Government deregulates passenger services

April 22nd, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Some really good decisions from the Government on the passengers services. Simon Bridges and Craig Foss announced:

Currently there are separate categories and rules for taxis, private hire, shuttles, and rideshare operators. Under the changes, these services will be regulated under a single category of small passenger service, meaning one set of rules for all.

A good start – one simple set of rules.

“New technologies like smart phones and apps have changed the way the sector can operate. Modernising our rules will ensure they are flexible enough to accommodate new business models,” Mr Bridges says

“The Government has clearly stated our intention to encourage innovation and enable new kinds of services. Freeing up the regulatory environment will allow transport operators to compete on an even footing,” Mr Bridges says.

Some rules that impose costs on operators, but no longer provide any significant benefits, will be removed.

“Removing outdated rules will allow a broader range of transport services to develop throughout New Zealand, giving consumers more choice,” Mr Foss says.

People used to just pick whatever taxi was on a taxi stand. Now many people use apps to book a driver, and will swap firms based on quality.

The regulations being removed include:

  • Signage requirements (including information about fares, mandatory branding, information supplied in Braille)
  • An Area Knowledge Certificate
  • Passing a full licence test in the preceding five years
  • The need to belong to an approved taxi organisation
  • Provision of small passenger services on a 24/7 basis
  • Driver panic alarms, monitored 24/7 from a fixed location

These have all imposed a considerable cost and now little benefit. The q+a explains:

The Ministry’s review found that these requirements no longer add value. For example, GPS and mapping technology means that area knowledge is not as important as it was in the past. Removing these requirements means that the proposed regime will be more flexible, and reduces compliance costs. It encourages businesses to make their own decisions about what their services should include, depending on their customers’ needs.

They have also given an exemption from the silly rule about needing a video camera in the vehicle if:

  1. Providing services to registered passengers only
  2. Collection of driver and passenger information
  3. Availability of driver and passenger information
  4. Retaining a record of each trip.

Drivers still need a P licence and a full Police check. However the time taken to do this has dropped from 55 days to 20 days, and reduce further yet.  And the cost is likely to drop from $700 to under $200 which will make it easier for mreo people to become part-time drivers – say students between lectures or retired persons for a few hours a day.

Really good to see the Government not trying to protect incumbent industries with regulatory overkill, but instead responding to a new business dynamic by reducing regulatory obligations on all participants. The end result is better choices and prices for consumers.

On that note Uber has just announced their prices in Auckland and Wellington are dropping 20%. They are already a third cheaper than most taxis, so this will probably mean around half the price in future – great.

Sensible approach to passenger services review

December 15th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Uber could be forced to check drivers’ log books and vehicle safety, after the Government recommended forcing it to become an approved transport operator.

However drivers which use the mobile platform to find passengers appear set to continue to operate without being forced to install in-vehicle cameras, which are required in taxis.

I’m pleased they are not going to try and force Uber cars to install cameras. It would be a huge unnecessary cost. Uber cars do not do random pick ups. They are booked through an app and the identity of the driver and passenger is known. Plus there is a GPS trace of the route. That is far more secure than a video camera in the car.

The consultation document is here. The overall theme looks good – reducing regulatory requirements on the taxi industry, rather than increasing them on services such as Uber.

However it could go further. At present it takes at least eight weeks and $1,500 for someone to get a passenger licence. That’s way too costly and slow. The Government should set a target of turning applications around in under a month and reducing the cost to say $500.

Competition heats up

November 19th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Uber has announced a 10 per cent drop in all its fares as local companies put out their own apps to try to reclaim ground in the taxi market.

Auckland Uber fares will be cut by a tenth today and the company says this will make its fares up to 40 per cent cheaper than taxi rides.

At the same time, a taxi driver with almost 50 years’ experience is launching an app aiming to provide customers with a cheaper ride than Uber and bring back more rides for taxi drivers.

Excellent. That’s what we want – both price competition and service improvement. Taxi firms developing their own apps is the logical response to Uber.

Eric Sercombe has been in the driving industry for 47 years and works for Dial-a-Cab and VIP Taxis.

He is also the operations manager for Ezygo, a new app that people can use to order a taxi that will be cheaper than Uber.

Every element of the fare with Ezygo, from the mileage rate to the meter rate, was 5c cheaper than Uber, Mr Sercombe said. The drivers would also make more money per ride.

“Our fee for the driver is only 10 per cent. Uber’s is 20 per cent. So a $25 ride on Uber, the driver takes home $20, but a $25 ride with us, the driver takes home $22.50.”

Great – good luck to them.

Responding to competition the right way

October 5th, 2015 at 3:51 pm by David Farrar

In the last week, I’ve noticed that when I book a Wellington Combined cab, I now get a text from them as the taxi is about to arrive.

This is a good innovation from them, and no doubt driven by the fact that passengers have shown with Uber they really appreciate getting alerted to when their vehicle is near.

This is how you should respond to a competitor with a new business model – by changing your own. The text alert isn’t quite as good as seeing the car’s location on a map, but it is a good improvement. Certainly makes a difference on wet days, not having to go outside until the car is here.

Why did it take so long?

September 24th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A driver with more than 100 traffic violations and a dozen criminal convictions has had his taxi licence revoked.

Why so long? Shouldn’t it be revoked after say one conviction and/or three or four traffic violations?

Raj Naresh, a 40-year driving veteran, has been stripped of his passenger licence by the NZ Transport Agency as he is no longer considered “a fit and proper person to be a taxi driver”.

Since starting as a taxi driver in 1975, Naresh has racked up 110 traffic-related offences, 12 criminal convictions, a further three criminal offences where he was discharged without conviction, 17 regulatory offences, 50 documented “complaints about his activity and behaviour as a taxi driver”, and six transport licensing sanctions.


A taxi price comparison

April 7th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A new website allows consumers to predict the cost of a taxi fare, accurate to within about $4.

The site,, estimates the cost of a journey between two points on a map, across a range of taxi companies, in five New Zealand cities – Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

A Herald test found that fare estimates provided by the site were between $3.35 less and $2.81 more than actual fare costs in Hamilton and Auckland.

As wait times can’t be predicted, it’s suggested the website will underestimate fares by $3 to $8.

Auckland traffic was flowing well at the time of the test, with slight congestion on Customs St and Symonds St.

The Herald used companies Discount Taxis (ranked as one of the cheapest on, Auckland Co-op Taxis (ranked as a middle-price) and Sail Taxis (ranked as one of the more expensive).

All estimates by the website were between 86c less and $2.81 more than the actual fare cost. In Auckland, 31 companies are ranked from cheapest to most expensive. Uber estimates are not included.

I’ve wanted a site like this for ages. While I mainly use Uber now, it is good to be able to see the price differences by firm.

A taxi from my home to the airport (a 20 minute drive, including five minutes of stopping) would be:

  1. Kiwi Cabs $34.68
  2. Green Cabs $34.69
  3. Wgtn Combined $38.77
  4. Harbour City $42.06
  5. Wellington Star $44.86
  6. Capital Cabs $45.51

I always use Combined, so good to see they are relatively well prices. I wonder what Corporate Cabs would cost?

Taxi competition working

February 23rd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A price gap of up to $60 has emerged between taxi companies travelling from Auckland Airport to the city.

The Herald reported on Saturday that an undercover survey of four taxi companies travelling the same route found a difference of up to $40. One company, Black Cabs, charged $91.60, while the cheapest, booked through the app CabChooze, charged $50.83.

The Herald received feedback from readers after the story pointing to much cheaper deals, leading to a bigger difference of nearly $60.

A reporter yesterday took a pre-booked trip from the airport to the city with Cheap Cabs, costing only $33.

The company’s website lists flat-rate fares to and from the airport.

Another company, Discount Taxis, quoted the Herald a cash fare of $40 to travel from the airport to SkyCity.

This is a good thing that there is such a wide range of prices. Some customers are price sensitive and will want the cheapest fare. Others go for quality and will always go for Auckland Combined or Corporate Cabs.

Apps will play a major part in allowing people to choose the cab they want.

Uber editorials

January 26th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Some of the complaining is down to professional jealousy and turf-guarding. But it has also posed important questions around passenger safety. So it is welcome that the Government will review the regulations around “small passenger services” – the umbrella term covering taxi companies and private hire outfits. Uber is classed among the latter group, which exempts it from certain lengthy rules around fares, meters, back offices, taxi licences and signage. That’s for the good – these rules simply don’t apply to Uber – and it helps the company offer lower prices than taxis.

But the classification also allows Uber more dubious advantages: no need for security cameras mandatory in most taxis; no need for “area knowledge” and language standards that many taxi drivers must meet; less onerous rules around reporting complaints.

It’s not clear why Uber should enjoy such perks. Its model is fundamentally an advance in ease-of-payment and passenger-driver matchmaking – not an advance in safety. And that is the main reason for having rules: to do what is reasonable to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers.


The security cameras were not put in to protect passengers, but taxi drivers. And they shouldn’t be mandatory anyway.

The editorial misses the key difference between Uber and taxis. With a taxi you get basically no choice as to who your driver is. With Uber you can choose your driver, and you get to see what other passengers have said about them. It is potentially a far more powerful model for safety and quality.

It is like Trade Me – your reputation is vital. Get some bad reviews, and people won’t trade with you.

So the Dom Post misses the point when it says Uber has perks because it does not need to meet taxi standards. Taxis gets regulated by their companies and the state. Uber drivers effectively get regulated by passengers – if your driver gets you lost, you’ll give them a bad review.

The Press takes a more enlightened approach:

It is, however, one of the most disruptive businesses of all those businesses whose disruption is based on technology and it has aroused fierce resentment, among taxi companies in particular. In some countries it has been banned.

Taxi companies say Uber has an unfair advantage because although it operates as a taxi service it is not subject to the multiplicity of regulations that taxi companies must obey. Uber insists, and the Transport Agency at this point agrees, that it is a hire-car service and it fits within all the applicable regulations.

The differences between taxi and hire-car services are that taxis may be hailed in the street and charge by the metered distance they travel, plus extras like credit-card and eftpos fees.

Hire-car services must be booked in advance for a fee agreed in advance. Uber’s drivers are private operators with their own cars. Customers engage them via a smartphone application. The differences between the services can become blurred, however, and taxi companies say that some Uber operators are stepping over the line.

Some of the taxi companies’ fears, such as those about safety, can probably be discounted. Uber drivers, for instance, are vetted and must have a public passenger licence.

Passengers and drivers rate each other and Uber dismisses those drivers with consistently poor ratings. Because of the way they are hired, any misbehaving driver (or passenger) could also usually be traced.

There is, however, a strong argument for saying that taxis are over-regulated. Foss says that the Government wants to allow innovation to flourish. The review he has proposed must allow that and should not be used as a device to shut innovation down.

I’d be impressed with a taxi firm that tried to emulate Uber rather than close it down. Why not allow us to easily rate our taxi drivers and have that info available to passengers? Why can’t a taxi company inform a passenger which cabs are nearby, and allow the passenger to choose the one they want?


Uber in NZ

October 16th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Controversial smartphone app Uber has struggling taxi drivers moonlighting for them, according to the New Zealand Taxi Federation.

Uber has its official launch in Wellington this afternoon even though it has been used in Wellington for the past couple of months. It was launched in Auckland earlier this year.

Uber allows registered drivers with their own cars to link up with customers through a smartphone app, with fares pre-agreed.

Federation executive director Roger Heale said they “were kind of enjoying” Uber being in New Zealand.

“The people who are driving for them are the taxi drivers who can’t get work anywhere else. They’re current taxi drivers who, if they get a job have to jump out, take the top sign off [the cab], and go around and do the job as an Uber driver.” …

Uber spokeswoman Katie Curran said they were “thrilled with the reception” they had received in Auckland and Wellington from riders and partner-drivers.

“We’re glad the Taxi Federation recognises that Uber is raising the standards of the for-hire transport industry.”

Good to see the NZ taxi industry not being hysterically opposed to new technology and business models, as some of their overseas counterparts have been.


NZ Taxis against Uber

July 30th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Controversial car travel app Uber is eyeing the Wellington market but the taxi federation says it is illegal under New Zealand law and warns that it is “sugar-coated poison” that will lead to higher fares.

Uber has denied claims it was operating illegally since it started in May in Auckland, where people can book a ride from motorists who are not cabbies.

The New Zealand Transport Agency said Uber was effectively acting as a booking agent for a network of private hire service providers – not as a taxi firm – and those private hire services were a long-established form of passenger service in New Zealand.

The Taxi Federation doesn’t like the idea of competition. I do. Can’t wait for Uber to get here.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?


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?

So what is DC proposing?

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



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?

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.

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.

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.

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! 🙂

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?

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 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.

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.