By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The taxi union's president said fares and the number of passengers drivers carry from Prince George Wharf may alter as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wesley Ferguson, the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union's (BTCU) chief, told Tribune Business: "We may have to reduce the amount of people that are allowed in the taxis, especially from the dock, because the [Prince George Wharf] dock is an area where people move in groups.
"There are special rates there at the dock for the cruise ship passengers that encourages them to ride along with strangers or other passengers from the cruise ship not with their party."
Mr Ferguson said he anticipated taxi fares will also change. While travelling from downtown Nassau to go to Paradise Island may cost $15 per person, the present system at the dock allows taxis to charge $4 per person if someone waits on other people to travel with them and make up the fare.
Suggesting that this ride sharing system will change, Mr Ferguson said it may be "discouraged" now due to the safety concerns and people becoming more "health conscious".
He added that it will hurt taxi drivers who are accustomed to waiting for passengers to fill up their large buses with passengers, and said: "There has to be some enforcement in place where taxi drivers will have to understand that you don't have that right to tell people that they must join in with strangers to go in your taxi.
"The airport and the regular hotels don't do this. Just as soon as you come out of a hotel you go into a taxi, but this is a special rate that was negotiated years ago with the BTCU and the taxi drivers to encourage the cruise ship passengers to go in groups.
"We have to have protocols in place for when COVID-19 has passed. We are putting our programme together and waiting on the government to basically let us know what they intend to do so we put the two together and make one."
Mr Ferguson continued: "We will have sanctions from the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) and the World Health Organisation, and all of those other health conglomerate organisations who are going to put their protocols in place.
"You are going to have the cruise ships putting their protocols in place, you are going to have the airlines putting their protocols in place, from the NAD (Nassau Airport Development Company) and the hotels. The dock is going to have a different protocol for passengers coming off of the cruise ships to go in taxis.
Responding to arguments that the Government should do away with implementing a phased economic reopening, Mr Ferguson said: "I don't agree with that, because when you look at other countries, you take a chance of reinfection. I don't mind not having a timeline, because you don't want to risk that."
"In any event, even if it is not worse when it comes to contracting the disease, it would be worse for the economy to rise up and then fall again. I would prefer the economy to come up gradually and stay up there, than to rise and then everyone to get comfortable and then fall again within the space of a year."