Overcharging, poaching each other’s passengers and fighting in front of customers were among a diverse range of complaints filed against bus and taxi drivers in the Cayman Islands in 2017.
Records from the 389 complaints and queries filed with the Public Transport Board last year were released following a freedom of information request from the Cayman Compass.
One complaint alleged that a taxi driver had attempted to charge $200 to take two customers from the port in George Town to the Crystal Caves in North Side. No official report was filed in that case and no action was taken.
The reports also included a handful of other claims of apparent overcharging from taxi drivers, something the Cayman Islands Tourism Association has also flagged as a key concern of visitors to the islands.
In one instance, the complaint alleged that a tourist couple arriving at the airport had asked for a cab to the Morritt’s Tortuga resort in East End and were taken to the Marriott hotel on Seven Mile Beach by mistake. They were charged US$18 for the unnecessary trip to the Marriott and a further US$70 to get to Morritt’s, according to the complaint.
Others focused on the state of the cabs.
One taxi driver was reported after his vehicle was found to be in a “deplorable state” with multiple defects, no certificate of road worthiness and displaying an expired license coupon.
In another incident, a taxi driver was alleged to have “diverted passengers” by telling them the Royal Palms had closed and offering to take them somewhere else instead.
In some cases, errant drivers were warned, placed on probation or suspended. In other cases, the Public Transport Board simply took note of the complaint or was unable to follow-up because insufficient information was provided. The most serious incidents, including vehicle collisions and drivers operating without a license, were referred to police.
The vast majority of complaints were in relation to the public mini buses. Many of the files appear to have been generated by public transport inspectors following up on public complaints.
Claims of bus drivers failing to follow their designated routes were reported on a weekly basis. Drivers in the eastern districts are accused of turning around in Bodden Town or Frank Sound and skipping stops in North Side and East End, where there are typically fewer passengers.
In other cases, inspectors reported, drivers were skipping stops in West Bay and operating almost exclusively on Seven Mile Beach on days when cruise ships are in port. In some cases, passengers reported waiting an hour or more for a bus.
There were also multiple complaints from bus drivers about each other, including rival drivers overtaking to poach passengers, failing to report to the dispatch service in George Town, and operating outside of their route schedule.
In some cases, animosity between taxi or bus drivers spilled over into disputes in front of passengers.
One driver told a rival, “Go to hell, you witch” in front of customers at The Ritz-Carlton after she questioned his right to operate at the hotel, according to a complaint.
Another taxi driver was banned from operating at the Kimpton Seafire resort after using abusive language in a dispute with staff.
At the George Town bus depot, a driver was publicly accused of planning to do obeah, a kind of sorcery, on someone. Another complaint alleges a driver threatened a rival who he accused of stealing passengers telling him, “Mi a bad man, mi will cut your throat wi’ a razor” in front of passengers.
Other complaints involved reckless driving, accidents and near misses.
In one case, a woman said the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and crashed into the bushes. She said her daughter had to wake the driver.
According the FOI response, the driver refused to take a medical and had his driving license pulled by the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’s Licensing.
Other complaints involved poor customer service, poor dress – including a driver wearing slippers – and rudeness to customers. One complaint indicated that a driver had a karaoke machine playing in his cab.
One driver was reported for charging passengers for repairs after his door handle fell off when they entered the bus. When he was warned that there had been other reports about his general conduct toward passengers, he apparently told the board’s staff, “Tell them to come say that to my face if they have a problem with me.”
Another driver was simply cited for being a “grumpy old man.” He was given customer service advice by the Public Transport Board.