Thursday October 4, 2012
No sympathy for errant cabbies
Reports by BAVANI M., CHRISTINA CHIN, TAN KARR WEI, RAZAK AHMAD, P. ARUNA, REGINA LEE and TERENCE TOH.
KUALA LUMPUR: Consumers have little or no sympathy for taxi drivers who protested their working conditions and brought traffic in the heart of the city to a standstill.
While conceding that not all taxi drivers were unreasonable, commuters said many of them refused to use the meter and charged exorbitant flat rates while others chose where they were willing to go and by which route.
They were responding to the action of about 100 taxi drivers who gathered in Jalan Bukit Bintang from 3pm to 7pm on Tuesday to voice their grievances, including the introduction of the free GO-KL buses which they said affected their business.
They also complained of being harassed by SPAD, the Land Public Transport Commission, which they said restricted parking and pick-up areas.
Detractors of the taxi drivers are not confined to locals. At least two international websites have nothing good to say about them.
LondonCabs.co.uk rank Kuala Lumpur taxi drivers as the worst in the world. Another, Ratestogo.com, put KL as number three after Phnom Penh and Jakarta.
On the local scene, designer Chandra Shegar, 39, who has been relying on public transport for the past 15 years, said many taxi drivers refused to take passengers to certain places.
“Sometimes I would want to go to KL from PJ, but the driver refuses, forcing me to wait for another cab. This never happens in countries like Singapore, where drivers are not allowed to refuse a passenger.
“Others refuse to use the meter. It usually costs me RM10 to RM15 to get from The Curve in Mutiara Damansara to my home in SS1 but some taxi drivers insist on charging a flat rate of RM30 or more,” he said.
He, however, noted that there were taxi drivers who didn't flout the rules.
“Having taken taxis for so long, there are some drivers whom I am familiar with and they are actually very nice. Sometimes, they even offer discounts,” he said.
Public relations accounts director Michele Malini Mahendra, 36, has a regular taxi driver who picks her from her home in Putra Heights to her office in Petaling Jaya.
“I used to have really bad experiences with taxis. I used to stay in Kota Kemuning (in Shah Alam) and when I called for a cab, the driver would insist on RM10 on top of the metered fare,” she added.
In GEORGE TOWN, Consumers Association of Penang president S. M. Mohamed Idris said CAP had been trying for 30 years to get cabbies to use the meter “but it has all been in vain”.
He said the taxi drivers also refused to cruise around looking for customers and instead only waited at certain areas to pick up foreigners, who they thought could be fleeced.
Idris said SPAD had promised to conduct a study on the problem of cabbies taking longer routes and refusing to use the meter.
Penang Consumer Protection Association president K. Koris said: ”Cabbies unhappy with the meter rates should discuss the matter with the Government, not take it out on consumers.”
In recent months, cabbies in Penang have come under heavy fire from visitors, many of whom had written to The Star.
American March Sullivan said taxi drivers already had tyre subsidy, personal accident insurance and were eligible for individual permits to improve their livelihood and, therefore, should be made to use the meter.
Julian Wilford from Rickmansworth in Britain said Penang cabbies who charged “arbitrary rates” made Malaysia look like a backward, Third World nation.