Taxi drivers stand by price hike amid public criticism
The San Fernando to Port of Spain Taxi Association is defending its decision to increase the taxi fare from $17 to $22.
The increase will now take place from June 1, and not May 25 as previously announced.
The Association held a media conference on Thursday to address 'misinformation' in the public domain relating to the proposed price hike.
Speaking at the media conference, President elect of the San Fernando to Port of Spain Association Hayden Whiskey noted that under the current regulations taxi operators are required to continue operating at 50 percent capacity.
This, he said remains in effect until Phase 3 of the reopening process, where they will then be allowed to transport 75 percent of the licensed capacity. Whiskey said the 'new normal' comes at a cost to everyone, including the taxi operators.
"Our fare was last adjusted in 2015 from $15 to $17 and we were license to transport seven passengers. Within recent times, the global pandemic brought along by the coronavirus and the implementation of social distancing, we have been restricted to transport fifty percent of our licensed capacity. This remains in effect until phase 3 of reopening process where we will be then allowed to transport 75 percent of our licensed capacity."
"Until now, no information has been forthcoming about a possible return to transporting our full capacity. I cannot think of anyone right now who is prepared to travel in a public transport sitting in close proximity with another passenger. This new norm comes at a cost to everyone including taxi operators," he stated.
On Wednesday, the Progressive Party said the residents and commuters transiting through the city of San Fernando will be hard-pressed to find another $10 to contribute to their daily round-trip commute.
The party said the proposed fare hike is only going to add further stress to the commuting population which is already facing job losses, salary cuts and in some cases greater demands on their limited finances.
However, Whiskey said taxi operators have been absorbing increased operating costs since 2016.
"Our adjusted fare is therefore based on the assumption that in phase three we would be allowed to transport 75 pecent of our licensed capacity which is five passengers therefore the adjusted fare should be $119 divide by five which is approximately $24 allowing us to break even @ $22 each for a total of $110 this means that we will continue to operate at a loss of eighteen dollars per trip. With a minimum of three trips per day, give or take."
"A driver operating a seven seater taxi will experience a loss of fifty-four plus dollars daily totaling approximately thirteen hundred dollars plus monthly, give or take. While the government has announced efforts to have a COVID-19 relief grant to assist with fuel costs, most of the drivers do not fit the criteria to access nor receive this grant," he said.
Meanwhile, Whiskey issued a warning to a driver, who he said is not authorised to speak on behalf of the taxi drivers.
"It is anticipated that some element of common sense will prevail and the individual will cease and desist from publicly embarrassing himself, his family, the Association and his work colleagues in this fascist type behaviour. Failure to do so may and can push the Association to seek legal counsel which can be very costly and unpleasant for parties involved. So this should be taken as a verbal warning."