Contributed by Michael Fitzpatrick
Dublin Area Taxi Association
National Taxi Drivers Union
Irish Taxi Drivers Federation
GREEN LIGHT FOR CHANGE
Dublin's Taxi Drivers are proud of our service to the community and our role in public transportation policy for the city.We want that service to increase and grow with the changes in the city and the growth of the economy.We want to keep our international reputation for efficiency and frendliness and our role at the heart of transportation in the city.
A healty transportation policy is one which offers stability to its users, to its utilities, to its investors and to its employees. The quality of the service is affected by the quality of this stability. Dublin's taxi drivers are concerned to welcome adjustments and inprovement and advise against any proposals that would destabilise the regulated taxi structure.
We welcome proposals to bring taxi policy under one controlling body in the Dublin region. We welcome proposals which suggest that taxi drivers should be able to make a reasonable living without working excessive hours, and proposals which would maximise taxi usage.
Alone among the providers of public transport, taxi drivers have put a considerable amount of private investment into there service. Instability threatens that investment. Stability will help the taxis to serve any increases in demand and create more employment in the industry.
A SERVICE INDUSTRY
* The taxi industry is an important and highly regarded part of Dublin's public transportation system. At certain times taxis are the sole providers of public transport.
* Alone among Dublin's public transport providers, taxis do not receive any state subvention or subsidy.
* The services sector is among the fastest growing sectors of the economy. The taxi industry has responded to this growth by increasing the quality of the service on offer.
* The standard of vehicles in the Dublin taxi fleet has increased dramatically.
* Other measures such as the introduction of roof top signs at the taxi-owner's expense have increased the convenience to taxi users.
* The Oscar Faber report shows that satisfaction rating with taxi-drivers among tourists and local users is exemplary.
* No other service industry is asked to operate under such rigid price control. Taxis are the only service in Ireland that operated in 1992 at 1985 prices, or in 1997 at 1992 prices.
* As a service industry, the growth in demand for taxis has had a corresponding growth in employment.
* This growrh is of greater proportion than the increase in licenses iussed because additional drivers have been engaged to work licensed taxis over the past twenty years, an additional 1,800 becoming securely employed to some extent.
* The taxi business currently employs 4,500 people in Dublin. As an industry, it employs 1,500 more people than Bus Atha Cliath and many more than the commuter rail system.
* The business has been somewhat destabilesed by a preceived reluctance to enforce the 1983 regulations which were designed to ensure that private hire vehicles would not interfere illegally with the legitimate taxi business.
* This instability has already adversely affected the credit facilities available to would be taxi owners who are attempting to invest in the business.
* Almost uniquely, taxi drivers i.e. cosies can come up through the system in Dublin and become owners in their own right. There are four hundred new licence holders in Dublin who are scheduled to invest £16 million plus, plus investment and insurance costs. It is important that the business they enter is properly regulated.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT, PUBLIC RESPONSIBILITY
* Taxis are aknowledged as one of the central components in an environmentally-friendly, planned public transport policy for the city.
* At present taxis provide the only public transport option which is not subsidised.
* Taxis are being asked to meet the peaks in demand unaided by other public transport utilities.
* Subsidised public transport is used by many people to travel to social engagements in the city who then require taxis to bring them home in the absence of these subsidised services.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
* Although demand for taxis has grown in Dublin in recent years, Oscar faber assumes that there has not been an increase in supply to meet this growing demand.
* Despite the perception that demand was not being met by supply, taxi drivers are forced to work long hours to maintain a modest standard of living while the benefits of the growth in demand are enjoyed by private hire vehicles.
* It is our view that the perception that demand is not being met can be changed if fare structures are adjusted.
* Taxi drivers regret that this rapid increase in demand was accompanied by a destabilising of the industry through increased costs without a corresponding increase in fares and the increased tendency of private-hire operators to behave as if they were running taxis.
* Destabilising has been amplified by the failure to update fare structures and enforced work practices which made it uneconomic for taxi drivers to operate at times when demand was reaching its peak.
TAXI FARE STRUCTURE
* Changes in distance charges, time charges, minimum charge, unsocial hours extra hiring charge, and soiling charge are heartily welcomed by drivers as a major step towards redressing difficulties with the fares structure.
* It is essential that a two-tier structure is introduced.This will secure greater value for money and a better service for taxi users in outlying areas.
* Travel to the suburban conurbations from the city, e.g. Tallaght, Swords, Ballymun, Clondalkin should be excluded from the two tier fares system, which we have applied for and which we are awaiting the implementation of following the final report of Oscar Faber.
* Although increases have been granted, the complaint of taxi drivers that these have not kept pace with inflation supports Oscar Faber's findings that taxi fares have increased at a slower rate than both the general cost of living and the transport component of the CPI.
* While Oscar Faber declares that the cost facing the driver is the single most important factor in determining the need for change it also freely uses comparisons with the UK to project what fares should be. These do not consider that taxi operator's costs in the UK are significantly lower. In Dublin there is a perception that costs are much lower in most cities in the UK, so Dublin taxi drivers are spending more and charging less.
* Nevertheless the taxi drivers note that the ratio of 6,385 taxis to 9,527 passengers, an average of 1.5 passengers to taxi, confirms that the Dublin basic fare structure is correct.
* Pick-up charges, introduced in 1976, reflect the great size of the Dublin Taxi Meter area, originally a ten mile radius from the GPO, a size considerably greater than most cities.
* Any changes should reflect the existing fare structure of Dublin taxi charges that has evolved over a long period of time.
THE TWO MARKET THEORY: SOME PROBLEMS
* Despite legislation to the contrary, the false assumption has grown in recent years that there are two distinct markets for small public service vehicles: the on-demand market which is supplied by taxis, and the pre-booked market which is largely supplied by private hire vehicles.
* This role has been assumed by private hire vehicles as a result of lack of enforcement of SI 237 of 1983.
* The reality is that 85 per cent of taxi drivers are affiliated to a radio despatch service.
* This assumption must be challenged and the law enforced.
* The non-enforcement of regulations has affected the confidence of the entire body of taxi drivers and created tension and suspicions which would not otherwise have existed.
* The submission of the National Chauffeur Driver Association to Oscar Faber shows that traditional private hire drivers do not require roof signs or radio contact. This contrasts with the submission of the private hire drivers who think they should be allowed to operate without public hire insurance or submitting to the regulations.
* The law forbids private hire operators from accepting on street hiring, any breaches of this should result in mandatory loss of licence.
PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLES
* Oscar Faber accepts that private hire vehicles in Dublin (referred to throughout as hackneys) are increasingly taking on the mode of operation of taxis. While it is illegal for hackneys to use an in-vehicle radio or telephone to effect a hiring for general purposes, it is evident that in practice this law is generally flouted.
* It was noted by several taxi drivers that this floutnig of the law was not pointed out in the submission to Oscar Faber by the Garda Commissioner.
* Oscar Faber also accepts that private hire vehicles are bending the law to increase the probability of a back-load and to increase vehicle occupancy.
* The reality remains that private hire vehicles are not insured for public hire.
* Oscar Faber comments that some companies have opened offices in the city center and suburban centers to increase the possibility of back loads, in breach of the spirit of the 1983 regulations.
* Taxi drivers are alarmed that there is an increased acceptance of this flouting of the law by private hire vehicles, who are emerging to form a category of its own, prepared to flout the law as it stands but seeking quasi-legal recongnition in this review.
* Taxi drivers who continue to offer the service that they are licensed and required to by law, are asking for no more than to be protected by that law.
* Penalties for breaches of the PSV regulations must be brought in to line with other countries.
LICENCES: THE MYTHS
There is a widespread perception that the earnings of taxi drivers are large because of the capital value of the transferable licence. This is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the value of the licence and the relationship of the value to the earning capacity of the typical Dublin taxi driver.
The primary value of the licence is the security it gives by granting fixate of tenure to the holder. Most licences are financed by life savings, redundancy payments, lump sum retirement benefits and in an increasing number of cases, by second mortgages on the domestic home.
Redundant workers have chosen to invest there redundancy money into a taxi licence, because they see the licence as a guarantee that they will never become redundant again. Bcause the licence can be inherited, many licence holders see the licence as guarantee that at least one of there children is sure of a job for life.
Finally, although the capital sum may be large, it is historically likely to keep pace with the price index and so represents a hedge against inflation. It is these considerations, rather than the intrinsic profitability of the licence, which has determined the value to purchasers.
CHANGING CITY, CHANGING NEEDS
* As the only providers of public transport who do not enjoy a subsidy, and as the sole providers of public transport at certain times of the day, the taxi sector would welcome the opportunity to integrate more fully with all other providers of public transport.
* Taxi drivers are acutely aware of the need for an in depth study of the entire public transport system in the Dublin region.
* No further PSV licenses should be issued until just such a complete study of all utilities is undertaken.
* Measures should be taken to bring the costs borne by Dublin taxi drivers in line with those in other jurisdictions.
* Registration Tax should be removed from SPS V's.
* VAT should be removed from spare parts required by taxis including tyres.
* VAT should be removed from fuel used by taxis.
* Use of contra flow bus lanes should be granted to taxis.
* Fare levels should guarantee that working hours are reduced to the national average.
* PRSI structure should be changed to allow taxi drivers to avail of the health and sick benefits available to other workers.
* Unemployment benefits should be available to taxi drivers on the same basis as to other workers.
* The feasibility of a set-aside system for taxi drivers should be examined i.e. in the event of a rail link to Dublin airport, Ballymun, Tallaght and Dundrum coming on stream.
* Greater security could be provided to taxi drivers by measures such as the provision of vidio cameras on all taxi ranks.
* All taxi ranks should have working telephones.
TAXI IN AN INTEGRATED PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM
There needs to be a proper assessment of the factors that might effect the demand for supply of taxis. We belive the following important points need to be taken into account:
1. Population levels and distribution in the locality under consideration.
2. Trends in traffic movement
3. Concentration, times of operation and location of places of entertainment, industrial estates and other places of human activity.
4. Degree and nature of public service transport availability by day and night.
5. Number of small PSV'S working in the locality.
6. Accessibility of shops, railway and bus stations, as well as airports, seaside resorts and other amenities.
7. Age and status, and economic and social profile, of population.
8. Licensed closing hours and frequency of extensions.
9. Traffic congestion
10. Physical features of the locality.
11. Other seasonal and local factors
All these matters should be assessed en bloc in relation to the Dublin area and none of the factors mentioned should be used in isolation as a determining factor.
We look forward to working with the Forum and hope that we can achieve both our aims to provide a standard of service unequalled in any capital city in Europe.
Dublin's taxi drivers are as unhappy with the problems that have arisen in recent years as are our customers. It is we who have been blamed, despite the fact that many of the recent supply problems were created by circumsances outside our control.
Unlike other public transport utilities and other tiers of the decision-making process, we have an opportunity to hear those complaints, made in person by the public when they are at there most disgruntled. It is in our interest that problems are confronted and solved, not fudged or postponed.
It is our hope to contribute to a solution to all our transport problems in the new millennium and continue to do what we do best.
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