15 September 2008

More taxis needed. Why?

| Pandy
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Today the Canberra Grimes reported that the ACT Government is looking to establish a shuttle between Canberra Airport, the Parliamentary Triangle and Civic. The proposed service would be operated by up to 10, 11-seat taxis which would be dedicated to airport work during the morning and evening peaks. Still to be overcome is approval for new fares to cover the transport and commissionaires at the airport.

I ask why waste money on this proposal that will probably cost $1 million and be used by a dozen public servants (not the pollies in their limos) when for $200 million you could link the airport to Parliament Triangle via light rail and double patronage compared to the taxis from the airport?

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i would say more taxis needed which would actually show up on time .

jube_V8Fairlane_235kw9:33 am 17 Sep 08

ant, we have an airport shuttle – in fact, the current one operated by Deane’s buses is about the 5th or 6th incarnation of such in the last 20 years…..and so far every single one bar Deane’s has failed or bailed out due to lack of custom (see earlier comments for an explanation).

Granny, a decent minmum wage would be great for the drivers, and as much as it pains me to say it, it is unviable from an owner/employers perspective – it would drive each cab broke very quickly.

jakez, it is market driven and there are 2 call centres available: Aerial Consolidated Transport and CabXpress.

I have bookmarked it too. You never know when you will need it.

I’m going to bookmark it, so I can really send people there.

Nobody wags the Offal Thread! You do the crime, you do the time.

Sprung! Wagging the Offal Thread!

Ant, I don’t think he’s gone to Offal. I had a look and there was no-one there.

Right, Aurelius, that’s it, off to the Offal Thread!

Ant, If the airport had a shuttle, a proper shuttle, I’d go watch it launch every time. It’d be awesome!

We need proper airport shuttles, like those Blue Vans they have in the US. And then there’s all the other national and local companies.

For those who haven’t used them, they’re sort-of commercial car pooling. You get to the airport, and have either pre-booked your ride, or just front up to the counter when you get there, OR, ring the company and wait for the van near the appointed sign, or just bail up a driver and he might take you.

They try to fill the van, and try to arrange it so everyone in the van is going to roughly the same area. Then the driver gets your destinations, and drops you off one by one. I’ve used them from/to JFK/Manhatten, Denver airport/Summit County, SLC-ParkCity and SLC/SLC. They are brilliant, cheaper than taxis, and they work. Everyone uses them.

The airport with its monopoly would be in a prime position to set this up. They could have a counter or floor walkers at the airport, grouping people by destination, and get them loaded and off.

The lack of taxi drivers is a result of the poor pay and booming economy.
Supply and demand. It;s the market people, the invisible hand. The god we’ve been taught to worship in recent decades. Pay them more, and you’d get more people wanting to be drivers. Flood the market and you get lower pay, and thus you make the problem worse.

Hey how many ACTION bus drivers moonlight as taxi drivers? And how many of them would go over their driving hours limits. Scary thought!

^^ Er which was a reference to #27, not Granny’s.

My four day a week job deals with the travel industry and I have a large number of national clients (he says, cringing at that term) tearing their hair out over taxi availability. Many give up and just opt for the the hire car companies.

Sometimes I can’t sleep and lie awake at my office desk pondering these matters…

Here’s a thought, we could pay them a decent minimum wage like, say, a bus driver!

Skidbladnir said :

An industry with only a few local operators, large unmet demand, but not enough employees sounds like an problem with the operators…

So for those of you who have worked or do work in the industry, why can’t they attract (and keep) enough drivers?


consider the following – I work 5 days a week, sleep at night, mostly, have weekends off, and get paid a larger amount than I ever did behind the wheel of a cab. I can now sleep in normal hours, not during the day.

I don’t get daily abuse from drunken passengers, have to end a shift due to someone throwing up in the back of the taxi – and not have anything to show for it, they never seemed to have the cleaning cost…

I don’t get abuse from passengers, have to listen to people explain what is wrong with the cab industry, the cab they are riding in, the fare system, the cost of petrol, the economy, taxes, immigration, terrorism, welfare, the footy, etc, etc.

some people enjoy it at the start. then it wears you down.

the other hindrance was the the theory and practical tests. I certainly cannot remember the streets between the airport and the city. (I know them, I just couldn’t name them)

it is a large investment to an owner to sponsor a new driver. the driver has to pass all the exams and training, then be a viable income source for the owner.

it is easier to get a 9-5 job and weekends to yourself. How do you glorify the Taxi Industry, when there are people being stabbed, robbed etc, for $9 per hour?

Does the Call Centre have a Government granted monopoly, a market monopoly, or is there more than one competing centre?

jube_V8Fairlane_235kw3:05 pm 16 Sep 08

Unfortunately, no. Each car pays a weekly base fee to the base regardless if that car is operating or not.

Jube, does the call centre take a commission for each fare sent out from whoever accepts it? That would seem to be the most efficient method to me?

jube_V8Fairlane_235kw2:04 pm 16 Sep 08

Holden, don’t make the (very) common mistake that the call centre and the cabs/drivers are the same company – the call centre contracts their services to the fleet, and has no ownership of the cars and are not the drivers employers.

Holden Caulfield1:44 pm 16 Sep 08

realityskin said :

hardly need more cabs on the road…there isn’t enough work for the poor cabbies as is.

Maybe some of them could answer the fking phones then, instead of having to deal with that totally inadequate and frustrating phone system.

jube_V8Fairlane_235kw11:57 am 16 Sep 08

Skidblanir, they can’t attract drivers as the pay is commission based and currently at approx $9/hr. The shifts are 12 hours long, and Canberra business is very variable both seasonally and with Parliamentary sittings. In the winter Parl recess, when it’s -3 at 1 am in Civic, you won’t have any trouble finding a cab…..but leading up to Xmas with Parliament in town you won’t see many vacant. As dirvers are paid on commission, it can be hard to keep them happy when business is down.

Releasing more licences to be bought by the current market players just reinforces their position as owner of x% of the market, starts to devalue any previous investment in licences they may have had, until the market becomes saturated, and doesn’t encourage any new large-scale operators to enter the market and compete.

But also completely fails to address the problem.

tylersmayhem11:37 am 16 Sep 08

I think it’s time that a full independent investigation is done on the Capital Airport Group and their disgusting monopoly. they have a license to print money and everyone’s expense, and nobody to stop them. The are as corrupt as they come in my book.

Skid, releasing more taxi plates hasn’t solved the problem yet. So Hargreaves is “solving” a problem with a strategy proven to fail. As a government minister, he would not be so silly…….. surely?

I spoke to a cabbie last weekend on this- he said* that the of the last 25 new taxi licences granted, about 15 are actually on the road because there wasn’t a need for the rest. (*please note that I am quoting him, facts were not verified.)

As a regular user of public transport across Canberra I don’t see a reason for more cabs. I catch buses a lot of the time but when I have to call a cab they always arrive within 2 minutes of my call and I get where I am going with very little fuss.

As for the airport- the major issue is the roads out there and it’s farce that their upgrade was put off for so long.

And Hargreaves’ solution of continually releasing new licences solves the pay & conditions problem how?

Skid, because the pay and conditions suck, and the economy of the region is such that there are better ways to earn a quid.

An industry with only a few local operators, large unmet demand, but not enough employees sounds like an problem with the operators…

So for those of you who have worked or do work in the industry, why can’t they attract (and keep) enough drivers?

RuffnReady said :

and deregulation would exacerbate the problem.

Markets clear Ruff, markets clear.

Listen to jube, he’s making some sense. I too am an ex-cabbie, and the problem is not enough drivers. More plates are not necessary (there are already cabs sitting around without drivers all over town), and deregulation would exacerbate the problem. A well-organised shuttlebus service makes a lot of sense to me.

Aurelius: I would have thought that the really smart cabbies would know the times of day that a lot of flights are scheduled in, and roll up to the airport then!

As luck would have it, I was moseying around out at the airport this morning, and took this photo of part of the massive taxi queue. It extended from the new ranks to well past the Qantas entrance.

Are you saying the people should take responsibility because we vote for politicians who think price controls are okay?

If so, fair enough.

jube_V8Fairlane_235kw9:21 am 16 Sep 08

As a part-operator of the Canberra Airporter (airport shuttle service active in ’92/’93), an ex-cab driver and ex-hire car operator in Canberra, I would have to throw my weight at the light rail proposal. Airport shuttle buses are notoriously under utilised in Canberra, and have the same issues as any other road based solutions in so much as you can only travel as fast as the traffic jams allow (pretty simple logic, eh, Mr Snow).
Our service suffered also because Aerial Taxis blocked the acceptance of Cabcharge by our buses, which added to the difficulty of obtaining passengers. As a good 80% of passengers, especially in Parliamentary sitting times, travel on Cabcharge, then whatever system is put in place needs to be able to accept this payment – people with a voucher in their pocket are loath to pay cash funnily enough.
More cabs is not the solution – more cab drivers would be a much better approach. You can put as many taxis on the road as you like, but whilst there are not enough drivers to fill them, what are you going to do? The public also needs to take some responsibility for the driver shortage – a lot of drivers left the industry/are too scared to enter the industry due to perceived dangers (and often rightly so), bad work hours and conditions and crap pay. I personally wouldn’t work in an abbatoir for $9/hr, let alone drive drunken, unappreciative people who look down on me as a person for my chosen profession, only to see them run like hell when I pull up, thereby reducing my income further.

The problem with taxis at the airport is that smart cabbies avoid the place. There’ll be a couple of flights (and therefore a stack of work) and then nothing for 2 hours. You’re better off sitting on the main rank in Civic – at least the traffic there is constant.
That’s why taxis avoid the airport. It’s a pain in the butt to work the rank there.

Does the government make money selling taxi licences? isn’t that half the point of having said licences in the first place?

Haha, did you seriously pose the question “Why spend $1 million when you could spend $200 million”?

What is needed here is deregulation of taxis.

hardly need more cabs on the road…there isn’t enough work for the poor cabbies as is.

Devil_n_Disquiz2:39 am 16 Sep 08

Aerial actually suggested this idea late last year but was shot down in flames by Capital Airport Group who said, No because Deanes buslines has the contract for the airport to city route, just get more cabs on the road. Perhaps Deanes contract is up for renewal is why this idea is back.

There’s a lot of talk about resurrecting the local train service from Bung to Qbn and Canberra, to serve the thousands of commuters out here and also, HQ Joc. The train passes by quite close, close enough to look at a service and a short range shuttle from Burbong, for instance.

They’re about to spend millions on fixing up the various intersections on the King’s Highway for the 600-odd cars that’ll be on it when HQ Joc opens later this year (got a leaflet in the letterbox tonight). The mess outside Weetalaba is just the start.

If they got the local train going again, into Canberra, they’d need a decent system to move them from the station in Kingston and into the parly triangle, Civic and Woden.

sexynotsmart1:02 am 16 Sep 08

Pandy, I think your post answers your question. $1m in not-quite-taxis yields similar benefits to a $200m tram.

If we’re going to spend a fifth of a billion, let’s make it real rail and connect it to the existing network. Say extend from the existing Kingston railway station, and follow the rest of the lines proposed by the light rail devotees.

I think that would get better patronage than just an Airport-to-Triangle light rail. Some travellers (especially those to-and-from Sydney) could avoid the airports altogether!

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