a good ‘un once in a while.

    Hope Bob Parker and co. follow suit in ChCh.

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  34. TripeWryter (715 comments) says:

    Moaningmoa: It was petty of me, really. Being with bureaucrats and bureaucrat-ettes (who can be worse) can corrupt one.

    Forty bucks saving. That’s very good. You see, back in the 80s people thought that deregulation would mean, for example, being taxied from Wellington Airport to Porirua for $20, like then you could be driven most of the way across Sydney for $20.

    Gazz: you’re welcome. Poor spelling and grammar can harm what an individual is trying to do. And good on you for your your initiative.

    Nasska: Yes, it was very much a different world then.

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  35. Simon Arnold (109 comments) says:

    Now for me it isn’t just capping the number of cabs, its those damned hair dressers, accountants attracting undesirables into town, and just look at those corner dairies everywhere with rubbish blowing around, not to mention courier vans blocking up the streets.

    Schools – far too many of those with the dangerous little blighters filling the streets.

    About time someone has shown themselves willing to grasp the nettle, say I.

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  36. big bruv (13,727 comments) says:

    Hang on a moment here people, remember this woman is a Green, therefore, she is a liar and has a hidden agenda.

    Wade Brown’s call for less taxi’s is nothing more than a roundabout way of forcing (yes forcing) us to use public transport.

    Remember, she is the moron who wants to close Courtenay Place to motorcars, no doubt she also supports the banning of cars from the golden mile, being a Green she will always come up with a semi plausible reason as to why we should support her idea while the real reason for her plan remains hidden.

    There is only one thing to consider when dealing with a Green, trust nothing they say and everything they do.

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  37. philu (13,393 comments) says:

    this is yr one area of expertise…eh bb..?

    ..taxis…

    …are you one of those taxi-drivers who feels the need to share their global-views…

    ..with their captive-audience…?

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  38. Simon Arnold (109 comments) says:

    And when I think about it let’s not forget blog commenters clogging up the blogosphere.

    How about a cap on those? say I.

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  39. ben (2,377 comments) says:

    Big Bruv, Simon Arnold: spot on.

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  40. Anthony (794 comments) says:

    At first appearances taxis seem to defy the market – allowing unlimited taxis on the road didn’t seem to drive down fares although probably drove down the earnings of taxi drivers. Why are taxis still so expensive – my theory is that often the person taking the taxi isn’t paying the fare – their employer is – or they are drunk and are not worried about the fare. Hence there is little pressure on taxis to reduce their prices and we have heaps of taxis sitting around doing nothing half the day.

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  41. Johnboy (16,077 comments) says:

    What a stupid idea putting a cap on taxi drivers.

    How else in nuclear free NZ can we keep our future bomb scientists on ice till we need them. :)

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  42. nasska (11,277 comments) says:

    Anthony @ 6.58pm

    Another influence is that in many cases the driver of the cab isn’t the owner & doesn’t always have the final say on charges. They are probably paid on a percentage of the total metered fares & have little incentive or room to discount

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  43. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Why do taxis have to wait at the rank? Why aren’t they aloud to roam?

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  44. Johnboy (16,077 comments) says:

    Same as husbands SSB? :)

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  45. nasska (11,277 comments) says:

    side show bob @ 8.35pm

    I think they are allowed to roam but it’s not very profitable. Kiwis have always caught taxis at ranks rather than “hailing” them as in America & driving around in hope of a fare incurs running costs.

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  46. Repton (769 comments) says:

    t first appearances taxis seem to defy the market – allowing unlimited taxis on the road didn’t seem to drive down fares although probably drove down the earnings of taxi drivers. Why are taxis still so expensive

    I caught a taxi home from Wellington airport a week ago — a $40 fare. The driver mentioned that he’d been waiting in the queue there for four hours. So a net rate of under $10/hour, and I”m sure he’s got overheads to pay out of that.

    How can fares possibly go any lower? They have to charge a rate that will cover their waiting time, if they want to eat next week.

    It’s easy to imagine that with fewer taxis, the drivers would spend more time working, and be able to charge lower fares because of it…

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  47. Chris2 (762 comments) says:

    As one who once drove a taxi (see 3:25pm) I can tell readers that the greatest secret is that historically drivers have for years failed to declare their true incomes to IRD.

    The advent of EFT-POS and credit cards for payment makes it much harder now, but a large percentage of fares paid in cash went into the back pocket and never get declared, all their private running (fuel, etc) is a tax deduction, and that $50,000 taxi they drive was actually purchased through a Taxi Federation deal with the vehicle importers and they only paid $36,000 for it, and could write that off in several years too. So, don’t weap when a driver says he sat waiting four hours for your $40 fare.

    Most main center taxis can pull in $100,000 annually. Some Auckland taxis only do the Airport-city run, nothing else – they will return to the airport empty.

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  48. MT_Tinman (3,136 comments) says:

    Chris that would be the biggest load of pure and utter crap ever to pollute the blogosphere.

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  49. MT_Tinman (3,136 comments) says:

    side show bob (2,957) Says:
    January 31st, 2011 at 8:35 pm
    Why do taxis have to wait at the rank? Why aren’t they aloud to roam?

    No compulsion but …….

    Roaming (driving) costs money, sitting at stands doesn’t.

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  50. big bruv (13,727 comments) says:

    MT

    What would a hard working and smart cabbie pull in a year even allowing for non declared income?

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  51. Chris2 (762 comments) says:

    big bruv, the $100K I referred to earlier is quite true. Read this interview from a driver:

    http://nztaxiblog.com/2010/12/14/my-job-taxi-driver-goes-the-extra-mile/

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  52. big bruv (13,727 comments) says:

    Chris2

    That is not an interview, that is a corporate advertisement, and as such, if MT Tinman says that the average cabbie is not pulling in 100k a year then it is him that I will choose to believe thanks very much.

    You also might want to read the “interview” again, the driver says that his turnover is 100k, not his income.

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  53. macdo (18 comments) says:

    As Repton says, lots of idle taxis waiting at the airport. Same in Auckland. However, I’ve never had to wait for a taxi at the airport. So the system (numbers) provides immediately available taxis (choice of companies) for people getting off a plane. Which suits me fine.

    Compares favourably with Australian airports where there are complex herding races and/or reliably long waits for a taxi. Mind you – I take the train in Sydney to the CBD these days, even if it is a ripoff still cheaper than taxi.

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  54. Johnboy (16,077 comments) says:

    Shit that was sad Chris2.

    Ex IT manager “turns over” $100,000 as cab driver and is happy?

    Poor bastard should have bought a trailer and a lawn mower.

    The overheads are a lot less and the uniform comes cheaper!

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  55. V (701 comments) says:

    I’ve also noticed there are too many politicians in Wellington, someone should put a cap on that too.

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  56. Johnboy (16,077 comments) says:

    Hell they put a cap on Mayor’s in Jafaland V and look what you ended up with. :)

    Be careful what you wish for. :)

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  57. Chris2 (762 comments) says:

    big bruv @10:17pm – the article was not an advertisement at all. If you had bothered to read more closely you would have seen on the page, the link back to the original NZ Herald article, from whence the story first came, written by a reporter.

    You also deliberately misquote me. I never used the word “income” in referring to the $100k. Must remember in future never to believe anything you write.

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  58. PaulL (5,971 comments) says:

    Hmm. If most people don’t pay the cost, or are price insensitive, we’d expect competition on quality. When I was in SF I saw a guy getting out of a limo in front of me. I was in a hippie greenie cab (Toyota Prius). The driver got out to open the boot, hot chick in a short skirt and driver get up (cap and all). I said – what’s the go there. He said that’s their thing – all the drivers dress like that. They’re apparently getting a lot of business. So….given the logic on price, why don’t we have a cab company like that?

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  59. Anthony (794 comments) says:

    Paul I think most of our taxi drivers wouldn’t look that great in a mini skirt!

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  60. MT_Tinman (3,136 comments) says:

    big bruv (8,025) Says:
    January 31st, 2011 at 9:53 pm
    MT

    What would a hard working and smart cabbie pull in a year even allowing for non declared income?

    Not a hell of a lot of hard working cabbies BB, even less smart ones but …..

    Can only comment on ChCh but probably around $100 – 125K if sole driver, up to 50% more if 1 1/2 drivers employed.

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  61. MT_Tinman (3,136 comments) says:

    Chris2 the article was an advertisement – make no mistake about that.

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  62. Rich Prick (1,682 comments) says:

    Typical greenie meddling where she can. Aren’t taxis a Land Transport matter anyway? Personally I think there are too many elected representatives and they should be reduced. Starting with mayors.

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  63. theorikal (1 comment) says:

    The Taxi Federation is not the Taxi Industry.
    After the Federation successfully hoodwinked government to increase the barriers to enter the industry and increasing costs to those already in the industry by requiring the installation of cameras and 24/7 monitoring, they are now convincing dim witted officials that they should further reduce competition by limiting size of the industry.

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