The moratorium on the issuing of new operating licences for the metered taxi industry will be lifted on 1 December 2014 and all new applications will be dealt with in terms of the new strategy.
The intention of this strategy and the subsequent vehicle standards and safety specifications, policies and by-law is to improve the performance and service delivery of the metered taxi industry in the city. The interventions to be developed will systematically address issues of concern such as:
• electronic hailing (e-hailing)
• the quality of vehicles
• poorly trained drivers
• relatively high tariffs that are unrelated to the quality of service rendered
• the lack of services outside the Cape Town central business district (CBD)
• the lack of universal accessibility for passengers with special needs
• inadequate regulation and law enforcement
‘This transition will not happen overnight but over a period of three years to enable the industry and the City to adapt accordingly. Through this strategy, Transport for Cape Town (TCT) also intends to address the challenges faced by the industry, as pointed out by the metered taxi operators during six City-led workshops that were held in April this year,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member: Transport for Cape Town, Councillor Brett Herron.
Some of these challenges relate to the competition posed by illegal operators, technical constraints preventing new operators from entering the market, a lack of operating licences to expand the metered taxi industry, and e-hailing.
In fact, a specific by-law will be developed to govern electronic payments with debit or credit card, and e-hailing – the use of an e-hailing application to book a metered taxi and other modes of public transport such as charter and tourist services.
Furthermore, the current operating model will be changed to make the industry more economically viable.
Metered taxis are currently regulated in terms of two types of operating licence, stipulating the general pick-up conditions:
• Rank operators are those who generally do not have radio-dispatch facilities; their operating licences allow them to pick up passengers at a specific municipal rank provided for by the City within a restricted area and only in one direction or by roaming. The vehicles and technology in terms of this specific operating licence are generally perceived to be outdated.
• Base operators are those who usually operate with a dispatch system, responding to bookings by telephone, as well as by roaming, but within a restricted area and only in one direction from their own base.
In terms of the new strategy, metered taxis will no longer be constrained by a pick-up radius (as explained above), but allowed to pick up and drop off passengers anywhere in the city. TCT, in developing the new strategy, consulted with the Western Cape Metered Taxi Council and did a comparative study of international best practice in cities such as New York, Dublin, Sydney and Nairobi.
‘The City is convinced that these new terms will allow the metered taxi industry to flourish and to run their businesses more cost effectively. We want to grow the industry with compliant operators who in turn will play their part in creating more jobs and improving their service to residents and visitors,’ said Councillor Herron.
Illegal operators will be provided with a window period to legalise their operations by applying for an operating licence as a base operator.
The most significant changes to be enacted through the strategy and the subsequent vehicle standards and safety specifications, policies and by-law, are as follows:
• A maximum fare/km will be specified, with a minimum charge for short distances and a waiting time charge
• The fare for a journey will be regardless of the number of passengers, intermediate stops, time travelled or luggage
• Flat fares will be introduced for trips from the airport to main destinations in the city
• A roof sign will be on display at all times when the vehicle is being used as a metered taxi
• Approved rates will be displayed on the vehicle and sealed in the meter
• The maximum age of vehicles will be restricted to eight years as opposed to the current 12-year renewal requirement
• Operators will be incentivised to provide wheelchair-accessible taxis
• Any booking fee payable by the taxi operator to a third party, e.g. e-hailing, will be regulated
• Knowledge, ability and customer care tests for drivers will be introduced
• A formal complaint system will be established for passengers to report bad service
• Investigations will be launched (as required) into operators’ performance which may lead to the suspension of a licence
• Rank operators will be allowed to pick up passengers at any formal municipal rank within the city
• Base operators will be allowed to pick up passengers throughout the city, but not at municipal ranks
• Temporary ranks will be created at hot spots where there is a high demand for metered taxi services at a specific time of day/night
• A metered taxi charter will be developed
It is envisaged that the necessary policies and by-law will be developed during the current financial year, that the new fare structure will be piloted in 2015/16, and that the other changes will follow thereafter.
‘These changes will enhance the status and accountability of the metered taxi industry, while at the same time improving residents’ confidence and trust in their services. Furthermore, this strategy is part of our commitment to building a City that is well-run and caring to residents and visitors alike, as well as to road users with special needs by improving on the universal accessibility of metered taxis,’ said Councillor Herron.