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Taxi statistics back up case for change

Taxi statistics back up case for change

An Auckland City Council-conducted survey released last week showed that Aucklanders have serious concerns about the driving behaviour, street knowledge and in some cases the language ability of taxi drivers.

The council’s Transport Committee decides this week on how to handle rogue taxi driver behaviour in the CBD.

“I appreciate public concerns are about more than illegal parking and unsafe u-turns on city streets,” said Councillor Greg McKeown, chairperson of the Transport Committee. “Drivers not knowing where they are going and driving badly raises safety concerns for passengers. They are paying for a convenient door-to-door service and deserve to get it.”

“We also appreciate that any changes in the industry should carefully consider the issues raised by drivers who are doing their best to support their families,” said Councillor McKeown. “For this reason we are committed to working with the taxi companies and the Taxi Federation, as well as the Police and LTSA, to examine the issues and implications of any new policy from an all-round perspective.”

Last week several taxi companies acknowledged safety and service issues but made it clear that it was difficult to control service quality in the industry when it was so easy to get a taxi licence. Several taxi companies support the Council’s zero-tolerance approach to bad driving behaviour, and are hoping that more can be done about the issue of oversupply.

“Taxi operators are clearly an important part of transport options in the city. For instance, we ask folk who are planning a big night out in town to take a bus or taxi, don’t we? So the issue is that a reliable service should be provided.”

“I applaud companies who have driver training and internal compliance programmes and have developed systems to provide a higher level of service to customers,” says Councillor McKeown. “Something is clearly adrift when a $35 registration puts a trained microbiologist in the driving seat when he doesn’t really want to be there. My guess is that the paying public would rather see an environment which supports professional drivers and operating companies, with appropriate levels of both service and price competition.”

The poll showed that 30 percent of the city’s residents have been affected by taxis illegally double-parking next to full taxi ranks.

The research indicates poor behaviour by taxi drivers is having a significant impact on the public and of those affected by bad parking behaviour, 60% say this is happening in the central city.

The 12 – 14 July 2003 telephone survey of 300 city residents was commissioned as part of information going to the council’s Transport Committee on Wednesday, 6 August. The committee will consider a report recommending ways to improve central city taxi management.

The council is looking to develop a safer and better taxi service for the public in the central area by addressing issues like taxi rank overcrowding, illegal double-parking and inappropriate driving behaviour by taxi drivers. Traffic management research and the opinion survey also indicate some ranks could be relocated and new ones opened in a bid to make taxi-catching safer.

Residents are concerned about catching a cab at night: 35 percent of those interviewed are concerned at how far they might have to walk to catch a taxi after dark.

One option the Transport Committee will consider is setting up new night-only ranks in key night life areas like the Viaduct, Parnell and Karangahape Road.

According to the poll, Aucklanders score the quality of their taxi services at 60 out of 100, with 10% finding them poor.

Only 12% think taxi services have got better in the past few years. 25% think they’ve got worse.

Those who say they’ve got worse cite these as the main reasons: too many cabs (11%) drivers don’t speak English (17%) drivers don’t know where to go (16%) too expensive (8%)

When all respondents are asked what the main drawback of catching a cab is at the moment, city residents say: too expensive (49%) drivers don’t know where to go (35%) drivers don’t speak English (31%)

However, 88% see taxis as an important part of transport around Auckland.

The report to the Transport Committee outlines options including zero tolerance by parking officers for illegal parking by taxis and reviewing the location, size and number of taxi ranks in the CBD to reflect customers’ needs.

A further traffic management consultant’s study of use of taxi ranks in the CBD, conducted during the busy pre-Christmas period last year, shows the average duration of stay on a rank by a taxi was 50 minutes. Some stayed up to 135 minutes, with 30 percent of taxis leaving without passengers.

City officers propose it is not the council’s job to provide an endless supply of taxi ranks, but enough to ensure cabs are available at conveniently located ranks whenever people want to catch one.

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