Taxi owners and operators have called for a 25 per cent fare increase. *File photo
Taxi owners and operators have called for a 25 per cent fare increase. *File photo

Hoteliers say proposed taxi fare hikes of 25 per cent will have to be met with better service if cabbies want customers.

John Harvey, CEO of the Bermuda Hotel Association, said: “I understand they haven’t had an increase for five or six years but, not withstanding that, the hotel industry this year has been experiencing some challenges with regard to the taxi fleet. We find a lack of service — particularly on the weekends and public holidays, and even the evening.

“We have had lots of complaints from the east end hotels, and I’m told some areas of the west end and Dockyard lack a bit of service.”

Mr Harvey said complaints from tourists ranged from “being booked to pick them up from the airport and not showing” to “people being out at restaurants and waiting an hour or two to get back to hotels. But mainly I hear it’s difficult to get back from Dockyard when there’s a function on there,” he said.

“Some drivers may say, ‘It costs me money’ (to go up there), but at the end of the day, the customer needs service, otherwise people will look for alternatives.

“So it’s up to them to put their heads together and bring something that everyone will serve everyone best. 

“I hope that with this increase, it should be an incentive to say, ‘We are going to do better for our visitors and our residents.’.

“It’s about availability. Some drivers work hard,. Those who don’t work hard need to do so.”

Shawn Crockwell, Minister of Tourism Development and Transport, announced the fare increases in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, saying amendments will be tabled to the Motor Car Act 1951. It follows meetings with cabbies. Owners and operators have called for a change in fare structure to ‘rate three’ (a 25 per cent increase), increasing the maximum passengers from six to seven, a dress code for drivers, advertising inside cabs and the formation of a Taxi Commission or statutory authority.

There were also talks on the use of GPS. Mr Crockwell said although GPS technology led do “an effective dispatching system”, the OBA government was “not looking to do away with GPS but to simply make it optional”. Mr Crockwell was not available for further comment yesterday.

However, some tourism publications have already branded taxi fares in Bermuda “expensive”, and there are concerns as to how a rise in fares will enhance the island’s beleaguered tourism product.

Frommer’s website, which gives advice to world travellers, states: “Taxis in Bermuda are unduly expensive: They usually move slowly, meters seem to rise alarmingly fast, and taxi fares will inevitably represent a significant percentage of your day-to-day spending money. 

Joanne MacPhee, executive director of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, said “it is certainly of concern to see any industry sector raising its rates so significantly during these tough economic times. It is troubling from both a commerce and tourism perspective. It seems incredulous to me; here we are asking Government workers to take a decrease in pay, while talks are ongoing with BELCO and the supermarkets to manage their costs, and the taxi industry announces it wants to increase its rates by 25 per cent. This is hardly a way to incentivize more visitors and international business professionals to our shores.”

A small business owner, who declined to be named, told us: “I can’t afford a taxi — it’s a rip-off already. It [The planned fare hike] is scandalous — it will affect every one of us.”

A former taxi driver, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Taxi cabs are expensive enough without raising the fares even more. That’s why people take gypsy cabs — which the taxi owners are trying to stop by having the City of Hamilton placing taxi bays outside the Hamilton MarketPlace.

“Ewart Brown had the guts to confront the taxi owners. He brought in GPS, which was good...”

Derek Young, president of the Bermuda Taxi Owners/Operators Association, responded to the criticism: “We haven’t had a rate increase since 2008. With the higher expenses and maintenance, and replacing tyres every four months, we’ve fallen behind the inflation rate.

“The increase itself was promised over five years ago. We were promised five per cent for a year, so we are actually just catching up.

“Now we are in the low (tourism) season, this will give us some relief.

“...We aim to give better service to all of Bermuda, locals and tourists alike.”

Commenting on complaints about service, he said: “In any industry there will always be complaints about services provided. We have a 99 per cent success rate. We take people to and from the airport, we service the cruise ships, we go all over the island, but our aim is to move to 100 per cent.” 


Cab fares & how we compare

According to the official Bermuda Tourism website, gotobermuda.com, current rates, for travel between 6am and midnight, are:

• $6.40 for the first mile for 4-6 passengers, and $2.25 for each additional mile.

• $8 for the first mile for 5-6 passengers, and $2.80 for each additional mile.

With the proposed amendments to the Motor Car Act 1951, these fares will increase to:

• $8 for the first mile for 4-6 passengers, and $2.80 for each additional mile.

• $10 for the first mile for 5-6 passengers, and $3.50 for each additional mile.

Between midnight and 6am, on Sundays and public holidays, fares are 25 per cent higher for 1-4 passengers, and 50 per cent higher for 5-6 passengers.

 

So how do we compare with other countries? USA Today surveyed fares in the 60 largest metropolitan areas, using TaxiFareFinder.com.

They report a one mile fare in the following cities as:

• Atlanta $5.52

• Baltimore $5.07

• Boston $6.32

• Chicago $7.25

• Honolulu (Hawaii) $7.78

• Las Vegas $7.06

• Miami $5.04

• New York $6.31

• Philadelphia $6.02

• San Francisco $7.78

• Washington $6.41

In Toronto, Canada, the minimum fare is $4.25 plus $1.75 per kilometre (1km is 0.62 of a mile/a mile is 1.6 km).

In London, UK, the fare per mile is £5.60-8.80 for the first mile, from 6am to 10pm, and £6.80-9 from 10pm to 6am and on public holidays.

There is a minimum fare of £2.40 at all times.

In the Cayman Islands, minimum fares are (Cayman) $4 for the first mile, for up to three passengers, plus (Cayman) $1.75 for each additional mile.

1 Cayman $ is equivalent to $1.22 US, or $1 = 0.82 Cayman $.

For additional passengers, a third of the total fare is added to the bill. Between 12am and 6am another 25 per cent is added to fares.

Research: Amanda Dale