A new digital taxi fare calculator is being launched in an effort to ensure consistent and transparent pricing in the industry.
Government has approved a small increase in taxi fares alongside new regulations and new technology to prevent tourists from being ripped off by rogue operators.
The digital fare calculator is a basic offline smartphone app – named CI:GO – which will allow passengers to plug in the route, the number of passengers and see what it should cost.
The system was recommended by government’s consultants, Deloitte, who reviewed options for the industry following complaints from tourism businesses about visitors being charged different rates for the same journey by different drivers.
It will not be mandatory for taxi drivers to have the app, but Public Transport Board director Rosa Harris said it would be available to anyone in the Cayman Islands.
She said the aim was to allow passengers to know in advance what the rate would be for any journey and empower them to check the rate if they thought they were being overcharged.
The app will be released in mid-August in the Google Play Store and the App Store. Cabinet gazetted amendments to the Traffic Regulations this week, including a new schedule of fares.
Under the new schedule, a journey from the airport to the Marriott Beach Resort costs US$25, compared with US$22.50 under the previous schedule. There is no longer a surcharge for travelling at night and fares will be the same round-the-clock.
The schedule also includes a sliding scale of price increases for taxi journeys where there are five or more passengers in the vehicle.
Harris said she believed the new schedule and system would deal with many of the complaints.
“Transparency was the number one complaint,” she said. “The public should know what the fares are.”
She said more innovation could be necessary to make further improvements in the taxi industry. The rate calculator does not include a mechanism to hail a cab or pay for it using a smartphone, and it is still open to private sector businesses, like Flex and Cabbie, to provide that service.
The only restriction is that they are required to use drivers licensed by the Public Transport Board. Those licenses are currently issued to Caymanians only. There are 284 drivers licensed through the board to offer 24‑hour service. This category is currently closed to new applicants, but government has licensed 67 new drivers this year in a new restricted hours category to help meet additional demand at night.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said in a statement that government had listened to the public and moved to modernise the system.
“The new schedule balances the need for taxi operators to make a reasonable living wage and for the public to have access to the public transport system at a fair rate,” he said.
“As the cost of living has increased, operators have unfortunately been left behind. The minimal increase in rates is an acknowledgement of the valuable service these operators provide to the general public, especially as tourism ambassadors for our stayover visitors.”
Explaining the function of the CI:GO app, Harris said it allows users to drop a pin or enter the pickup and drop-off location of an intended ride, then specify the number of passengers and how many pieces of luggage. Based on the information provided, the app will calculate the fare in both Cayman and US dollars. Options include getting a breakdown of the fare, editing the trip, splitting the fare or getting directions.
“The launch of CI:GO represents a modernisation of the public transport system and provides greater transparency on the national taxi fare schedule to residents and visitors alike,” Harris said. “We encourage the public to use the taxi service and feel empowered to quote their journey in advance. Taxi fares are now in the palm of your hand.”