Taxi drivers say traffic and rain forces fare increase

Last week, the head of Yangon’s transportation regulator revealed that unscrupulous bus conductors were demanding extra money from passengers at night, in heavy rain, or in congestion. U Hla Aung, chair of the Yangon Region Supervisory Committee for Motor Vehicles, better known by its Myanmar acronym Ma Hta Tha, said overcharging was the most common customer complaint received by the committee.

Now he has confirmed that the same is true of taxis, which, at least nominally, have been controlled by Ma Hta Tha since last October.

“We can’t control taxi fares because drivers prefer to negotiate the fare with passengers rather than using the meter. If the passenger agrees to pay the fare proposed by the driver, they will use that taxi,” said U Hla Aung, adding that passengers should be charged an “appropriate” fare that would not result in drivers making a loss.

But sometimes, passengers feel they have no choice but to agree.

“At South Okkalapa township, near Baeli Bridge, the congestion has been terrible because of road construction. Most cabs refuse even to go there. Some will agree only if you pay an extra K1000 or K1500,” said Ma Thazin, who lives in North Dagon township.

Taxi drivers also seem to have the upper hand when negotiating with passengers about the fare to destinations likely to be flooded.

“We rely on taxis when it rains, but that doesn’t mean we’ve got lots of money. We just want to get home early. I think the drivers are just taking advantage, which is wrong,” said Ko Zaw Htun of Kamaryut township.

Cabbies also reportedly demand higher fares to go to popular high schools downtown, if they agree to go at all, because of the added concern of congestion.

Taxi drivers say it is necessary they increase fares, as traffic jams become more pervasive, driving down the number of fares they earn in a day.

“I do ask more money than before,” said one taxi driver. “If passengers give what I ask, I make more money. If the passenger bargains me down, I don’t go lower than the old price. So on the whole, I make more money.”

The gouging habit seems to have spread among cabbies who know which destinations are the most congested, or likely to be subject to flooding in a downpour.

Passengers fear the practice is being institutionalised.

“At first they just asked for a little more, but then they started asking for more. We know the shortest route, and how much it should cost. But we have to pay what they ask, because we need them,” said Ko Maung Myo of South Okkalapa township.

Two weeks ago, Phay Phay May May company announced that it would introduce a taxi call centre offering fixed fares, starting later this month.

“According to this system, the company would survey the routes and set an appropriate fare. But the drivers have to agree,” said U Hla Aung.

Source: Myanmar Times

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