I don't care much for Melbourne's taxi industry. I have written about taxis before but this is a new slant because I have seen where it works well.
Have I ever held back about racial matters? Of course I have but I walk a fine line when I risk offending people of other races. It is not my intention, but I will call it as I see it in this post at least.
In my very young days, taxi drivers were umpteen generation Australians. Taxi driving was a respected profession and they earned a reasonable income. They took no crap from anyone and although I suspect the whole industry was corrupt, it worked well for your average taxi passenger.
As I became older, the industry became dominated by born Greeks, Italians, Yugoslavs and other Mediterranean immigrants. If they saw the chance, some would cheat you rotten. But still, they were Australians too, just of different origins and you were able to communicate with them and they knew their roads............that is which one to take you the long way around, but still get you to your destination. They knew our city.
Now we have a new lot of drivers, minorly from the Middle East but mostly from South Asia. Most of them have not been in our country for long, are not Australians, have appalling driving skills and no knowledge of our city. But for the income they earn, we are lucky to have them.
Rob wrote a good post about security for taxi drivers and of course, they should always be safe and secure in their workplace.
Taxis work quite well in third world countries. They seemed to me to work quite well in Singapore too.
But we are not Singapore nor a third world country. How can our taxis work better for us and better for those who supply the service?
Look no further than England. No doubt Brian and/or Pants will correct any facts that are wrong. (English lesson #101, facts by definition cannot be wrong, in my opinion. You cannot have facts that are wrong).
You have your traditional English taxi, often black, although I saw some maroon ones too. They are diesel powered, very reliable and that their shape and style has been retained, says a lot about English attitudes. They are much more, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' than we are. But these taxis, or Hackney Cabs, provide an excellent service and they charge accordingly.
Then you have your mini cab, which is much more like our Australian taxi service.
Certainly in the area I was in, in northern England, these cabs mainly work the suburbs. They are only allowed to go into the centre of town to drop off passengers and not allowed to pick up in town. They are not allowed to pick up on the street anywhere at all if they are hailed and must be booked by telephone. They may have ranks to sit at, but I did not see any.
So, when you ring a mini cab, there will be a record of your call and it seemed to stop any nonsense against the drivers. I puzzled for a while at a pub where we were for a night out. Taxis were steadily arriving, picking up people and departing but there was not a group of taxis waiting. They had all been individually ordered by customers, as we did when we were to depart.
On another occasion when we took a taxi out to a club, we asked for him to return at a set time, about 11.15pm I think, and sure enough, there he was at 11.15 waiting for us. See that happening in Melbourne, not!
I am only guessing, but I think the fares in mini cabs were about the same as our standard cab fare.
Ok, the old style cabs are a protected industry, but really, combined with mini cabs, the system just seems to work.
Last anecdote, R's late mother used to catch mini cabs often. She used the same driver and no matter where she went, she always paid £5. One day when her usual driver was not available, she had a fare dispute with the replacement driver. She pointed out that she only pays £5 and referred him back to her normal driver. Although this was not so long ago, the mini cabs are all metered now.
PS This has taken three days to write and I don't know why. I am over it now, publish and be damned.