Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More Taxis Please. And Possibly a Traffic Policy.

It used to be that getting a cab in Dubai wasn't that difficult. They were usually just "around." then more and more people came, the numbers of taxis did not increase

The other day I was unlucky to find myself in need of a taxi in Deira on a Friday night around 530pm. It took 45 minutes (I even saw several empty, on-duty cabs that I know saw me, but chose to drive empty to another location rather than pick me up in Deira). When I finally did get a taxi, I was almost beat out by a trio of men who were slightly faster, and the cab only gave me a ride faster much begging for him to chose me as I had been waiting so long and really had to leave. Prior to getting that cab, I tried getting one at a near-by hotel, but they told me that they had two groups of guests waiting for cabs they called over 30 minutes ago, and that I would have to wait for them first.

The driver that ultimately did pick me up was really, really nice. In fact, the nicest taxi driver that I've ever had in Dubai, and possibly the nicest I've ever had, ever. There are a couple others that also qualify, but still he went above and beyond in a few ways and I was very impressed.

Anyway, said driver said that the reason I couldn't get a cab in Deira is that drivers don't like to go there, and avoid it whenever possible. This is because traffic is so bad they don't make any money - they would rather take fares in other parts of the city where they cover kilometers quickly.

Which brings me to my Question of the Day: Why can't they just add a fair amount to the "waiting in traffic timer" to the meter? Then drivers would be paid for their time, and therefore more willing to pick people up. Passengers might complain, but they would at least get service, which is more important to me, anyway, and really, if they are spending time in traffic driving a customer around, then that time is part of the service, and passengers should pay.

The real problem of course is traffic, but solving that requires massive infrastructure programs and thoughtful long-term urban planning. In the mean time I would just be happy if I could get a cab in which to sit in said traffic.

Update: I took a taxi today where the driver, very newly arrived from Pakistan, did not know where the Marina is (the large neighborhood, not one of the actual places for docking boats). Fortunately I knew, but he clearly couldn't read English (he thought the Westin hotel's sign said Ritz Carlton, and he pronounced the latter Ride Car), and had difficulty understanding my directions, initially setting out towards Jebal Ali (another, far area in the wrong direction). Now of course, given the reliance on foreign labor to fill such positions, there will be drivers new to the city. But a basic course in the geography of the city should be required, and (as this I already technically required), enforced. I'm sure its cheaper and easier to just send the new drivers out and let them learn while the meter is running, but it isn't very helpful to the passengers. I at least knew where I was going. Dubai's many tourists will not, and will end up lost, frustrated and overcharged.

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