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The Local Taxi, let us find reason to save the industry.
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Cedric Offline
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The Local Taxi, let us find reason to save the industry.
The taxi industry is important to our countries economy, we need however to allow discussions to come from the taxi industry and the taxi commuters.

I believe the industry must be saved and that the industry should revisit the taxi Recapitalization Process and a subsidy scheme that gives ownership and control to the industry.

The long-term sustainability of the taxi industry is directly related to the Economic Freedom of our country, and I publish an extract from  document dated 2006 as a basis for discussion.

Extract of document published on 23rd Nov 2006

I have included a mixed bag of comments and suggestions. The object of this submission is to generate interest and debate in our communities around the positive areas of the taxi industry, with the view to reducing the level of ‘low grade aggression’ in our communities, so that those who are affected by this level of aggression can find the ‘peace on the roads’ that many others are already experiencing.

PERCEPTIONS:

Perceptions need to be addressed and changed in order that we can reduce the levels of aggression in our society.
   
There is no doubt that the ‘taxi drivers’ stand accused as the main aggressors.

‘The accusers’.

The accusers are generally in the suburban communities and are very unaware that they have a level of aggression. Out of their vehicles and off the road, in particular with no taxi in sight, they feel no aggression.
   
I am not accusing all suburbanites of being part of the aggressor community. Although I hear very few supporting comments when the taxi drivers are being attacked, I understand that the subject often does not motivate you to participate. For months, me, as one of the greatest supporters and activists has not bothered to spoil the fun of those attacking the taxi system.

To my friend Charlie, a long serving employee of one of our banks greatest stress factor in his job was the drive to and from the bank. You can appreciate what the main topic of discussion around the table was. I think he eventually took a package to get out of that stress environment, and all our lives were positively influenced.
   
One person who feels as strongly as Charlie, that the taxi driver should not stop ‘illegally’, will influence many others without them being aware of the negative influences that they are taking with them when out on the road.
   
The accusers in the ‘Townships’ generally have problems with the condition of the taxi. Taxi upholstery is often torn and dirty, a particular issue with the ladies who are smartly dressed.
   
I understand this issue and sympathise with the commuters. I see this as one of the weaknesses and one that can be addressed as we develop the strengths of the taxi industry and secure the future of the industry and operators.

Comments on the radio talk shows and around the dinner table identify the aggressive behaviour and anti taxi reasons as follows:

1:    The driver will cut across and stop in front of you where he is not allowed to stop.
    This is often confused by the suburban population as aggressive behaviour. The Department of Transport needs to communicate this issue with the suburban drivers.
    I believe the aggression follows by the motorist swearing and flashing rude signs at the driver. In this incident, who is the aggressor?

2:    When taxis are observed to leave the road surface and use the verge to negotiate a corner and past a traffic light, or drive in the yellow line, it causes great irritation to the other motorists. This is a Metro traffic issue, but does it not speed the traffic flow for all, why does it irritate the other motorists.

    A typical example of the innovative methods adopted in Soweto was the traffic flowing into Soweto, annexing one of the lanes of the ‘opposite direction’ on Main Road, Noordgesig, approaching the Soweto Highway.  For a few afternoons, the Metro Police, in full force, attempted to rectify this issue. The annexed lane was no longer permitted. Within thirty minutes the traffic build-up was unreal. The Metro Police only attempted this for a few afternoons, before allowing the motorists to annex the ‘opposite lane’ again.
    Six months later the Roads Agency widened the road and now they have a permanent extra lane.

3:    The taxi driver has allegedly crossed a red light. This is not acceptable, but since becoming a taxi supporter I have observed that this is a common practice by all road users. Once again a Metro Police issue.

4:    The taxi industry does not pay tax or VAT. 

Comment follows:

    If the talk show hosts asked their callers to exclude these issues, would the comments on    aggressive behaviour cease?

    On two occasions while on talk radio 702, my positive attitude towards the taxi driver in a comparison to taxis in other cities, was commented on by participants on both sides of the track.

a:    ‘Cedric is right, the taxi’s in New York ‘pick-up and drop-off’ passengers just like our taxi’s’.
    This is an observation that international visitors make.

b:    ‘I have been in taxi’s in New York and the drivers are not aggressive like our taxi drivers.’

    This is typical of a visitor using the New York taxi. If you are a commuter in New York you would not find it unacceptable that the taxi driver cuts across the traffic and stops where you are standing alongside the road. You will find the taxi driver to be a magic guy, never aggressive. If you were a commuter in South Africa, you are also never exposed to the perceived aggression that the picking-up and dropping-off’ causes.     

In my opinion the accusers, are greatly influenced by the ‘colonial influence’ where it is generally accepted
that black-people are unable to do anything properly, unless they have been ‘shown how to do it’.

I am not an expert in this field and base my observations on discussions with numerous of my international visitors who compare issues in South Africa with similar issues in the rest of the world where ‘colonial influences’ exist.

Typically the ‘colonial influence’ looks at a communities / industry’s weaknesses and structures programs to fix these weaknesses, they never look at the community / industry strengths.

I believe that we should look at the strengths in the taxi industry, support and develop these strengths, and many of the weaknesses will be addressed during this process.

The ‘outsiders perceived weaknesses,’

The ‘safety of the passengers’ related to the ‘vehicles and the drivers’.
Note:    The Taxi Re-cap program appears to be specifically aimed at fixing these areas.

Is the TRP taking into consideration the commuters interests?

‘The accused’.

I am of the opinion that the taxi driver does on occasions behave aggressively and I believe they are aware of their aggressive behaviour when it does occur. They however would often be displaying reciprocal aggression due to the suburban driver’s reaction to them stopping where they believe the taxi is stopping illegally.

If the suburban drivers accept that the deemed ‘illegal dropping or picking up’ of passengers at their inconvenience is not aggressive behaviour, but rather one of the strengths of the system, performed in the interests of the taxi commuter requirements.

If we accept that this is ‘a strength’; we need to investigate how we can improve this inconvenience for the other road users while maintaining the convenience for the commuter. This will take the driver out of the equation.
   
I have heard that the ‘taxi driver’ adopts an aggressive attitude as he is protecting his one major asset. The taxi and his commuters, even if he does not own the taxi, the job is just as important.

If we add to this the fact that the taxi driver mainly comes out of the rural / township communities, we have a situation where the taxi driver can be deemed to be exposed to a strange hostile community when he enters the suburbs.

The taxi industry is the one industry that feeds money into the township and rural communities.

‘The strengths in the taxi system’.  (Briefly)

The taxi industry, although started by blacks, also had an environment where whites exploited many of the black drivers through to the 1980’s. Today it is proudly ‘South African and Black’.

Soweto, as an example, receives in excess of R 200 mil per month through the taxi industry.

The taxi industry employs in excess of 300 000 people.

Approx 14 million people use the taxi service each day.

The commuters receive safe and efficient but economical transport, (agreed, not from all operators).
The commuters service takes them as close to their front-door as possible. This could be lost to the commuter as the Rea Vaya system extends into their areas.

The taxi industry is not subsidized, and thus the commuter, using the taxi is not subsidized.
Presently the rates charged by the operators could be considered to be relative cheap, given that they are not subsidized. How will the extended Rea Vaya system affect the commuters pocket in the future, or, how much will it affect our taxes?
Many critics focus on the perceived ‘non-payment of tax’ by the operators.
Comparative statistics available reflect very little profit potential in the taxi industry; operators would not be allowing the condition of their vehicles to deteriorate if they were making sufficient profit.

Non-payment of VAT.

Many critics attack the non-payment of VAT as a weakness in the system.   
It is not the taxi operator who benefits. If the taxi operator is not registered for VAT he is paying VAT on all his vehicles, repairs and maintenance, running costs, and is does not deduct what he collects from the commuter.   
For the white commuters who are hassled by the commuters not paying VAT, use the minibus taxi.

The weaknesses in the taxi industry, (briefly):

Negative connotations spread and aired regularly in the media and dinner parties. 
No subsidies in a sector where most of the public transport that competes with the taxi industry receives a subsidy.
No legal control and rights to routes that they have operated for years.
   
Aggression in the taxi:

I have been involved in five incidents where aggression took place between the commuters and the drivers. On each occasion it was related to the driver not dropping the commuter where they wished to be dropped. This is immediate aggression from both sides.

I am sure that we will find other areas of aggression within the taxi community that we will need to consider. Although I have not had personal experience, I have heard other commuters say that they will get just as aggressive towards a motorist who abuses their taxi driver. It would appear that the commuters feel that it is very much a racist attack on the driver and therefore on them.

This level of aggression may be a major contributor to accidents and deaths in the taxi.
       
HOW DO WE CHANGE THE ATTITUDES AND PERCEPTIONS?

The colonial influence will take another 100 years to wear off. The only other option would be for the accused to take the initiative and declare the intention to take the lead in reducing the levels of aggression in the suburbs and national roads.

The taxi industry is powerful.

The taxi industry has direct access to 150 000 drivers and 14 million commuters.

1:    What strategy do we consider for addressing the aggression that takes place between the    commuters and the drivers? 
    Here I personally have no contribution other than the taxi commuters must be linked to the main strategy, i.e. stickers and slogans inside the taxi.

2:    What strategy do we introduce for the reduction of aggression between the taxi driver and other road users?

    The taxi industry should develop their strategy.
    Here the taxi industry could take the lead in the country.
    Should the taxi driver stop where the other motorists believe he should not stop, I as a commuter have a different attitude, the motorist will swear and flash a sign of sorts, the taxi diver should consider a smile and a wave of apology.
    I believe that this behaviour will become contagious and not only spread through the suburban    motorist community but become a popular attraction inside the commuter community.   


Comment: During this past week, while preparing this submission, I have taken note of the taxi driver’s behaviour when they have cut across and stopped in my direct path. Every driver involved has lifted his hand in apology.
    Apologies to the taxi drivers, after apologising and receiving abuse from the motorist, do not reciprocate. Please consider another smile and a wave.
    I am aware that commuters are inclined to reciprocate in sympathy with the driver when a motorist shows any aggression towards their driver.

3:    How do we include the commuters in the strategy?
    The commuters may consider the formation of a ‘taxi commuter association’.
    Both the taxi industry and their commuters need to ensure that the income presently generated by the taxi industry continues to filter back into the Township communities.
    The commuters need to ensure that their voice is heard with regard to the maintenance of their convenience and costs, while upgrading their safety and quality of the vehicle. 

OTHER ISSUES TO BE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION:

Pedestrian Deaths:
Pedestrian deaths are a large part of the road deaths, approx 40%.
These deaths occur mainly at night and for various reasons.
Are any of these reasons related to ‘low grade aggression’?

Speed Kills:
I am of the opinion that speed and fatigue are the greatest contributors to our road deaths. If we accept that speed and fatigue may be contributing factors, then there is no logic in the fact the legislation permits vehicles to travel at the same speed during the day and the night.

60% of all accidents and 60% of all fatalities take place between 18:00 and 06:00.  This period is also when we have the lowest volume of traffic on the roads.

Assuming that the volume of traffic in the roads in only 25% of the daily flow, then if my presentation of the statistics is correct we have the night impact of 60% fatalities taking place on a traffic flow of only 25% the daily flow.

My calculations place the risk of accident and fatality as 4.5 times greater at night than during the day.

At night we have reduced visibility, placing us at great danger if we are travelling fast.

What is fast, relative to why you are required to maintain speed levels during the day and in good visibility conditions?

Is the answer not the reduction of speed between 18:00 to 06:00, say 100kph, and the increase of speed during the 06:00 to 18:00 period, say 140kph?
       
SUMMARY:

The Rea Vaya is possibly one of the most important programmes to be implemented in the country.

Virtually 100% of the population will be affected by the programme in one way or the other.

The income generated by the taxi industry is reported to be in excess of 16 billion rand per annum.

The Rea Vaya will result in the redistribution of this income depending on the finalization of the program.
 
Issues that the commuters must take into consideration:

1:    How much of this 16 billion rand in feeding into your community via the mini-bus taxi industry and how much will be diverted.
If any of this income is to be diverted, how will it affect our communities?

2:          How will the taxi fares after Rea Vaya affect the commuter?

3:          How will any subsidy benefit the commuter?

4:          How will the Rea Vaya affect the convenience of the commuter?

5:          What provision is being made for ‘off-peak’ periods?

    How can the commuter contribute towards the reduction of the ‘low grade aggression’ in and out of the mini bus?


    How can the taxi industry contribute towards the reduction of the ‘low grade aggression’ in and out of the mini bus?

    How can the Department of Transport contribute towards the reduction of the ‘low grade aggression’ by all users of the road?

    How can we involve the Automobile Association, the Insurance Companies and other interested parties in addressing this ‘low grade aggression’?

How can we involve the media and sponsors to spread the ‘smile’ message?

Cedric de la Harpe   
082 565 2520

10-29-2012 07:53 PM
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