By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Taxi drivers yesterday said the imminent 20 per cent “across the board” fare increase will help to keep them “above water”, the move marking the first rise for almost eight-and-a-half years.
Philip Watkins, the Bahamas Taxicab Union’s (BTU) president, said drivers were “grateful” for the recently-announced fare increase, which sceptics are likely to link to the impending May 10 general election.
“That is something we have been working with the Ministry of Transport on for about six months, sending figures back and forth,” Mr Watkins told Tribune Business yesterday.
“A few drivers have done tests on a few distances on the island. We were expecting it at the end of last year, but nonetheless we are grateful. It could not have come at a more opportune time.”
Mr Watkins added: “I believe that the increases are something we can work with. We took into consideration the cost of living increase, given that the last fare increase was in 2008, and we have to factor in VAT.
“The increases are roughly 20 per cent across the board and that brings us to where we can be above water.”
Glenys Hanna Martin, minister of transport and aviation, said in a statement that the Government has agreed to increases to new taxi zone rates; to the hourly taxi rates; and to related fees for taxi cab use, with effect from May 1.
She said the increases were approved following extensive consultation with the Taxi Union and the Ministry of Tourism. The existing rates have been in effect since November 2008.
“The public is advised further that in addition to the increases in the zone and hourly rates, it has also been determined that new taxi cab zones will be introduced in Fox Hill, South Beach and Pinewood Gardens, Marshall Road and Baillou Hill Road South, Carmichael Road and Golden Gates, Carmichael and Bacardi Roads, Carmichael and Gladstone Roads, and Carmichael Road and Faith Avenue,” the statement said.
“These new zones were proposed by the Road Traffic Department to provide members of the public wishing to ride into those communities with advance details on costs prior to making the trip, as is now the case with the existing New Providence zones. As a consequence of the increases and new zone rates, the use of taxi cab meters will also cease, effective May 1, 2017.”
The rate increases, according to the statement, represent a 20 per cent increase in the zone rates for tourist areas, and a 10 per cent increase for non-tourist areas.
“The hourly rates have been increased by 17 per cent and 20 per cent for all areas, with passengers riding in larger vehicles being required to pay the higher rate,” the Government statement said.
“In this regard, the rate for taxis with a seating capacity for more than five passengers has been increased from $60 to $70, while the rate for cabs with a capacity for five passengers or less has been increased from $45 to $55.
“The one half-an-hour wait time for taxis transporting more than five passengers has been increased from $30 to $35, and the half-hour wait time for vehicles with five or fewer passengers has been increased from $22.50 to $27.”
The Government has also agreed to taxi driver requests for increases in the per passenger rate beyond two passengers from $3 per person to $4 per person; to an increase from $2 to $3 for each additional piece of baggage beyond two pieces of luggage; and to an increase for the carriage of large duffle bags, golf bags, boxes and large suitcases from $1 per piece to $3 per piece. There will continue to be no fee levied by taxi drivers for children under three years of age.
Mr Watkins told Tribune Business that while some 1,135 taxi plates have been issued, roughly 300 are not regularly in the system, meaning that anywhere between 800-850 taxis are in the system on a regular basis between the airport, the Prince George Wharf and various taxi stands.