27 January 2011
Recently, the Solomon Islands Taxi Association proposed a serious hike in taxi rates . . . more than 40% above the present one of $7.00 per kilometre. SITA members are asking the travelling public to start paying $10 per kilometre at the beginning of February this year.
Certainly the rapid rise in fuel costs both petrol and diesel has forced taxi owners to review their cost structure and they feel the public must bear these new cost increases. However, it would be most re-assuring if other South Pacific nation's capital cities taxi costs were included in their discussions. How does Honiara compare to Port Vila, Suva, Moresby and other cities in taxi costs?
Is Honiara once again leading other Pacific cities as it does in the costs of telecommunications, electricity, water, etc. services? Fuel costs across the Pacific have gone up dramatically! Honiara is not alone in feeling the costs of higher transportation fuels. But have other taxi services across the Pacific asked their public to shoulder a more than 40% increase in one hit? Please, SITA do some basic homework, find out what other Pacific nations are paying and share the info with us.
But as important as the proposed rate hike is to the Taxi Association is, there are other areas of public concern which could be worked on and which would be a great help to Honiara's riding public. Let me share these concerns with you, how the Taxi Association could bring to the minds of the nine groups which are currently running the taxi service.
Although most taxi drivers do their best to make their cabs clean both inside and out, there are just too many vehicles which are not passing the test. It certainly is heartening to see the many taxis lining up along the cemetery road, getting washed down and teams of women brushing and cleaning out the interior of these cabs. But this cleaning station, unfortunately, is too often the exception. An increase in basic taxi fares should also mean a cleaned up and neat inside and out of every taxi as well.
DRIVER DRESS CODE
The taxi itself well might look in mint condition—clean, shinny, neat—but if the driver is dressed more like a Hollywood extra for a pirate movie, what kind of a reception is that?. His headgear has all the trappings of a bright flag wrapped around the head, his shirt would well be advised to be introduced to hot water and soap while his trousers are in need of patches in a number of areas.
Perhaps we in Honiara have grown used to such 'pirate' dress but believe me the overseas visitor comes with different expectations. At Henderson Airport, for example, where more than 90% of people visiting the Solomons for the first time come into the country, visitors need to be reassured by taxi cab drivers who are carefully dressed and driving cabs which not only look respectable but are truly inviting.
Of course before a taxi is legally allowed to travel our roads, it must pass the safety requirements issued by government. It's system of checking on the good working order of breaks, tires, signal, etc. of any vehicle before allowing it to work our roads, needs help from the Taxi Association as well.
Road safety calls not only for safe cabs, but more importantly, the taxi drivers themselves must be screened as well. The raw ability to steer a car, work the gears and step on the break is not sufficient training for drivers who are allowed to pick up passengers and are expected to transport them from A to B safely.
It is here where the Taxi Association could play a pivotal part in making taxi travel not only pleasurable but most importantly, safe. If the proposed taxi fare increase could also guarantee a cleaner vehicle, neater driver but most importantly a more competent and careful driver, then the increase of fare would be more than worth it. It's a two way street: fare increase must also mean cleaner, neater and safer taxis trips.