Taxi industry needs to come to the party - Gauteng transport MEC

2015-06-19 05:49
Taxis. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Taxis. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Johannesburg - The taxi industry was a vital player in the transport sector but it needed to come to the party in tempering bad behaviour on the road.

In an interview with News24 this week, Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Ismail Vadi said the industry would remain a vital player for the foreseeable future, however commuters were not asking for much in terms of improvement.

"People know the value of the system but they aren't asking for much. They are asking for the drivers to be courteous to them, to be polite, to treat them as clients, they are asking for them to drive safely, and they are asking for a reliable system," Vadi says.

"So you can't come with a broken down taxi that's not road worthy and that's going to break halfway and get stuck, and all of those kinds of things. That's what people are asking for."

"At the same time, they appreciate the services they're being provided. Last week, The Sowetan carried a very beautiful article of this taxi company that's got all its drivers smartly dressed, ties, fancy shoes, and all that, but that's what we need."

It did not require major financial changes to the industry, rather small things which were within the range of affordability. It was also about whether the industry, from owners to drivers, took pride in their industry.

"Clients, even if you travel anywhere, when a taxi driver is friendly to you, he greets you, 'How are you sir? Where do you come from?', you are just more relaxed, you are more likely to give that person a tip. It's about customer care," Vadi says

"We've been engaging with the industry, that if we can get that right, just get the behavioural conduct of drivers right, it would be a huge boost but you can't regulate that. That's getting change, and trying to get best practice."

'Unacceptable behaviour'

In terms of enforcement, a more aggressive stance from metropolitan traffic departments and law enforcement was required because "an element of unruliness" was creeping into the industry which was not in the public interest.

"We've seen these YouTube videos, them [taxis] driving on Jan Smuts for example or William Nicol. I mean, we upgrade the road, we create three lanes, they decide to drive on the pedestrian lane, just because they can't wait another 30 seconds. That's unacceptable," Vadi says.

"You would have seen the JMPD, the last two, three weeks is taking a much more aggressive stance because we've raised this with them and say 'It's not acceptable'. Now, they get angry because they've been getting spot fines and with the Gauteng Traffic Police, we are starting to impound vehicles."

"We can tell you that. The media is not carrying these stories but I think there is a stepping up in terms of enforcement. The public might not be aware of it but ask the taxi drivers, they know. They can feel it."

While there was room for improvement, Vadi says the industry is a very important contributor to the public transport sector, with all major cities in the world having a combination of public transport and taxi systems.

"We've come back from the World Public Transport Conference now in Milan in Italy. In terms of the definition of public transport, they see the taxi industry as part of public transport actually," the MEC says.

"Although it is privately owned but in terms of their broader definition, they said you can't plan a public transport system without the taxi industry, but understanding that they are managed and controlled within the private sector."

As government, Vadi believed they could do more in terms of the regulatory environment, but not to a degree which negatively affected the industry.

"You also don't want to kill the industry. You don't want to stifle it, you don't want to over regulate it. They really have grown really on their steam and they've become a very powerful player in the economy and particularly in the transport sector, and that must be welcomed," the MEC says.

"They employ large numbers of people, they move substantial numbers. They might not have a printed schedule and times, but the thing works. Commuters understand it's a long history and the thing works. Those who are daily commuters, they know where to go, what sign to use, all of those things."

"There's a subculture that prevails and it works."

Read more on:    ismail vadi  |  johannesburg  |  transport

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