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Taxi meters mandate drawing near

Metered taxi service is expected to be implemented this week in an effort to curb overcharging passengers and provide a uniform tariff system, according to the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI).
The move to metering fares stems from the Ministry of Transportation’s mandatory ruling that requires taxi drivers across the country to operate a system that is fairer to passengers.
“Ministry of Transportation’s decision was meant to curb overcharging of taxi fares,” said Abdullah Al-Qahtani, deputy chairman of the Public Fares Committee of JCCI. “The regulation will be applied in the two upcoming days.”
Al-Qahtani said the JCCI will conduct a series of forums and business meetings to determine how to develop a mechanism.
“The discussions will also cover how this system will guarantee everyone’s fair share in the new process, while it is being followed almost all over the world,” Al-Qahtani said.
Many taxis in the Kingdom already have meters installed. However, the electronic devices are often disabled, broken or the cab driver refuses to use it. Most passengers bargain with drivers for the fare. While not specifically a policy, a standard fare for many trips in central Jeddah is SR20. But fares for even a short trip could reach as much as SR40 if traffic is congested.
A SR20 fare may be a thing of the past. A metered taxi may have a flag down rate of SR5 before the meter starts counting. The potential for higher rates for a metered taxi is far greater than amounts charged based on traditional bargaining.
Abdullah Sa’ad, owner of a local taxi company, told Arab News the new fare structure could benefit taxi drivers who work on a slim profit margin.
“Taxi company owners insist their employees deliver a certain daily amount. The cabbies income is the amount left after deduction of the owner's daily amount and fuel cost from the fare earned during the day,” Sa’ad said.
He noted: “This amount usually is satisfactory to some of our employees. Some work hard to get more customers. Sometimes we reschedule the amount payable to the employer, especially during summer holidays when the market tends to be in general slowdown.”
Taxi driver Ali Al-Muraisi said the Ministry of Transport’s decision to enforce meters is in the best interest of drivers.
“It will guarantee a steady and additional income for us,” Al-Muraisi said. “Companies oblige drivers to achieve a daily target with the excess paid to the driver.”
Ethiopian taxi driver Taha Saeed agreed. He said mandatory meters would minimize exploiting female passengers dependent on drivers. Yet Saeed had doubts whether the Transportation Ministry’s ruling will actually come to fruition.
“I’ve been hearing about this decision for two years now, and I hope it is implemented soon,” Saeed said. “I wonder when the new system will be implemented and what would be the status of old cars.”
Aysha Ahmad, a private sector employee, said the decision would be good for taxis, but not passengers because they can log extra miles to pad fares. “They can take longer routes not to mention congested ones,” Ahmad said.

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