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Taxi Times International - March 2015 - English

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CHANGING TAXI TRADE NEWS

CHANGING TAXI TRADE NEWS BRUSSELS GOVERNMENT FINANCES DIGITAL TAXIMETERS As Brussels cabs are no ‘pirate taxis’ they will have a digital meter. By October 2016 all taxis in the Brussels Capital Region should be fitted with the most advanced taxi meter. The Region will spend € 3,2 million. approach. We need to educate the industry operators to spread the same strong public safety message.” Isn’t it a very uneven battle financially? “We are dogged in our determination. Unflinching, unfailing we have to be there 365 days of every year. IRU and national associations all have to be there. What happened to Uber in December was three years in the making. Two bad months in 2014. But they are in for more. TLPA staff is growing by one to 6, but the number of our consultants has grown tremendously: legal, legislative, social media, insurance and PR. It’s been a burden that our members share. This year we have to double our fees as there are significant costs we need to share.” Can the industry learn a lesson from TNC’s? “We rely too much on our colour schemes, the visibility of our cabs. That’s not enough anymore. People have shown they prefer not to call a dispatcher. They prefer pushing a button on their smartphone. People like that, I like that. Technology gives comfort if it’s done right. Showing the vehicle coming towards you on your smartphone screen gives confidence in the service. A great idea. Another one is rating drivers. This may encourage some drivers to provide more customer friendly service.” »We need universal coverage. It’s a worthwhile goal to strive for as soon as possible.« “Marketing perhaps? Yes, they give away free trips. That’s what you have to do when you’re in business providing an illegal service. Or spend major dollars on social media. It’s too costly for licensed operators to provide free trips. But if you’re not paying licensing fees and expenses, it’s not so difficult to give away free trips.” LaGasse is honest about the state of the industry: “Are they hurting us? Yes! In the early days we fought them off quite well. Most operators in the US have more than one type of operation – the lines between services are more blurred here. In the US we’re probably headed to a relaxation of many licensing and public safety requirements in the taxi industry. I firmly believe TNC’s public safety requirements must be and will be tightened and like us they must turn over data to regulators. We could do with paying less fees to the cities, if we want a chance to lower our rates and compete with TNC prices. And if the rules are relaxed for our competitors, then for us as well. We need to have a look at new business practices, like surge pricing. Not to copy it and charge 7 or 8 times the fare, but to give our drivers who are out in bad weather, a reasonable incentive to stay on the road for the passengers.” One universal app for the US, would that work? “That’s a universal ideal that can be realised. But we never got our members behind one methodology for an app. I say, lets start going through the steps, if we ever want to get there. The market is not big enough to support a 100 apps in the USA and more than a 100 worldwide. How many will survive? My guess is fewer than 5 taxi apps in the US, and maybe 10 worldwide. We need universal coverage. It’s a worthwhile goal to strive for as soon as possible. That’s why we think GTN is such a good initiative.” n wf PHOTO: Wim Faber PHOTO: Weilandt, Faber All 1.270 taxis in the Brussels region must be fitted with new digital meters, similar to the digital taximeters in Flanders and the advanced on-board computers (BCT) in The Netherlands. But where Dutch taxi operators received a subsidy of a mere € 600 on an average BCT of € 1.300 to € 1.500, Brussels colleagues will profit from a generous local government. Minister Pascal Smet (Mobility) will finance the meters from a budget of € 3,2 million. So far only 40 of the taxis in the European Dirk Ritter, responsible for the traffic business supervision of the Authority for Economy, Transport and Innovation of the City of Hamburg, drew a positive balance. The so-called fiscal taximeters were installed and supported financially in 2.104 taxis, says Ritter. This is a “huge number which we can all be proud of”. It is a very strong signal when “2/3 of all vehicles voluntarily participate, guaranteeing fair competitive conditions and im proving their image significantly”. Unlike most other areas, taxi permits in Hamburg are not limited and they increased drastically in the beginning of the new millennium – from 3,391 in 1966 to over 4,000 in 2000. Consequently, a parallel economy and moonlighting were emerging. capital are fitted with a digital meter. How the Region is going to decide on the supplier of these meters, is not yet decided. With the new taximeter drivers will no longer have to record their rest and driving times with pen and paper, local government gets more data and customers get more information about price and distance. Smet insists on maximum transparency in the taxi sector. The neww meters must enable card and smartphone payments. The meter should not only simplify the work of FINAL BALANCE IN HAMBURG The number of Taxis in Hamburg is falling continuously. the taxi driver. As its data will be stored on an “external server” and in the meter itself, local government will also get a wealth of information about the local taxi activities and about local traffic. For Smet this is a first step “in making the Brussels taxi sector more dynamic and customer friendly. At the moment I’m working on a Taxi Plan, which I will present to the government in due course. With this plan we are moving towards a better taxi service in Brussels.” wf On the 30th of November 2014 ended a project of several years, promoted by the licensing authorities of Hamburg, for the installation of fiscal taximeters. In order to monitor actual sales again, the Hanseatic city started a project known as the “Hamburg Model”. The voluntary installation of tamper-proof taximeters was financially supported. Through the participation of numerous companies, as well as the evaluation of recorded sales, realistic values could be determined again, serving as a starting point for the authorities. As a result, the extension of concessions was refused to many companies, as their specific sales were classified as implausible. “The time the taxi business in Hamburg was finding itself rather in a ‘grey zone’ is finally over” Dirk Ritter concluded. “The number of taxis in Hamburg is falling continuously. Today, there are only 3,252 taxis on Hamburg’s roads.” jh 14 TAXI MARCH / 2015 15

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