Two years and almost 3,000 signatures after starting a petition calling for taxi meters to be used in cabs around the island, Caymanian student Jack Tonge says he is surprised that no action has been taken on the issue.
The 21-year-old started the campaign for meters amid concerns about drink-driving and the impact of inconsistent taxi fares on the tourism industry.
The petition remains in circulation, with frustrated residents and tourists urging government to do something.
Consultants from Deloitte were hired to examine Cayman’s taxi fare system amid outcry from the tourism industry around two years ago. They produced a report in April 2018, which recommended the introduction of a simple offline app to calculate and regulate fares.
The report was not made public until it was released to the Cayman Compass through a Freedom of Information request in February this year.
None of its recommendations have been implemented as yet. Asked, at the time, what action had been taken since the report, Rosa Harris, Director of Tourism and the Public Transport Board chair, said work on a strategic plan, which would include a “provision of tools to support the sector”, had commenced. She was unavailable for further comment this week.
Tonge said he was baffled that nothing concrete had been done.
“There was a bit of progress about six months after the petition was launched, when they came out with the news that they were going to commission a report, but since then there has been nothing,” he said.
Though the petition calls for taxi meters, he said an app would be fine and could be a cheaper, simpler solution.
“The most important thing is to have some independent way of verifying the fare that takes the human element out of it,” he said. “An app could be produced in a matter of weeks and costs a few thousand dollars.”
He said the lack of action on taxis indicated a more general concern that Cayman was slow to react and adopt changing technologies.
“It is frustrating,” he said, “and that is why we are still collecting signatures and trying to show government that there are thousands of people out there who are concerned about this.”
He said his first experience of the idiosyncrasies of Cayman’s taxi fare system was when he was quoted $90 for a ride from North Side to George Town. At the end of the journey, the driver tried to bill him $115, saying the extra surcharge was for his two suitcases.
Since then, he has been charged widely varying fares to make the same journey from his favourite bar to his home in West Bay.
Multiple signatories to the petition chipped in with similar stories of being left feeling ripped off after taking a cab.
But Tonge says the main concern is around safety. He said taxis were hard to find and increasingly expensive at night and people risked being involved in accidents if they became frustrated and chose to drive after drinking.
Government announced in its Strategic Policy Statement that it would allocate money next year towards a specialist mass transportation study that will look at public transport in general.