There was quite a lot of news coverage last month over the Taxi situation here in Muscat, and the rather incredible defence from local taxi drivers that having meters would be bad for business. I had intended to write about it at the time but got busy and didn't have the time. Turns out I've been having a bit of insomnia lately so I'm using the fact I'm awake in the middle of the night to tap out some thoughts on this.
This story in the Times of Oman reported a Mr Suleiman Al Jardani, speaking on behalf of "around 500 Orange taxi drivers" who stated that meters are not desirable, since with current rates it would be too expensive for passengers, which he fears would lead to a loss of customers.
How many of you reading this, as presumably at some point in time being a taxi customer, have not wanted a meter in your taxi? I think the Taxi drivers are missing the point here. The RATE can be changed, if it's too high and people can't afford that, then the rate would be adjusted. What we're talking about here is a uniform price to everyone. I'm a white guy, and I can tell you that for me to take a taxi from outside the Habana sports bar to my house... in Ghubra (before the Chedi lights) that 5 minute cab ride will cost me RO 5... after having bartered down from RO 10.
I know full well that this ride shouldn't really cost me more than a rial but I pay it because I have no choice. I get gouged. The only time I can get my head around the taxi drivers not liking meter's issue is when they have multiple customers in their vehicles and want to charge different amounts for different customers. That's a bit more of a head scratcher, but basisa buses running up and down the highway are basically buses and not taxi's anyway, and as for taxi car's doing multiple fare's in one go... one fare per car.... more fares for more car's.
So the Orange and white drivers are worried about a loss of customers. How many times have you been let down by a taxi not showing up to your house at the time you requested it to be there? Let's not get ahead of ourselves, how many of you can actually get a taxi to come to your house at all?
Let's call a stick a stick for a moment shall we? Generally, Orange and White taxi drivers here, as a group entity, are not very good at being taxi's. They're not all modern, clean and safe vehicles. They're not monitored, there's no record keeping, and they charge inconsistently. Half the time they don't know where you are or where you're going, they don't have maps and they are quite simply unreliable. There are, of course, exceptions to every generalisation, but I'm going with the majority on this one.
If Suleiman and his boy's are worried about losing customers because of a meter, WTF are they doing about losing customers through being horrendously unreliable?
But wait! It gets better!
Nearly two weeks after the above linked article was published in the Times of Oman, they came out with this cracker Plan to regulate all taxis in Oman 'rejected' and again Suleman was quoted as saying this time, "We don't want any other company to come into the market. This company will hurt our business, as it will get exclusive access to strategic places like shopping malls. How will our taxis be able to earn money? If people can easily order a taxi, what's the use of cruising taxis?"
Shall I repeat that last line for you?
If people can easily order a taxi, what's the use of cruising taxis?
IF PEOPLE COULD EASILY ORDER A TAXI MORE PEOPLE WOULD ORDER THEM!
He was referring to a plan to regulate all taxis under a single company by the Ministry of Transport and Communications which would allow customers to order a cab when they wanted one, presumably through a call centre.
As if to underline the absolute insanity of this ongoing meter-less taxi drama here in the Sultanate, Suleiman is then quoted as saying:
"We need our own call centre, instead of another company which will make it more difficult for us. We are already facing difficulties due to the new bus service".
So a Government run company (with a call centre) is not desirable, but they want a call centre anyway. That wouldn't be run by the Government (and thus paid for by the Government). What Suleiman then goes on to say is actually quite reasonable, except for the fact that you'd imagine that this service could have been run out of a government call centre anyway:
(when explaining that this call centre should have a website and an app for customers) "This service will make it easy for customers to get a taxi nearby. It shouldn't be a matter of choice. All public taxi drivers should join this service and show their commitment to it".
Well yes, it shouldn't be a matter of choice. As a taxi driver, you are licensed to transport people in the region you are licensed to operate (in Dubai, it's.... Dubai only, in Oman... it's everywhere in Oman). The Government should demand meters are installed (and should pay for them as it's a change in policy, to be fair) and enforce that operators use the meter's or face the suspension of their operators license. If a taxi driver doesn't want to comply, its quite simple - revoke their license. Why should I have to worry about finding a "nice" taxi driver that I can trust to take my wife home after a girls night out? If all drivers were registered and metered, then they're accountable.
And that's what this is really about isn't it. Not wanting to be accountable.
I'm tired... and this taxi issue is nonsensical!