City rules aim to boost taxi services

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City rules aim to boost taxi services

On Dec. 10, officials from the Seoul Metropolitan Government and police went to the Gangnam Station and Jongno District to crack down on taxi drivers in a response to a flood of civil complaints regarding drivers’ refusal to serve potential passengers.

The officials witnessed a number of taxi drivers turn people away saying, “This taxi is heading in a different direction,” or that “the destination is too close.”

The city government on Feb. 12 instated a measure to eradicate the problem by making it mandatory for a certain number of taxis to run between midnight and 2 a.m., when demand is highest.

According to the new Taxi Development Model, which takes effect in April, taxis that do not meet the regulation for at least six days out of every 20 will be fined 1.2 million won ($1,091).

If they work late hours for fewer than 11 days, the city government will no longer cover their operational expenses including the credit card payment management fee, which is 8,000 won per month.

“About 5,000 taxis or more are expected to be running [at a given time] in the city once the mandatory operation time system starts,” said Kim Kyeong-ho, an official in the city transportation department. “And we believe that the policy will help solve the problem of taxi drivers refusing to serve customers.”

The key reason for the flood of civil complaints over taxis lies in the discord between supply and demand.

Demand for taxis outstrips supply starting at 9 p.m. and evens out at around 2 a.m., according to research by the city government. The government found that 15,261 taxis, or 30 percent of the total number of taxis operating in Seoul, do not run during those peak hours.

The city government said the mandatory operation hour policy will work alongside the “three strike” system it launched in December that cancels a driver’s license if he is reported to have turned away three passengers within two years.

As part of the Taxi Development Model, the city government is also launching three taxi apps in March to help citizens summon a taxi faster.

“The apps will mutually benefit taxi drivers and citizens,” said Kim Kyeong-ho. “Citizens can save time by checking [their smartphone] to find a taxi that is near to them. And taxi drivers will no longer have to pay membership fees to their companies.”

To improve the quality of service, all taxis will be divided into three grades - A, AA and AAA. The certification will be printed on the outside of the taxi and only the top 20 percent will receive a AAA grade, according to the government.

BY KANG KI-HEON [ypc3c@joongang.co.kr]
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