Cabbies back call for transport summit
Taxi owners have backed a call for a summit of transportation stakeholders to inform government policy.
The Bermuda Taxi Owners and Operators Association acknowledged and accepted the position taken by David Burgess, the president of the Bermuda Executive Minibus Alliance.
In a recent interview, Mr Burgess told The Royal Gazette that government transportation policies should benefit from industry knowledge in resolving longstanding issues hindering the smooth transportation of tourists.
BTOA executives agree with minibus owners that circumstances, such as an unnecessary confusion at Horseshoe Bay, could, and should, be resolved, if government took on-board the views of stakeholders.
The taxi operators are not completely in step with minibuses, but on the summit idea, they agree.
“We have long felt that the government is just not listening to the people most affected by the changes they decide to make — the owners and operators of these vehicles,” said Dennis Furbert, BTOA president. “The Government appears to be making decisions in a silo without thorough consultation.”
The BTOA said it would welcome a “think-tank” and would be happy to sit down with government and other stakeholders in the transportation industry to put thoughts and ideas down on paper and review some of the issues they face.
Owners and operators believe that until the Government deals with the issues plaguing the public transportation system, including the bus and ferry, there will continue to be problems meeting the demands placed upon the taxi industry especially with the introduction of multiple mega cruise ships per day and minibuses being drafted in to help with school bus runs.
Ricky Tucker, BTOA vice-president added: “We’ve had the 2018 Transportation Green Paper and the Public Service Modernisation Consultation to which we’ve all contributed but are yet to hear of any proposed changes as a result of the latest government undertaking.
“The 2018 Transportation Green Paper contained a wish list that the BTOA has prioritised and governed themselves by; however, since our meetings began with the Minister of Transport back in 2021, and approximately ten meetings later, we have received absolutely nothing off of the wish list. This includes an increase to the meter that was last increased almost ten years ago. “
The Bermuda Taxi Owners and Operators Association is so upset with government, they are considering the idea of a taxi authority.
On record a week ago demanding that officials come clean over plans for a possible shake-up of the industry, the association was responding to David Burt, the Premier, who hinted during a parliamentary address that changes to the industry were in the pipeline.
Now, the association says it “feels a strong need to remove our interests from under government control.”
Dennis Furbert, the president of the BTOA, said: “We are concerned that the government has too much say in things such as whether or not we should receive a rate increase when a rate increase does not come out of any government budget nor does the government provide the taxi industry with any subsidies except payroll tax.”
The association feels at odds with government because of how differently a new industry, such as minibuses, has so far been able to escape the type of regulation the taxi industry has long endured.
They point to the 2018 Transportation Green Paper where taxi owners see suggestions for handling the different sizes of minibuses.
“We are surprised that government has not taken advantage of this as it would mean more revenue for them as well as aiding in their long overdue attempt to regulate the minibus industry,” said Astrid Clarke, BTOA PR executive.
“We do not look at the minibus industry as direct competition, however, we feel that with necessary regulation and amendments to the Motor Car Act, we all could work better together to service the island.”
Ricky Tucker, BTOA vice-president also noted a lack of clarity in terms of business for taxis and minibus operators.
He said: “At times it feels like it’s a free for all and especially in the heat of summer, which leads to contention between the taxi operators and the minibus operators.
“We all have a vested interest in moving people but we feel that without some regulation placed on the minibus there will continue to be the appearance of disorganisation and disharmony.”
Those in the taxi industry are also deeply concerned about what they see as a disparity in compensation.
One complaint is that unlike public bus and ferry employees, taxi operators do not receive paid health, dental, vision, social insurance, pension, paid vacation, maternity leave and sick time.
Mr Tucker said: "All of this, in addition to the maintenance of ourselves and our vehicles comes from our pocket.
“And with the antiquated expectation that taxis are on our increasingly dilapidated roads 16 hours a day, the cost of maintenance, parts, tyres and fuel has steadily risen over the years, however our rate has not.
"We feel that the government is using tactics to delay approving an increase to the meter and other requests which should have nothing to do with any new, grandiose plans they have for improving the transportation system."
The association also said the minister recently approved 40 additional minibus permits, however he has not seen fit to provide the taxi industry one single requested item.
Mr Tucker said: "Understandably, our visitors, especially those converging upon the island from the mega cruise ships, deserve transportation options.
“However, how can we happily provide this, with no appreciation for the heavy lifting we do daily for the various entities – moving people whether locals, corporate, visitors, from hotels, restaurants, cruises and the airport?"