Assembly agrees to denote taxis as public transport

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Assembly agrees to denote taxis as public transport

Legislators yesterday agreed to pass a bill designating taxis as public transportation despite strong opposition from some groups.

The revised law is expected to go into effect as early as March this year.

The National Assembly included taxis in the country’s public transportation sector by revising the current law, which states “vehicles that run regular routes within regular operation hours to transport a large number of people” to “vehicles that transport passengers without set routes.”

Taxis are now designated in the same category as buses, subways and trains. Under the revised laws, all taxi stops and garages will be managed as public facilities like bus stops and garages.

The taxi industry expects to receive about 1.9 trillion won ($1.78 billion) in government support, including fuel subsidies and tax reductions.

The revised law, however, is expected to generate strong opinions.

The bill was proposed by lawmakers in the 18th National Assembly, but was written to give more government subsidies to taxi drivers by revising relevant laws, but the issue made rapid progress in the 19th National Assembly as it corresponded with the Dec. 19 presidential election.

Lawmakers in the ruling Saenuri Party and opposition Democratic United Party wanted to attract taxi drivers’ 300,000 votes.

Bus drivers threatened legislators that they would stage a nationwide strike if the designation was given. There was speculation that the ruling Saenuri Party had promised additional support for the bus companies so that the bus industry would go along with the bill.

“We only asked them to look over the bus industry in the future as we are having hard times too. But we didn’t demand any additional support for now,” Lee Joon-il, head of the Federation of National Bus Transportation, told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “We also didn’t want to cause any confusion for the new administration.”

The legislators who faced strong public criticism postponed submitting the bill to a plenary session and demanded the central government provide measures for the taxi industry.

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs suggested that it will make a special law to support taxis, but the taxi companies didn’t agree to it.

But after Park Geun-hye from the ruling Saenuri Party won the election, Lee Han-gu, floor leader of the ruling party, said, “We will pass the bill in the general meeting if the government can’t come to an agreement with taxi and bus industries as part of efforts to push ahead with campaign pledges.”

Park Ki-choon, floor leader of the DUP, also said, “It will not influence the bus industry [negatively].”

On Dec. 26, the Land Ministry formed a “Taxi Industry Team” that is composed of experts from local governments and transportation researchers to provide measures for five main demands that the taxi industry has been calling for, including a fare raise and stabilizing fuel prices.

The government was opposed to the plan as it worries that including taxis as public transportation could generate arguments in setting public transportation policies and also put too much of a financial burden on local governments as well as taxpayers.

By Kim Kyung-jin, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]
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