Dubai // The delighted drivers might call it the great lurch forward. How else to describe a sudden tripling of minimum taxi fares? Effective immediately, every taxi ride in Dubai will cost at least Dh10 (US$2.72) as part of a new fare structure announced yesterday. A starting fee of Dh20 has been set for journeys from Dubai to Sharjah.
The meter will always start at the usual Dh3, but any journey that does not reach Dh10 will be rounded up. The Sharjah fee will be charged when the car crosses into the emirate. Finally, the fee for waiting time will be 50 fils per minute in addition to distance travelled. Previously, the first 10 minutes of the journey did not incur a time-related charge. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) outlined the new fees yesterday, confirming a number of changes that had been introduced informally in the past few weeks. Every taxi in Dubai is expected to be fitted with updated meters within the next two weeks. Some taxis are already charging the fees.
The chief executive of the RTA's public transport agency, Essa al Dosari, said the minimum charges were introduced to encourage taxi drivers to stop refusing to pick up passengers for short distances and to make trips to Sharjah. "To put an end to this phenomenon and encourage the drivers to carry passengers whatever the distance is, the meter will electronically round the amount to be Dh10 per trip," Mr al Dosari said.
Mehmoudi Riadh, from Tunisia, said the fee increase was the wrong way to go about getting taxis to take passengers to Sharjah. "I live in Sharjah and now this is another extra cost," he said. "It is not good because of the current financial crisis. People need more ways of saving money. I still think it will not convince a taxi to go to Sharjah." But Gareth Brown from the UK was not as concerned. "I think how often I get a taxi that is less than Dh10 is very rare," he said. "The shortest fare for me is about Dh15, so it does not really affect me."
All taxis operating for the RTA franchise will be introducing the charges, including the Dubai Taxi Corporation's fleet. "Through this plan, we aim to impact the mechanism of the daily work of cab drivers and uplift their performance since RTA views them as ambassadors in dealing with passengers," Mr al Dosari said. He added: "Taxi drivers play a vital role in contributing to the advancement of taxi services in Dubai, and they ought to be supported to get an increment in their earnings. The decision will also greatly curb the phenomenon of drivers' refusal to lift passengers. This will accordingly enhance customer satisfaction and address the demand for this service."
Even if the taxi is sitting in traffic, 50 fils will be added every minute to the meter. The public transport agency hopes it will encourage drivers to pick up passengers in congested traffic. Previously, this charge would begin 10 minutes into the journey. Mr al Dosari said the RTA's marketing and communications department would launch a number of campaigns "to enlighten the public of future benefits of these decisions and the positive effect they will have on upgrading this sector to serve a wide spectrum of the community".
"Since these decisions will result in increasing the averaged income of drivers, it will also encourage them to put more efforts and considerably cut the cases of refusal to lift passengers." Mr al Dosari said the RTA had also dispatched a delegation of representatives for the public transport agency, Dubai Taxi Corporation and all the franchise companies to Singapore last year to learn about the best practices.