Monday, 6 October 2014

Why taxi drivers keep changing the fares.Drive Hot.News


A passenger pays the fare. Many passengers find that the charges increase, at peak hours, on rainy days and during festive 
seasons.

.At about 7:45pm, Sarah Nansubuga is among dozens of passengers at Nfuufu stage in Old Taxi Park in Kampala waiting to board a taxi. As soon as it shows up, people are shoving each other, in a bid to enter. Others however stand still, waiting for this peak time to pass so that they can travel when the fares reduce. For the last three years she has been staying in Nfuufu, Nansubuga says taxis charge Shs2,000 during peak hours and Shs1,700 off peak. And when it rains, the fares can shoot up to Shs3,000.
“Sometimes, you have no option but to just board,” she narrates.
Those who use the taxi as their only means of transport are left at the mercy of taxi operators who arbitrary fluctuate the fares as and when they wish. Nansubuga is one of the thousands who use public transport means on a daily basis amid the lack of a regulation, a situation that has led to exploitation of passengers in Kampala where 25,000 taxis are in active operation, according to John Ndyomugyeni, the national chairman Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Utoda) (the association registers the taxis that come into operation every year).

The situation has been worsened by the boda boda industry despite attempts to ensure public transport in the city is cheap and affordable. The boda bodas are hardly regulated. Cyclists say that it is between them and their clients to determine the fare since with them, it is easier to negotiate.
This situation is why the entry of other players like Pioneer Easy Bus in 2012 had been welcomed with hope. When they had just started operations, the Pioneer Easy buses used to charge Shs800 over a 10km radius from the city centre.
As a result, many taxi operators reduced their fares to the joy of many passengers. A 20km Kampala-Mukono journey, which cost Shs2,500 by commuter taxis, would go for Shs1,000. But it all came to an end when Pioneer Easy Bus ceased operations for failing to clear taxes.
The problem of pricing has been a long on-going one, and so to ensure efficient transport in the city, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), replaced the Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Utoda), which had been in charge of taxi management for more than two decades with Taxi Park Stages Committee (Tapscom). Tapscom comprises 10 members that were selected by taxi driver representatives from 80 taxi stages and operate on behalf of KCCA.
However, some drivers feel Tapscom does not serve their interests and therefore opt to run their own operations, including determining their own fares.
“We are the ones who decide the prices. We elected our leaders in Utoda but Tapscom does not represent us. They [representatives] elected themselves to suit their own interests. They only pay KCCA but they do their own things.
They are only interested in collecting taxes. We want to elect our own leaders so that we can have our own voice,” claims Steven Kawolo, who has been a driver for 24 years. Peter Kaujju, the KCCA spokesperson, however, says the drivers elected their own representatives since the city authority does not have the mandate to choose.
According to Abbey Luwaga, the Tapscom general secretary, the committee’s terms of reference of governing taxis are clear: to ensure no individual vehicle or stages unfairly increases taxi fares to the disadvantage of passengers.
Luwaga also says the body has stage committees which are responsible for ensuring the fares are regulated. So why then do some taxi operators continue to raise the prices? Why is it that no one seems able to crack the whip, to ensure that fares are regulated?
Luwaga believes that sometimes due to the prevailing market forces of demand and supply, taxi drivers increase the fees. He adds that some of their officials own the taxis and therefore take advantage of the situation to hike fares.
That is why passengers, like Patrick Zziwa who stays in Bukasa, find themselves paying different amounts of money all the time. Zziwa says the taxis he uses charge Shs2,500 at rush hour instead of the normal Shs2,000. “And it goes to Shs3,000 and Shs5,000 when it rains.
There is no price regulation here,” he says. Zziwa also accuses drivers of using the fuel price increments as an excuse, saying that even when the fuel prices stablise, the drivers do not reduce the fares. To make matters worse, he says, when sometimes, coasters, come to transport stranded passengers, at a fee of Shs1,500, the taxi drivers chase them away.

In the taxi drivers’ defence, Godfrey Magala, a driver who has been plying the Bweyogerere route for 10 years, says they increase the charges to make profits because they are harassed by KCCA officials who impose hefty penalties.
Other reasons the drivers increase the charges include the hiking of prices of goods and commodities during festive seasons. So they increase the fares to be able to make purchases themselves. Sometimes they increase the fare on a bad day, when there are few customers and they want to cover up the fuel costs.
Godfrey Kalule, a treasurer of Namuwongo-Kisugu stage under Tapscom says he will hike the price if he is going to Namuwongo to get passengers, knowing full well he will not get as many to fill the taxi. So he will charge the passengers to make up for the money he would lose by transporting few people to town because he needs to cover the fuel price