Taxi drivers are promoting an Uber-style smartphone app as the solution to confusion and controversy over fares.

Amid an ongoing debate about the best way to set and regulate taxi rates, drivers have formed an association to represent their interests.

The Cayman Drivers Association, including representatives from Holiday Taxis, Charlie’s Super Cabs and Tours and Ace Cayman Nice Taxi & Tour Service, is in the process of registering as an association. One of its first goals is to act as a consultative body for the industry.

Government has hired Deloitte to review taxi rates in the Cayman Islands and consider options, including the use of meters in cabs.

The review comes amid concerns from the tourism industry that visitors have been left feeling “ripped off.” Members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association spoke out about what they see as unfair and inconsistent pricing, at a meeting in December.

Chris Hadome, whose father runs Holiday Taxis, is helping to establish the new association, which he says will be a member of CITA and will provide a voice for drivers in these debates.

He believes meters are outdated, and is promoting the concept of a smartphone app, which drivers and cab users can download.

He said there should be a fare based on distance per mile that could be easily monitored on an app. He has set up a Facebook page, Cayman Taxi App – Cabbie – It’s a Breeze, and a petition to promote the concept.

An app has already been developed and will be tested by drivers from each of the three firms over the coming months.

Mr. Hadome acknowledged there had been complaints about overcharging in some quarters, but said an app would make the prices clear and give customers the power to hold cabbies accountable.

“Meters are expensive and outdated technology. Everyone has a smartphone. This is something that has proven successful elsewhere,” he said.

Loxley Gould, owner of Ace Cayman Nice Taxi & Tour Service, said the app would make everything clear for drivers and customers. He said the association would help taxi firms work together, and encouraged the Public Transport Board to use its expertise as it considers the future of the industry.

“I hear a lot of things going on and we are waiting to see what is going to happen. We are staying current in the meantime,” he said.

Charlie Yates, operations manager of Charlie’s Super Cabs, said the new organization would work with CITA to promote the app.

“Once we have satisfied CITA, which is the bulk of our customers, that what we are doing is right and they accept it and like the way it is done, everyone else will follow and join us. It is going to work for everybody. If the restaurants and the bars are happy with the service they are getting, everybody’s happy,” Mr. Yates said.

During the December CITA meeting, 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 with prices.

“Whether it is the reality or not, people are certainly feeling ripped off,” he said. “There have been comments on TripAdvisor and it affects the reputation of the destination.” Mr. Hadome said an app could be promoted by CITA and would give restaurant and hotel owners easy access to information about what the fares should be.

Whether or not the Public Transport Board buys into the ide, he believes it is important that drivers have a seat at the table when it comes to deciding the future of the industry.

“Deloitte is looking at the fare system and we would like the drivers to be part of that conversation because they are the people it affects the most,” he added.

He said the new association has buy-in from drivers from all the major firms. He has been advised to wait until the Non-Profit Organizations Bill comes into force before officially registering the organization.

 

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6 COMMENTS

  1. This issue will not be easily solved.

    Why ?

    A number of reasons.

    To name a few of the more important…and controversial ones.

    Taking a look at this ‘drivers association’…it is very evident that they do not represent anywhere near a majority of Cayman’s taxi drivers…unless there are more members of their ‘association’ not present at this photo-shoot….and those members have agreed that this ‘leadership’ should speak on their behalf, which I highly doubt is the case.

    As dictatorial as it might sound…the PTB needs to set the taxi rates in Cayman under law…in consultation with the ‘drivers association’ and the CITA…whether they are applied through an app or not…an app system works more for bookings rather than the setting of fares.

    A uniform fare structure should be set in law by the government and all taxi drivers legally bound to abide by it or face legal penalties.

    Another unpalatable reality…totally disband this Public Transport Unit…and get rid of its head…Dirk Banks.

    The amount of complaints that this man has had made against him…including a discrimmination complaint from myself that saw a direct investigation into the matter makes him totally unfit for the job…and it is by some miracle…or protection in high places that he still holds the position.

    A Ministry of Transportation desperately needs to be formed in Cayman and the issues of the country’s transportation situation and needs be addressed from that level.

    The current PTB can continue to function as a part of that ministry but the transport needs of Cayman has vastly outgrown the outdated system in place to address them

    I have been able to do in the United Kingdom what I was restricted from doing in the Cayman Islands…set up my own functioning and operational transportation company…in a reasonable amount of time…without the discrimminatory laws and rules in place that rules the industry in Cayman.

    What an irony !

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    • Thank you for your comments, it’s refreshing to hear someone who has been looking at the fine print. Forming this association is more of a invitation for all parties to re-initiate dialogue so that we can make an informed plan. At present there is no formal representation of the drivers and as you have experienced you are at a disadvantage. I do hope we can all sit down and work this out, and yes opening in a business in the UK in some respects is easier having done so myself.

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  2. “Everyone has a smart phone” – I beg to differ on this. I don’t have a smart phone, neither does my husband and around a third of his colleagues. Plus, for overseas visitors, their phones don’t always work here on the island. Not everyone wants to be permanently connected to the internet, especially when they are on vacation.
    The taxi drivers and now their new association – it’s basically a cartel designed to rip us off because they know we can’t go elsewhere. The sooner we get competition in the marketplace, and Uber or the equivalent is allowed here, then the better it will be for both locals and visitors alike. The high incidence of drinking and driving on the island is in part down to the fact that it’s prohibitively expensive to take a taxi even a very short distance. Not that I condone drinking and driving 1%, but if a person could simply call an Uber after a couple of beers the island would be a happier and safer place to live.
    Forget the extortionate fixed fares, get real competition in the market place and then we will see how much a taxi ride is really worth.

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  3. I agree with Mr. Ricardo this issue is not an easy one and there needs to be more dialogue with all the parties. Mrs. Weeks Uber said we are too small of a population size. Working with the ministry along with the stakeholders to come to a mutually and beneficial way forward is the only way. Mrs. Weeks believe it are not, the majority of hard working and honest Taxi drivers out there are upset about those who over charge. For reasons Mr. Tatum stated is the reason for this association, the taxi drivers don’t want to rip anyone off they just want to be heard, treated fairly and taken seriously. If it wasn’t for the taxi drivers Cayman would not have benefited from tourism the way that it has. Making the fares more transparent no matter the format is the goal. The convenience of an app is better than the fares book which the passenger doesn’t have access to. Most travelers or locals may not have a smart phone or data services enabled, but the majority of visitors who travel will have access to Wifi in a majority of places on island. The App isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s a better one.

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  4. Susan , Uber brings with it it’s own set of problems not the least of which is the fact that the individuals getting rich off this service are not the taxi drivers but rather the wealth goes to some wealthy individual relaxing somewhere while the drivers are being attacked and even killed.Cayman already has enough of someone else getting rich off their sweat while Caymanians get the crumbs.

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  5. Only meters will ever inspire confidence for the paying passenger.

    This is no comment on the many honest and decent taxi drivers, but there are some shameless operators out there, and we all have been ripped off from time to time, and know others who have too.

    The current system is opaque, open to abuse, and bad for the reputation of the island. It has to change.

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