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He believes meters are outdated, and is promoting the concept of a smartphone app, which drivers and cab users can download.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“Meters are expensive and outdated technology.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