The Ministry of Taxis

July 28th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

When it comes to walking the talk, it seems Ministry of Health staff would rather just take a cab.

Last year ministry staff took more than 1000 taxi rides for less than $10 – at the same time as officially advocating walking as a way to increase New Zealand’s low levels of physical activity.

In the 2012-13 financial year, staff based in Wellington charged taxpayers for 8645 taxi trips with 1076 of those for journeys costing less than $10. Another 1942 taxis were taken for $10 to $15.

The Star-Times took a $10 taxi in central Auckland to see how far it would take us. We travelled 1.7km. The return journey on foot, at a leisurely stroll, took just over 16 minutes.

That’s around four taxi trips a day of under $10. It is hard to get a fare for under $10. The initial cab hire and phone call is almost $5 so you won’t get to go much more than a km.

The Ministry of Health’s physical activity guidelines suggest people should be active every day in every way possible, doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week.

The ministry’s website says you should walk whenever you can. “Remember: Even small increases in physical activity can produce measurable health benefits,” the site says.

Do as we say, not as we do!

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More on Auckland Airport taxis

May 8th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A taxi company operating from Auckland Airport has introduced fixed-fare rates to the city and North Shore after Herald stories about some drivers overcharging passengers.

Auckland Airport will start conducting mystery tests on taxis to audit their pricing and has called for tighter Commerce Commission controls on the industry. And Labour has challenged the Government to police rogue operators and to sort out Auckland’s traffic woes to help reduce fares and travelling times.

Green Cabs yesterday announced it would charge flat fares of $65 to the city, $97 to Takapuna and $110 to Albany for airport passengers.

Great – a market solution. Some firms offer flat fares. and some do not.

Also Auckland Airport has announced:

“Given the concerns raised by the public about the high fares, Auckland Airport will now regularly undertake mystery passenger audits of taxi pick-ups from the airport. Any drivers and companies found to be charging excessive amounts or taking longer than necessary routes will be immediately reported to their employer and, if required, to the New Zealand Transport Agency.”

That’s a useful initiative.

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Fixed taxi fares from airports?

May 7th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Airport says it would like to have a fixed taxi fare price for the journey into the city to stop some drivers charging exorbitant fares – but it can’t take any action until current contracts expire in 2016.

I’m not sure that is a great idea. There’s nothing stopping a taxi company offering a fixed fare. Plus you have buses and shuttles which have fixed fares.

What I would like to see is a website that shows all the taxi firms in a city and what each one charges. Then one can know in advance which firms are the cheapest.

I always use Combined Taxis as their drivers speak English, don’t get lost, have decent cars, don’t stink of food, take Taxicharge and I know their tariffs. Very rarely have had a bad experience with them.

For visitors arriving from overseas, I can see the appeal of a fixed fare, as they may not know which firms are good to choose. But I’m not sure there is a huge variation in tariffs per km. I think the problem is that sometimes you get a driver who doesn’t take the shortest route – but that is actually an offence.

UPDATE: A reader points out that David Cunliffe promised in his leadership campaign higher wages for taxi drivers, so I guess that will push the prices right up.

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Auckland cab fares

May 3rd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Catching a cab downtown from Auckland Airport has been labelled one of the most expensive taxi fares in the world by an international travel company.

According to a CheapFlights comparison of prices in 24 cities, New Zealand has the third most expensive per-kilometre taxi fares.

And a Herald investigation has found some Auckland taxi companies quoting price tags up to $86 for a trip — more than the price of some domestic flights — that other companies can deliver for just $35.

The report, released last month but based on data from March 2013, found the average price of travelling the 21.4km route from Auckland Airport to the city’s CBD was $77.41 — or $3.50/km.

The New Zealand price was surpassed only by fares in Berlin that were $4.06/km, and San Jose in Costa Rica that were $3.59/km.

Auckland cabs were 10 times more expensive than in the cheapest city, Buenos Aires, and twice the $1.75/km people using Australian taxis were paying.

I often reflect that the taxi fares cost more than the flight.

Part of the problem is that the road network into the CBD is so sub-standard with significant traffic delays. One the current motorway projects are completed, the time and hence the cost should be reduced significantly.

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What business is it of the airport?

February 17th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Senior Labour MP Trevor Mallard had to pass off a packed-up bicycle as a briefcase to be allowed to carry it in a taxi from Auckland Airport.

He is furious an airport security official tried to stop his taxi driver from allowing the bike – which he strips down and packs into a hard case when flying – into the back seat of the cab.

He told the Weekend Herald the bike was too large to fit into the boots of most cabs, so he had carried it in back seats without being challenged at least 10 other times when catching taxis from the airport. But on Thursday, as he was trying to load in his bike, an airport official told him and the cabbie “that their rules didn’t allow luggage to go in the same compartment as passengers”.

What a stupid rule.

Airport spokesman Simon Lambourne said, after taking advice from other officials, that his company was simply monitoring a Transport Agency rule “in the interests of passenger safety”.

“There’s an NZTA [agency] rule that says taxis can’t have unusual, oversized or heavy items in the passenger cabin,” he said. But an agency official indicated that the rule simply gave taxi drivers the right to refuse to carry in or on their vehicles luggage that would endanger safe driving, could not be reasonably carried without causing damage, or was dirty or objectionable.

Even if there is such a rule (and it seems there is not), it is no business of Auckland Airport. The airport is merely the location where a passenger gets picked up. It is not their job to act as NZTA officials.

“Auckland Airport wants every passenger to have a safe taxi journey to and from the airport and we support the traffic marshals raising luggage safety concerns they have with the drivers.”

I’d say they could do with fewer traffic marshalls.

Mr Mallard said it was nonsense for the company to suggest the official was looking after his safety, as his bike was wedged in behind the front seats, making it more secure than if a seatbelt was used. “Of course drivers should be able to refuse unsafe or dirty stuff, but it’s totally lacking in logic and sounds like someone who’s got nothing better to do, trying to rationalise a stupid decision.”

It is up to the driver and the passenger. On this issue my sympathy is with Trevor, not the airport company. They should tell their traffic marshalls to be less zealous.

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Labour campaigning for higher taxi fares

November 14th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Darien Fenton has said:

Conditions for cabbies working Auckland Airport have become so dire they have been driven to protest, Labour’s Transport spokesperson Darien Fenton says.

Around 300 drivers have pulled out of working on the Auckland Airport taxi ranks today in protest at the way they have been treated.

“These drivers have to hand over $190 a week for the privilege of sitting on a rank for hours, without food and drink, and facing the impossibility of making a day’s living.

I didn’t realise that it was compulsory for taxi drivers to service Auckland Airport. I was under the mistaken belief that they were not rounded up from their homes at dawn and made to go to the airport, to wait for fares. I presumed that they choose to cover the airport because the average fare back into Auckland is $70 or more.

I also didn’t realise that Auckland Airport searched their cars every morning and confiscated water bottles, sandwiches etc from their cars.

Presumably Auckland Airport also round up and detain anyone who tries to purchase a bottle of coke or a coffee or behalf of a taxi driver.

“Many work 72 hours a week yet earn as little as $60 a day. On top of that the airport charges another $2 every time they enter the rank.

“The taxi industry was deregulated to bring better service to customers and to ensure there were competitive practices.

“That hasn’t happened. Airport companies are encouraging anti-competitive practices that make life even tougher for drivers.

“Cut throat practices like these mean that take home pay is further squeezed and drivers can’t feed their families.

“The Government needs to take a good look at what is happening for contractors like our cabbies and consider whether there needs to be some minimum protections.”

Presumably Darien means that taxi fares are too low and must be increased. Or is Labour campaigning to sack half the taxi drivers in Auckland so each driver gets more jobs?

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Zoomy

November 8th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The days of hailing a cab may soon be in the past thanks to a new taxi app that promises passengers can order their ride, watch it approach and pay using a smartphone.

Zoomy has just been launched in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and already boasts a 1500-strong taxi driver subscription. It was last night the country’s top-rating travel iPhone app.

Developed by Zoomy co-founders James Fisk, 37, and Neil MacDonald, 28, it follows the country’s first e-hailing app, Cab Chooze, launched here in June.

Mr Fisk said the company, a team of eight, had been developing the app for the past year.

“Catching taxis is often hit or miss,” he said. “Often they turn up late, sometimes not at all and we thought, how could we use smartphone technology to make the whole experience a more enjoyable and safer experience?”

Taxi apps have attracted criticism here and overseas for possible safety issues, but Mr Fisk believes their invention – which displays a photo of the taxi driver, the vehicle’s registration and maps the taxi location – is safer than conventional methods.

“We believe apps are a safer way to order taxis.”

I’ve been wanting a good taxi app for ages. Will try this one out. Anyone out there used it yet?

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So what is DC proposing?

September 8th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

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This is from David Cunliffe’s Facebook page. What is missing is exactly what DC is proposing to change this. I can only guess it is one or more of the following:

  • Ban taxi drivers from working more than 8 hours a day
  • Reduce the number of taxis allowed in NZ, so that each driver gets more jobs
  • Bring in minimum pricing for taxis, trebling the per km rate or per hour rate so they earn a living wage
  • Nationalise the entire taxi fleet, and put all taxi drivers on a salary of at least $18.40 an hour

Surely it is one of the above. You wouldn’t campaign on how awful it is taxi drivers work for $5 an hour 14 hours a day, and not have any solutions to it?

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A taxi app

June 27th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A new app aims to help Kiwis find the closest, cheapest taxi and rates individual drivers, but industry watchdogs say they are wary of the tool.

Cab Chooze began in Auckland yesterday and developers say it will find consumers the best deal and generate extra business for drivers.

The idea was developed by Youchooze IT, a family business run by West Aucklanders BK Sharma, his son Arjun and wife Payal.

Project manager Mr Sharma said the idea came in 2011 when Arjun was unable to hail a taxi late at night.

“It took him hours to get a cab and the price was so high that he was really quite shocked, which made him come up with the idea of ‘why can’t cabs be available to the consumer conveniently?’

“Cab Chooze means the consumer has the choice to pick their cab based on its rating, how quickly it can come to them and on the fare.”

That’s a great idea. It’s appalling that you can’t even go to one website for a city and see a list of all the taxi firms and their fare schedules.

But I’ve long advocated a GPS app for taxis, where you can signal your location, and they respond. What I think would be key is that you the customer also can see the GPS location of your taxi, once confirmed. That means if you are in a bar or restaurant, you know once the taxi has arrived.

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Should taxis pay for taxi stands?

February 21st, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Katie Chapman at Dom Post reports:

Cabbies may have to pay to use taxi ranks as Wellington City Council looks to save ratepayers’ money.

But taxis warn that the cost would just end up being passed to passengers.

A proposal to charge taxis for using city stands is among ideas mooted by council officers for inclusion in the draft Annual Plan, which sets the city’s budget and rates take.

Councillors will debate the draft next month before the final version is sent out for public consultation.

I use taxis a fair bit, but despite that I think there is some merit to this idea. Central city space is at a premium. Those who use it for parking or for taxi stands should pay for the economic cost of that space. Basically it should be user-pays. I’m not sure ratepayers should subsidise taxi users.

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Taxi fares

December 22nd, 2012 at 8:11 am by David Farrar

Carla Penman at Stuff reports:

The most expensive cab company in Wellington can charge as much as a quarter more for a ride than the cheapest operators.

Yes, that is called competition.

And fares in the capital are twice as much as those in the regulated market of Melbourne, Australia.

Is it?

Prices for a simple 10-minute, 3.9-kilometre trip from Cuba St to Hobson St in Thorndon, at the same time of night, on the same route, in light traffic, ranged from $15.40 in a Kiwi Cab, to $18.40 in a Green Cab, to $20.20 in Combined Taxis – a massive 24 per cent difference. This included callout and eftpos charges.

It’s certainly easy to get a cab in Wellington. The city seems to be awash with taxis. On any given day, especially along Courtenay Place, dozens of cabs are lined up waiting for customers.

There are 11 companies chasing different kinds of customers.

Yet strangely, despite all this competition, prices are still around double what you’d pay in Melbourne – where taxi fares are regulated.

Okay, let us look at this Melbourne fare website. A 4 km, 10 min journey would be:

  • Booking Fee $2.00
  • Flagfall $3.00
  • Kms 4 x $1.62 = $6.48
  • Wait 6 x $33.96/60 = $3.40

That is a total of Au$14.88 or NZ$18.80, and that presumably the EFTPOS fee which was included in NZ and not known in Australia.

Each cab has to display its company’s charges both inside and outside the vehicle. Companies tell their drivers to have their meter set to charge a certain amount, depending on the time and distance travelled – this is called the tariff.

The meters are checked by New Zealand Land Transport, to ensure they are charging at the advertised rate.

That should mean the customer can quickly calculate the cheapest cab on the rank, right?

In theory, yes.

But it’s not easy for the average customer to figure out the total fare from the baffling array of charges listed.

For example, there’s the call-out fee, the flagfall (starting rate), the tariff (the price per kilometre travelled), a fee for using eftpos and waiting time per minute.

If you manage to add all those up, you then need to try to calculate the total fare by estimating the distance to be travelled and multiplying it by the tariff – and that’s just too much for most customers. Either they don’t bother and just grab the most available cab, or even if they do calculate it according to the rates, it’s not a reliable guess – because it depends on the route the driver takes, and the amount of congestion.

First of all many customers do not want the cheapest cab on the ramp. We have a market where you can choose cheap and nasty or more expensive and reliable. I will always choose a Combined cab over any other cab, for several reasons:

  • Their drivers speak English
  • Their drivers know where most roads are
  • Their cabs don’t tend to stink of food
  • They always have eftpos and take taxicard

But I do agree prices are hard to calculate. What I think would make a difference is having the NZ Transport Agency listing the tariff schedules for all taxi firms in each city on a website. I’d love to be able to compare the prices of Combined and Green Cabs (who aren’t too bad) so I know in advance the approx cost of each.

With most customers simply unable to figure out the likely fare, Combined Taxis has been able to quietly increase its fees, relying on its market dominance to keep customers rolling in.

This sounds like the normal competitors whining. Combined do well, because they provide the best service in my opinion. I also know a lot of women who will only use Combined because they feel safest with them.

Green Cabs Wellington manager Toni Shuker says people choose Combined Taxis because they have more vehicles available.

No, I choose them because of the good service I get from them.

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No recordings in taxis

June 20th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Mathew Dearnaley in the NZ Herald reports:

Taxi passengers’ privacy concerns have scotched a plan to add voice recordings to new legally-required cameras in cabs.

Wellington Combined Taxis, the capital’s largest company, has decided against recording conversations after many of its passengers became alarmed at the idea.

Their fears have also prompted Corporate Cabs, with fleets in Auckland and the other main centres, to issue an assurance it will not install microphones.

Just as well. I am a regular and large user of Combined. If they had gone ahead with their plans to audio record conversations in taxis, and keep them for a month, I would have blacklisted them. No way would I take a taxi where a recording is made of what I say.

The only people allowed to listen into my phone calls are the GCSB! :-)

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Just do it yourself

March 29th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Tim Donoghue at the Dom Post reports:

A taxi driver stabbed seven times in a frenzied attack has called for all cabs to be fitted with protective screens around the drivers.

Shlemon Yako, 60, was stabbed three times in the stomach, once in his left side and three times in his arms, as he dropped off a front-seat passenger at the bottom of Shropshire Ave in the Wellington suburb of Wilton about 12.15am on Saturday.

The Kiwi Cabs driver picked the man up from the Bay Rd taxi stand in Kilbirnie and drove him across town to Wilton via Aro St.

He said the sustained attack, during which he fought with his assailant, had convinced him protective screens should be compulsory.

I feel very sorry for the driver. Sounds horrific what happened.

But I am bemused why people keep calling for certain things to be made compulsory in taxis such as video cameras and safety screens.

There’s nothing stopping taxi firms or drivers doing so themselves, if they deem it desirable. But why call for it to be compulsory?

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Sense from Steven

February 9th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Dave Burgess in the Dom post reports:

Intoducing legislation to reduce or cap the number of taxis in Wellington would be a move back to the bad old days of the 1970s and 1980s and will not happen, Transport Minister Steven Joyce says.

The Government’s position goes against that held by Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who has said that limiting taxi numbers was an area for lobbying the New Zealand Transport Agency, which issues taxi licences.

The Taxi Federation also supported a cap on the 1237 taxis licensed for Wellington.

“The Taxi Federation regularly is nostalgic for the good old days and periodically says it wants to restrict the number of taxis,” Mr Joyce said. “I notice they never volunteer to reduce the numbers in their own fleets.”

A good point, and nice to see the Minister resisting a step back in time.

The lack of action in cutting cab numbers may disappoint a significant number of Wellingtonians, if a poll on dompost.co.nz is anything to go by. Three- quarters of the 664 respondents said they believed there were too many taxis in the city.

“At different times there can be too many, but I notice that whenever you are looking for a cab you are never too worried about the number of taxis,” Mr Joyce said.

“You get more concerned if you aren’t looking for a cab and you see them around.”

Also often you don’t just want any old cab, but one from a company you trust. Some taxi firms are very much a matter of using only as a last resort.

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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 taxis in Wellington 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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Wellington Taxis

July 20th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Taxi price wars are erupting in Wellington as small companies try to stay afloat after being shunted out of the lucrative airport trade.

Two companies have cut their prices in the past two weeks and more are promising to follow suit.

The companies are angry about a Wellington Airport decision to allocate a priority taxi spot to market leader Wellington Combined, relegating competitors to an outer lane where business is scarce.

“This is a retaliation,” Kiwi Cabs spokesman Logan Pithyou said. “We’re fighting back by lowering our prices. If this doesn’t work out, the company will go bust and many other small companies will too.”

I always use Wellington Combined, unless I am in town and can’t find one. The reasons I do are:

  1. Quality of cars is good
  2. Drivers speak English and know where common locations are
  3. They use an electronic payment system, so easy to pay with taxicard
  4. They turn up fairly quickly when called

I will use Corporate Cabs also, but avoid almost all other firms.

Having said that, I can be price sensitive like most people. I would like to know how much I could save if I used another firm.

It would be a great public service if someone created a page showing all the firms in a city, and their tariffs. Ideally an average rating from users also – but just a price comparison would be really good.

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Compulsory Taxi Cameras

March 31st, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Transport Minister is pushing for security cameras in all city taxis and the taxi federation hopes they will be in place by the middle of next year.

Steven Joyce announced this morning that he would put to Cabinet the recommendation in May.

The move follows recent attacks on taxi drivers: on Saturday, two men held a knife to an Auckland cabbie’s throat for $30 in coins, and in January driver Hiren Mohini was stabbed to death in Mt Eden for a $15.20 fare.

Many Auckland cabbies have since said that they are now scared to work at night.

NZ Taxi Federation executive director Tim Reddish said the federation had been pushing for a Government mandate for security cameras for three years.

“We’re just delighted to achieve our objective and the fact that it will save lives,” Mr Reddish said.

If the recommendations gets through Cabinet, he expects the first cameras would be installed toward the end of the year and be complete by the middle of 2011, Mr Reddish said.

He expected a 24-hour distress alarm – that would let cabbies call for help – would also be part of the new legislation.

I’m confused.

The taxi federation say they are delighted and have been advocating cameras for years, as a safety measure.

So why haven’t they just gone ahead and done it themselves?

Why in God’s name do we need a special law for this?

It is a good idea to get the support of the Minister, sure. But why not just have the Minister write a letter to all taxi companies saying he supports cameras in cars.

Mr Joyce said the industry would pay for the cameras – a cost expected to increase fares by about 30 cents.

So why would individual taxi firms not decide to do this for themselves, without coercion? Wouldn’t drivers be demanding cameras be placed in their cars if the cost averages out to only 30c a trip.

And even if a few companies don’t implement cameras, then their drivers can choose to work for another company.

It’s sad that the NZ Taxi Federation thinks it needs a law passed, to be able to put security cameras into cars. Why don’t they just get on and do it.

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