Now that Transport Minister Zane DeSilva has pulled the plug on the planned move to add 20 new special taxi permits in a bid to put more lift on Bermuda’s roads, what’s the plan on the way forward, particularly late at night or during the early morning hours?
Hundreds of taxi drivers and owners turned out to attend a meeting with the Minister and members of the Bermuda Taxi Owners’ Association (BTOA) on June 6, to discuss plans to improve the industry and the island’s infrastructure.
The main bone of contention – the $4,000 cost of a temporary special permit when compared with a standard permit for taxis, which currently goes for $103,000, while a minibus permit costs $5,450 to carry more passengers.
It was also noted that of the 556 taxis on the road, “approximately 200 of these taxis are servicing pre-arranged, group and international business, leaving a shortage of taxis for general conveyance”.
Ultimately, the report described the current state of affairs as “a taxi crisis in terms of availability and reliability”.
“There is fierce competition between taxi and minibus drivers,” the report said. And because of that “fierce competition”, the report said: “There is an unequal playing field between taxis and minibuses.”
But the BTOA expressed concerns regarding the lack of enforcement of the regulations already on the books, and the need for even more regulations.
By law, taxis are required to be on the road for 16 hours a day. But the law is not enforced due to a change-of-policy decision made back in 2010.
Moving forward, the Government plans to collect data from dispatchers on the hours individual taxis are on the road, to get a handle on the trends and see who is working and who isn’t, before the next course of action is determined.
More meetings will be held with the BTOA in the interim.
But what does the Green Paper say about Bermuda’s taxi industry when compared to minibuses; when one is regulated is regulated to the maximum degree, while the other is not?
The 200-page report lists 24 top issues in the taxi industry alone.
Topping the list – “there are not enough taxis after 5pm, Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays, particularly at the Airport, Dockyard, St George’s and Front Street”.
Other pressing concerns – “taxi services cannot be relied upon, it is hard to get a taxi when you really need one”, particularly “after dinner in St George’s and after hours in Hamilton…there is no centralised taxi dispatching service”.
On top of that, “not all taxis that are on the road are available for service” and “taxi drivers are being too selective in accepting business”, by “refusing to go short distances or to take persons with sand on their feet”. Passengers “going short distances or are sandy can be verbally abused by taxi drivers”.
But on the flip side, taxi drivers matched that criticism by calling for “a ‘fee’ for passengers to pay only if they vomit in a taxi”.
The report also cited concerns that taxi drivers were using “Rate 3 when Rate 1 should be applied” and “taxi drivers are not motivated to drive at night unless using rate 3 (rate 3 runs from midnight to 6am)”.
When it comes to the sale of taxi permits, the value “may or may not include the vehicle”, which is up to the owner”.
The relevant board “approves the transfer…but does not regulate the resale price of taxi permit”.
It was also noted that Bermuda’s “statutory fare structure for taxis starts with an initial charge at $5.15 and increases in increments of $0.55 for each subsequent one-fifth mile or part thereof as the meter advances”.
There is a 25 percent surcharge “for up to four passengers and 50 percent for taxis that carry five to seven passengers on Sundays and public holidays.
In other “jurisdictions south of Bermuda, taxi rates vary”. This sample list was documented in 2017 (in US dollars):
- Barbados – Not metered, promoted as roughly $20 per hour
- St Maarten – Typical fare ranges between $6 and $25, depending which side of St Maarten Island you are travelling
- Bahamas – Metered rates usually a general flat rate is charged at $3.00 for the first ¼ of a mile and then 40 cents every ¼ of a mile thereafter
- Puerto Rico – Metered rates. $1.75 first mile, $0.10 per 1/19 of a mile thereafter and a minimum $3 per trip
- Jamaica – Metered rates. Rates between Montego Bay and Kingston start at $3 and $1 every five miles
- TrinIdad & Tobago – Not metered. Fares depend on distance travelled – agreed with driver before setting out and fares can start at $1
Bermuda’s statutory taxi fares, by zone, from the airport, are:
- to Grotto Bay, $8.50; to Flatt’s or St George, $13.50; to Cobb’s Hill or City of Hamilton, $25; to junction of South Road and Middle Road Southampton, $30 to Watford Bridge, $36.50 and to Dockyard, $42,
Other issues raised include:
- Some taxi drivers do not take pride in their dress anymore
- Some give poor tours, talk mostly about themselves or make up stories
- Complaints made to TCD and the Public Service Vehicles Licensing Board about bad driver behavior are overlooked or no action is taken
- Taxi fare structure is confusing and open to abuse
Taxi drivers also added a list of complaints on servicing Bermuda’s taxi commuting public:
- Taxi drivers are verbally abused by passengers
- Some passengers have a total disregard for taxi vehicles
- Some passengers who are drunk vomit in the taxis, making it difficult to clean and sometimes taxis must go ‘out of service’ for a period of time as a result
- Taxi drivers who operate late at night have no protection and are dealing with unruly people
- Taxi drivers are getting robbed at knife point during the day
- Taxi drivers are not happy waiting many hours to only get a short run and feel they are waiting too long to get a taxi fare in Dockyard
- Gypsy Cabs are a concern
The report also points up the “separate legislation”, which gives the Minister the power to authorise 88 special permits “for a restricted period of five years” with a “permit fee up to $50,000, “with restrictions”, to run from 3pm to 4am on holidays and weekends.
Only one special permit would be allowed per holder “to fill the gaps in service” at the airport, Dockyard, Horseshoe Bay Beach, and St George’s, “for trips to and from nightlife activities around Bermuda”.
- In Part Two of this report, we’ll take a closer look at Minibuses for hire during the cruise ship season, the specific recommendations to improve lift out of Dockyard to Horseshoe Bay, including wheelchair vehicles, “Minibus Regulations to properly regulate Minibus owners & operators”, the key concern that “The value of a minibus permit is grossly undervalued”, the “urgent need for operators to work at night & provide service” to those who “do not wish to drink and drive” and how “operating conditions for a minibus is managed through policy, whereas the taxi industry is governed by Regulations approved by Parliament”, has “caused some conflict between the taxi and minibus operators”