Torturous wait for taxis as traffic crawls

 04 Sep 2014 - 2:05



DOHA: As vacationers return to the city and schools resume in a few days, commuters who use taxis are also being hit by the traffic snarls and many are waiting for longer hours in the morning and evening without a taxi in sight.
Residents are complaining that even when a taxi shows up it is turning down passengers to avoid routes that they think would be congested.
Umar Kamani, a resident of Najma, said that on Wednesday morning, he had waited for more than 40 minutes on the road and by the time he was picked up by a taxi he was feeling dizzy.
“All my clothes were soaked in sweat and every 10 minutes I would go to the neighbouring grocery to feel some cold air from their air conditioners and also take some water to replenish my body,” he said. 
“What is annoying is that there were about three cabbies who stopped to enquire where I was going and how much I was paying through their windows while their doors were locked and not happy with my offer, they would then speed off without taking me.”
The taxis were especially scarce during the morning hours but some residents have complained that this scarcity has extended even up to the mid-day and afternoon hours. 
Residents also complained that amid the scarcity, most taxi drivers where choosing to use the meter or not depending on the passenger or the distance of the trip. 
In longer distances, they would often prefer to use the meters while in shorter distances they always preferred to dictate a price to the passenger which was often several times higher than the real price if the meter was used.
“The problem is that there are no public transport buses reaching to most areas and every one without a car has to use a taxi,” said Salah Abdul Swamad a resident of Mattar Al Qadem area. “The cabbies know people have no option but to use their overpriced taxis especially when it is hot and you cannot wait for long to get a fair bargain.”
A Nepalese franchised taxi driver who identified himself as Palash offered an explanation for not using the meters, saying that they were having a bigger target to make than what the taxi installed meters could achieve.
“If you use the meter you will not get the target required by the company and our jobs are paid on commission on what you earned for the company,” he said. 
“Our companies also have a limit. One cannot collect less than that limit and if you did, you then have to top up from your pocket.” 
Taxi drivers also complained that they were facing stiff competition from illegal private taxis poaching on their passengers without using a meter themselves. 
It is illegal to drive a private car as a taxi and once caught, the driver has to pay a monetary fine. 
However, the scarcity of franchised taxis has made the business of driving illegal taxis difficult to stop. 
Some people also prefer the illegal taxis to franchised taxis as they negotiate their trip fares more favourably and many are less expensive as the drivers do not have daily income targets to meet.