Consultants have been hired to review taxi rates in the Cayman Islands amid debate about the fairness of prices.

Options, including the use of taxi meters, will be considered as part of the review.

The Cayman Islands Tourism Association raised concerns last month about high prices and lack of consistency of fares, saying it was threatening the island’s reputation among visitors, while some drivers have disputed the Public Transport Unit’s fare structure.

Durk Banks, director of the Public Transport Unit, said the board is legally required to set rates, He said it is aware of the concerns over prices and in September put out a request for proposals for an evaluation of the fare structure.

“The consultants will provide an independent evaluation of the existing taxi rates focusing on modernization and rate standardization,” he said.

He said the consultants, appointed in December, would provide guidance, strategic recommendation, industry trends and data to the board, adding that their recommendations will be reviewed in consultation with taxi drivers and other stakeholders before a new system is implemented.

Members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association spoke out about what they see as unfair and inconsistent pricing, at a meeting in December.

Several restaurant and tourist attraction managers raised concerns about fares which they said vary wildly depending on who is driving the cab.

Matthew Bishop, CEO of Island Companies and Cayman Distributors and one of the directors of the association, said the group wants taxi drivers to be able to earn a good living and be ambassadors for the industry. But he said there needs to be clarity and consistency over prices.

“Whether it is the reality or not, people are certainly feeling ripped off. There have been comments on TripAdvisor and it affects the reputation of the destination.”

Other business owners said there needs to be a simple system, such as the use of taxi meters, to ensure prices are implemented consistently.

Mr. Banks acknowledged that some drivers have been suspended for overcharging or related offenses. He did not have an exact figure, but said he believes it is “less than 10” is the past year.

He said the review is meant to find a system that is fair to drivers and to businesses.

“The PTB appreciates the role taxis play in our tourism product. The PTB is committed to reviewing the pricing structure to ensure the Cayman Islands tourism product remains competitive.”

He said the review would consider all options, including meters.

Tender documents from the original request for proposals indicate that the consultants will also be asked to look at whether a central dispatch for all taxi operators, or an alternative such as a Cayman taxi app, could be viable options. They will also look at rates by region as well as fees from tourist’s home countries and how these factors impact perceived value for money.

Cayman’s unusual practice of charging significantly varying fares for the same route depending on how many passengers are in the cab has also come under scrutiny.

Mr. Banks said current legislation allows drivers to charge a 20 percent surcharge for every additional passenger when there were more than three people in a cab. He declined to say if there are any plans to change this policy until the review is complete.

Some taxi drivers have disputed the PTB’s legal right to set fares, suggesting they have previously been set by a driver’s association and approved by the board. Mr. Banks said the PTB sets the fares as per the Public Passenger Vehicles Regulations (2014 Revision).

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7 COMMENTS

  1. One obvious need and one much less expensive than meters is a requirement for all cab drivers to have their photo, name and ID prominently displayed in the cab along with the contact details of the Public Transport Unit to which complaints may be addressed.

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  2. Anything other than meters would be a disgrace. A meter is the only way for passengers to be confident they are not being cheated.

    Can we also please do away with the egregious practice of charging a random amount per passenger if there are more than three? It makes no sense at all.

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  3. More expensive consultants? Seems to me that we just need to do what most other countries do… require meters to be installed and used.
    Failing that legalize Uber here. That would start some competition and provide some much needed income to for their part time drivers.

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  4. Any discussion of taxi fares that does not recognize that the Traffic (Public Passenger Vehicles) Regulations, 2012 already requires taximeters is sadly lacking in historical perspective.

    The authorities, at the time this new regulation was introduced, backpedaled and decided that a rate sheet could qualify as a taximeter. The only rate sheet I have ever seen is a list of charges between the airport and various destinations. I would love to hear someone on the transportation board explain how to use that sheet to calculate the fare from, say Cayman Kai to Morritt’s. If there is a more comprehensive rate sheet, where is it available?

    Here are excerpts cut and pasted from the regulations:

    THE TRAFFIC (PUBLIC PASSENGER VEHICLES) REGULATIONS,
    2012

    “taximeter” means any device for calculating the fare to be charged in respect of
    any journey in a taxi by reference to the distance travelled or time elapsed since
    the start of the journey, or a combination of both.

    9. (1) The driver of a taxi shall not carry on any business of plying for hire
    or carrying passengers for hire or reward unless the taxi is fitted with a taximeter.
    (2) No taxi with a taximeter shall, at any time, be used for plying for hire
    or carrying passengers for hire or reward unless the taximeter has been tested and
    approved by or on behalf of the Board.

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  5. Here is the appropriate text:

    Director of the Public Transport Unit Durk Banks told the Caymanian Compass that “the definition of a taximeter does not mean an electronic meter”.

    The definition of a taximeter in the Public Passenger Vehicle regulations is “any device for calculating the fare to be charged in respect of any journey in a taxi by reference to the distance travelled or time elapsed since the start of the journey, or a combination of both”.

    Mr. Banks said: “Therefore, a rate sheet is a ‘device’ that can be used to calculate the fare to be charged in respect of any journey in a taxi by reference to the distance travelled.”

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  6. Please Mr Banks, provide the public with this all-comprehensive rate sheet, approved by the board that can calculate the fare to be charged in respect of ANY journey in a taxi by reference to the distance traveled.

    If such a sheet does not exist, then I suggest that all taxis in Cayman (assuming they don’t have “real” meters (meaning measuring devices, mechanical or electronic, not rate sheets), are operating illegally.

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  7. I am really wondering how a piece of paper can be classified as a ‘device’. Moreover how do you test such a device as stated in the regulations?

    Would love to see what the courts make of this.

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