Minister: no taxi-fare quid pro quo with drivers
Taxi drivers will get a fare increase before the next summer season, the transport minister said yesterday.
However, Wayne Furbert was unable to say what the increase would be, adding that it would depend on a “harmonisation and modernisation” plan for the public service vehicles industry.
At a press conference on the Throne Speech, the minister said: “Over the past years, the Ministry of Transport has been steadfast and dedicated to the harmonisation and modernisation of the public service vehicles industry.
“The persistent challenges within the industry have endured for numerous years. It is imperative to synchronise Bermuda's transportation system with current standards and best practices.
“This commitment of change is rooted in the pursuit of a more efficient, accessible, and forward-looking transportation system that will undoubtedly enhance the lives of our residents and visitors as well.”
He said when he was appointed transport minister he met with various stakeholders in the taxi industry, including individual taxi owners.
“Deliberations have followed, and it is the intent to finally address this matter. The outstanding issue now demands immediate attention and decisive action,” said Mr Furbert.
He said the objective for the taxi rates was to have an increase before the next season begins.
Asked why it could not be sooner, the minister said: “We are working on harmonisation and modernisation, we are looking at the whole package.
“So why do we do that? The purpose of looking at that is because what we do on the harmonisation and modernisation may have a major impact on how we look at the rate increase.
“So we say a certain rate right now, and once we have finished our actual harmonisation and modernisation, we might say ‘oops’, it should have been lower or higher. We want to make sure that we get the right numbers.”
Taxi drivers said they were concerned that the Government would package a fare increase as part of a quid quo pro to get them to accept ride-share apps.
“Absolutely not,” said the minister. “I have said that over and over again, and I will make it very clear to every taxi driver listening to me, there is no quid quo pro.”
The Throne Speech highlighted a move towards a Digital Fare Media system — something suggested as far back as 2018, when the Bermuda Tourism Authority put out an RFP in 2018 for a digital fare media solution.
When asked why the system had taken so long to implement, Mr Furbert said: I have been working on that, and we will make sure it happens.”
Pointed out to him that he had been in Cabinet longer than 11 months and that he would have some knowledge of what had happened, the minister added: “I really cannot answer that question.
“But we are working on it, to a point right now that we have got a vendor who we want to work with, and a final decision will be made soon.”
Asked when someone would be able to pay a bus fare with their phone, Mr Furbert replied: “As soon as we get completed, somewhere between six and eight months.”
In the past, the bus service has been bedevilled by cancellations with sometimes dozens of cancellations a day — although that number has fallen to less than a handful.
As electric buses had phased out diesel-powered vehicles, Mr Furbert, who said his department was looking at the feasibility of electric ferries, said: “It was the diesel buses breaking down.
“Now we have the full package of electric vehicles on board, and we have had very few cancellations.”
• For the minister’s full statement, see Related Media