How much is fair when it comes to taxi fares?
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is currently reviewing the fare structure for the state’s taxis – one of the proposals, if successful, would even see the fare price go backwards.
The problem with taxi fares is that the one-size, fits-all model is, more often than not, unfair to regional users. While not being considered as part of the current review system, perhaps there should be greater flexibility for operators in different areas to apply a different charging regime.
Taxi operators in Sydney obviously have different costs associated with their business. The same can be applied to regional and rural areas where the level of use fluctuates significantly depending on the day of the week.
Wagga has long had a problem where at peak times there are never enough taxis to cope with the demand.
However, the hands of the operators are effectively tied, because for the rest of the time, there are not enough customers to warrant a larger fleet.
It is also important to remember people living in regional and rural areas do not have the same access to public transport as our city cousins.
This means that taxis aren’t always just another choice – for many users they are the only option.
While IPART is probably restricted to determining fare increases, perhaps it’s time the taxi industry looked more closely at how it can better meet the needs of communities with a pricing structure more reflective of demand.
For example, perhaps there could be a surcharge on Friday and Saturday nights – or even special event days – that is applied to ensure the maximum number of taxis are on the road when they are needed most.
This added incentive may be enough to get additional drivers out and help ease the crush for patrons frustrated by long delays at taxi ranks.
For the rest of the week, people at least have the option of taxis or, in most places, some form of public transport.
Either way, regional areas shouldn’t be regarded as being the same as the larger metropolitan centres – and its time those differences were recognised.