Me­tered cabs gain­ing mo­men­tum

A com­pany pro­vid­ing me­tered cabs in Yan­gon says it is grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity as cus­tomers are de­mand­ing a safer and more pro­fes­sional taxi ser­vice.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - My­at­noeoo@mm­ MYAT NOE OO

AF­TER sev­eral failed at­tempts by the gov­ern­ment over the years to for­malise Yan­gon’s hec­tic taxi sys­tem, lo­cal firm Hello Cabs, which in­tro­duced a me­tered ser­vice and driver train­ing nearly two years ago, says that busi­ness is catch­ing on, with com­muters to­day de­mand­ing higher stan­dards from the city’s cab­bies.

Dagon Lo­gis­tics launched the Hello Cabs ser­vice in De­cem­ber 2014, start­ing out with just 100 taxis. The ser­vice provider has since grown to 500, pro­vid­ing more than 1200 pas­sen­gers with a me­tered ride each day, ac­cord­ing to Ma Kathy from Hello Cabs mar­ket­ing de­part­ment.

“Peo­ple are be­com­ing more in­ter­ested in us­ing me­tered taxis,” she said. “The cus­tomer feed­back is mostly pos­i­tive sat­is­fac­tion with our driv­ers, and this is why our busi­ness is in­creas­ing.”

For close to a decade the gov­ern­ment has on many oc­ca­sions tried to in­tro­duce me­ter taxis to the cap­i­tal. How­ever, the ini­tia­tive has never taken off, with driv­ers eas­ily flout­ing the rules and cus­tomers favour­ing a ne­go­ti­ated fare. But for many of the pas­sen­gers and cab driv­ers in­ter­viewed by The Myan­mar Times this week, there is a small but grow­ing in­ter­est in the me­tered ser­vice, where the ad­di­tional cost is of­ten jus­ti­fied for the ex­tra com­fort.

Taxis reg­is­tered with Hello Cabs are tracked via GPS and their car is fit­ted with a me­ter. But driv­ers can only join the ser­vice provider once they meet cer­tain stan­dards, in­clud­ing mea­sures that look at the con­di­tion of their ve­hi­cle and their driv­ing skills, which the com­pany puts to the test.

Cab­bies are also given cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing, learn­ing how best to com­mu­ni­cate with pas­sen­gers, while disgruntled cus­tomers are able to pro­vide feed­back to Hello Cabs if they have a bad ex­pe­ri­ence with a driver.

The com­pany makes its money on the book­ing charge and a per­cent­age of the fare it gets for the cab. In re­turn, the ser­vice drives busi­ness and lifts pro­fes­sional stan­dards for its driv­ers, the firm says.

“Any taxi driver can be mem­ber if they meet the com­pany cri­te­ria, and pas­sen­gers pay a book­ing charge of K300,” Ma Kathy said. “The taxi driv­ers pay a per­cent­age of what they get from pas­sen­gers linked to them by Hello Cabs ser­vice,” she added, de­clin­ing to de­tail the ser­vice per­cent­age.

A Hello Cabs jour­ney costs K250 per kilo­me­tre plus K25 per minute wait­ing time. A typ­i­cal ride will cost K1500 for the first 3km or 15 min­utes, so that a 10km, or 30-minute, ride will cost K4000, with 25 per­cent added on top be­tween 10pm and 5am.

Ma Kathy said the ma­jor­ity of the daily book­ings come over the phone, but the re­cently re­leased mo­bile phone app is also gain­ing mo­men­tum, with more pas­sen­gers warm­ing to the ser­vice ev­ery month.

Ma Hnin Wut Yee, a sec­re­tary with a for­eign news agency, said the me­tered ser­vice is a lit­tle more ex­pen­sive, but worth it as the cab driver is will­ing drop her off at her lo­ca­tion, rather than avoid­ing a side street and leav­ing her on a busy road.

“We can tell them [Hello Cab driv­ers] where we want to stop and we can mon­i­tor how much it costs based on the dis­tance,” she said. “I also only take taxis with air-con, which you can’t al­ways be sure of in other taxis.”

For Dagon Univer­sity stu­dent Ma Nay Chi, the more pro­fes­sional me­tered ser­vice as is a wel­come re­lief from the in­tru­sive leer­ing of reg­u­lar cab driv­ers.

“I face some taxi driv­ers who talk and ask so many ques­tions about where I live and which ma­jor I study. It is so an­noy­ing and it makes me so an­gry,” she said.

Al­though she feels more com­fort­able, the ad­di­tional cost on a stu­dent’s bud­get means she can’t af­ford me­tered taxis all the time, she said.

“But I use Hello Cabs taxis if I am by my­self at night be­cause it is safe and they con­trol it with a GPS sys­tem.” But not ev­ery­one is con­vinced. U Soe Min Myo, a long-time reg­u­lar taxi driver, said that bar­ter­ing was an im­por­tant part of the in­dus­try.

“I think Myan­mar peo­ple don’t like me­ter taxis, they like to hag­gle for a bar­gain,” he said.

As far as safety goes, it works both ways, U Soe Min Myo added, say­ing that taxi driv­ers too needed pro­tec­tion from pas­sen­gers at times.

“Some peo­ple say taxis are not safe be­cause it de­pends on the driver, but some­times we also face prob­lems, some­times crim­i­nal cases, with pas­sen­gers,” he said.

The veteran cab­bie be­lieved he had a win-win so­lu­tion to the dan­ger­ous el­e­ments of the in­dus­try.

“Me­ter taxis might be safer for pas­sen­gers, but some­times there are also prob­lems for driv­ers, and us­ing a me­ter taxi won’t make it any safer,” he said. “We need to go with CCTV or some­thing like that.”

U Aung Min Min, a taxi driver with more than three years’ ex­pe­ri­ence on Yan­gon’s con­gested roads, joined Hello Cabs three months ago. The cab­bie was coy about the tran­si­tion, not want­ing to re­veal any spe­cific ben­e­fits re­lated to his move.

“I get more money and it is bet­ter than the tra­di­tional driv­ing,” he said.

Fel­low Yan­gon driver Ko Thant Zin said the gov­ern­ment was likely to push ev­ery­one to­ward me­tered cabs again at some point. The reg­u­lar cab­bie hoped the au­thor­i­ties would tackle the myr­iad of con­ges­tion prob­lems af­fect­ing the city, how­ever, be­fore they pushed for a for­malised pay sys­tem for cabs.

“Me­ters are not re­ally OK for all taxis be­cause of the traf­fic,” he said. “Peo­ple will just com­plain about the price.”

Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

A Hello Cabs taxi driver shows a me­ter used to record fares. Hello Cabs says they are tak­ing more than 1200 calls for pas­sen­gers each day.

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