Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Taxi Cabs

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.


  1. Anonymous10:14 am

    Thankfully I've never ever had a single bad taxi experience in Melbourne. All the drivers have always been really friendly.

    But there have been so many times that I've called for a taxi, been told one was coming, and it just never showed up. Ridiculous.

    I only ever real had a bad taxi driving experience in Thailand. The first incident wasn't bad, just funny - the driver was very insistent on taking us to a brothel no matter how many times we said no.

    The second - was when before the trip to the airport we were told it would cost 500 Baht by the driver, then when we reached there he tried to tell us it was 500 EACH (three of us). Yeah right buddy, we said. Fuck off.

  2. Anonymous3:37 pm

    Having lived in Melbourne all 18 years of my monotonous life, I have only taken taxis three times.

  3. Thanks for the plug!

    The current system we have here is just plain wrong. However the difficulty is any effort to revamp it will no doubt see legal action from those who own the licenses which from various sources, can be many hundreds of thousands. The longer it is left though, the worse it will get. The government has gone to some lengths to increase the training, but we really need to go much further before you see me set foot in one of those things again.

  4. "You have your traditional English taxi, often black..."

    We call 'em 'Bombers'. Don't ask me why, 'cos I haven't got a clue.

  5. That is the thing TDW, the service is not reliable.

    We had offers from taxi drivers in Bangkok. No girl bar we said, boy bar. We were naive the first time we went to Thailand. And that was where he took us, a BOY bar. He hung around and we said no, we want a man bar. He understood then.

    And your experiences were good then Reuben?

    I have an ex work mate who owns a few taxi plates Rob. I used to know what they were worth. At one point, because of something the Cain government did in the eighties I think, they were seriously devalued. Plate owners wore it. I am thinking about $500,000 for a plate.

    Your part of the UK has them then Brian? I can't imagine why they might be called bombers. Maybe because they are old and so bombs. Old Australian cars well past their use by dates are called bombs.

  6. We found that 4 out of 5 taxi drivers couldn't find their way from Clarendon St, Sth Melb to Spencer St train station at 6 am.
    Easier to walk!

  7. If it was recent Jayne, they probably weren't in the country when it was called Spencer Street Station.

  8. Lol, twas a few years back and even recently when we asked for Southern Cross station they needed directions.
    Kinda hard to miss, being all big and stuff.

  9. A couple of my regular drivers have started their own private client list, very quietly. Good for me after the last driver didn't know how to get to Hampton from Cheltenham when I was so sick.

    Last week when I booked, there was a new automated system that gave me the booking number in case the cab didn't turn up.

  10. That is absurd Jayne.

  11. I think that is way regular cab users do it here now Jahteh. Bit problematic if he is on the other side of town, but I think they then pass it on to a reliable mate.

  12. I was walking across the road, green man flashing and that ticking sound sounding, and a cabbie just kept on coming right through the pedestrian crossing, almost collecting myself and an elderly patient yesterday. I was flabbergasted.
    Then, I was pleased, he had stopped right out the front on my hospital, where myself and the other lady went off tap at him....he promptly sped off, not taking a passenger from there that day!
    Thing is, he looked mne in the eye as he came through that intersection/crossing...he knew it was wrong? Or he was just arrogant? I don't know what to say...I just did not want to become a patient righ out front of my own work!

  13. In theory, the American was can be good Cazzie. You should have shot him.

  14. Anonymous11:17 am

    Bloody cabbies, the same up here in Sydney. They have a habit of locking their doors now and with the [assenger window down a little and ask where are you going. If fare is too small they won't accept you. So I now tell them I am going to such a suburb which is a good fare, when they unlock the doors I tell them to F**k Off and hail the next cab.

  15. Not a bad tactic Anon.