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Lack of cabs on breath test weekend

Bermuda's taxi drivers faced a barrage of criticism yesterday after an apparent lack of cabs as the island's first breath test checkpoints went operational last weekend.

One post on Facebook's MAJ's List with a photo of an empty taxi rank on Front Street on Friday night attracted more than 500 comments. Many highlighted inefficiencies in the taxi system, but a handful suggested taxi drivers were busy dealing with extra demand.

Leo Simmons, former president of the Taxi Owners and Operators Association, said he had tried to tackle inefficiency with the Government and others during his three years in the post.

Mr Simmons, who stepped down as TOOA president in April, said: “This is one of the reasons I stepped aside, because I am getting frustrated flogging a dead horse.”

One poster on Facebook, Laurence Fox, created a MAJ's List poll on whether Uber, a ride-sharing network using mobile devices, or another taxi alternative should be allowed to operate in Bermuda.

About 670 people voted in favour of a service similar to Uber, close to 30 voted against and four did not know by yesterday evening.

Mr Simmons said an Uber-style service could hit cab drivers in Bermuda or put them out of work, as it has done overseas.

He added there should be a central dispatch service to organise the operation of the 600 licensed cabs on the island.

Bermuda at present has the Island Taxi Service, BTA Dispatching and taxi booking app Hitch.

Mr Simmons said: “I totally agree with a central dispatch where all the calls go to that company and every car on the road is on the same system as opposed to having several separate dispatching companies.”

Mr Simmons added: “In winter there are too many cabs on the road because we are not a year-round destination. In the summer we feel there are not enough cabs.

“I put it forward to this transport minister and the transport minister before — they have 80 temporary permits and I said during our busy period from May 1 to October 1, allow those permits to be used.

He said: “There have to be stipulations — they should only be part-time permits and only be used during the busy season.”

Mr Simmons outlined other measures he believed would improve the system.

These included proper enforcement of regulations for taxi owners and operators, insurance provisions for cab owners who want to share their cabs with other drivers without being liable for their actions and better security for drivers who work late at night.

There was also online confusion between Bermuda's Hitch and an Uber-style service yesterday.

Hitch is a mobile app where members can book licensed cabs, while Uber uses members of the public, who are subject to background checks, as drivers.

Hitch has suffered problems in recent days due to changes in Google Maps, which have affected ride-hailing services around the world.

An e-mail to Hitch users yesterday said: “Because of this, while using the Hitch app, the retrieval of some addresses may show up incorrectly, causing much confusion to customers and drivers alike. We will shortly update our app to fix this issue.”

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Published September 25, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated September 25, 2018 at 9:06 am)

Lack of cabs on breath test weekend

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