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Taxi fare increase comes with complications

Taxis will see a rate increase, which many find unsatisfactory, despite delays in updates that will count the increase in fares (File photograph)

An increase in taxi fares will go ahead this week despite updates to payment meters being postponed.

The Ministry of Transport said that a contractor hired to recalibrate the payment meters suffered “technical and programming issues”.

Wayne Furbert, the transport minister, said that the mandated 15 per cent increase in taxi fares will still proceed.

He added that cabs with digital meters will remain unaffected by the delay, but standard meters will not show the increase during jobs.

Mr Furbert said that the problem spoke to “the need to modernise the industry”.

He added: “It is frustrating that these standard meters must be manually and individually calibrated.

“This obstacle underscores the urgency to transition to the digital meter system.

“The local dispatch companies, BTA Dispatching, Island Taxi, Hitch and Bermuda Industrial Union can and will adjust the rate digitally to reflect the legislated rate increase on April 1.”

The changes will take place once the dispatch companies that operate the digital meters make the needed adjustments in passengers’ booking apps.

For passengers without booking apps and those who are being picked up directly, taxi drivers will advise them of the increase and present a rate card outlining the changes.

Rides with one to four passengers will operate on a Rate 3 charge from Monday to Saturday, with a 25 per cent surcharge from 10pm to midnight.

A 25 per cent surcharge will be placed on rides with five to seven passengers.

Taxi rides on Sundays and holidays will operate on a Rate 4 charge from noon to 6am, with a 25 per cent surcharge on rides with five to seven people.

The 15 per cent wage increase is part of the transport ministry’s sweeping updates to the public transport system, which also include the introduction of a ridesharing programme.

The programme will require legislation to go ahead, which will not be discussed until the House of Assembly’s return in May.

It will also be spearheaded by a one-year pilot programme involving 150 drivers, which will be used to collect data and advise on how to best shape the programme.

Ridesharing, according to Mr Furbert, will use a mobile app to allows users to request rides, track their arrival and make cashless payments.

He said that drivers can be dispatched only through these Bermudian-based mobile apps, and that only people with rideshare permits, which require a public service transport licence, can work through the platform.

Mr Furbert called the ridesharing test “a promise made and a promise on which we are actively delivering”.

He said that the programme would tackle problems surrounding access to public transportation, particularly during weekends and holidays, which he said had been the “No 1complaint” from tourists.

Mr Furbert added that the implementation of the programme would bring “more transportation options to customers when they need it the most”.

The number of registered taxis in Bermuda has fallen since 2009, with the market now restricted to about 600 permits.

The average cost of fuel per journey on 20mpg usage is 11.3 per cent of the fare collected, and has been for ten years.

Registered taxis have also decreased by 12.5 per cent, or 75 taxis, while the number of limousines and minibuses has increased by 107.

The public transportation proposals have been met with disappointment and anger from taxi drivers, who argued that the fare increase was not enough.

Members of the Bermuda Taxi Owners Association also hit back against Mr Furbert’s comments in the House of Assembly about co-operating with taxi drivers.

Dennis Furbert, the president of the BTOA, said: “He’s not listening to the people who are doing the heavy lifting.

“Talking to him is like talking to a blank wall, because he is set on what he is doing.”

Yesterday, the association leader also attributed the confusion to disorganisation on the part of the transport ministry.

He said: “[Wayne Furbert] didn’t consult any stakeholders about how they would be able to get this up and running. He just took it for granted.”

Ricky Tucker, the BTOA’s vice-president, said that the minister “made it clear that he was going to do whatever he wants anyway”.

He added that the rideshare programme would create too much competition for taxi drivers who are already scrambling for work.

Mr Tucker said that weekends were the busiest time of the week for taxis, but drivers struggle to find passengers on weeknights.

He added that while the initiative will be seasonal, he worried that its ability to operate year-round on weekends and holidays would increase competition too much for taxis.

He said: “Most of the restaurants close by 10pm or 11pm and kitchens close, so people are not going to sit around until one or two o’clock in the morning.

“We have drivers who stay out until six o’clock in the morning and they have a hard time making money.

“The Government keeps saying people can’t find taxis, but they cannot prove to us anything.

“This is just an excuse for them to put this ride-share into place.”

Mr Tucker said that the BTOA had given the transport ministry plenty of options to help reorganise public transport, including the use of minibuses where taxis could not be used.

He added that the use of rideshare was instead “just another cover-up” to hide their short-sightedness and “another way to blame the taxis and say ‘you guys are not out there’”.

Mr Tucker said: “Every time they’re given a solution, they don’t listen to us.

“We’ve given them several different options that they can do to help with the industry, but they don’t want to do that.”

UPDATE: this article has been amended to clarify that the Bermuda Tourism Authority is not in the business of taxi dispatching, but rather BTA Dispatching

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Published April 02, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 02, 2024 at 1:00 pm)

Taxi fare increase comes with complications

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