Friday, June 27, 2008

Taxi, taxi!

If you have not read, Malaysian taxis are among the worst in the world, claims a survey by a local magazine. Readers of The Expat magazine, which has a monthly circulation of 6,000 copies, gave the Malaysian taxi service a big thumbs down when compared with services in 22 other countries.

I have little experience on Malaysian taxis or even in the UAE.

However, for some sometime now taxi drivers in both countries have been getting the stick from all quarters for their rude behaviour, ‘refusal’ to pick up passengers, bad road courtesy, and so on. But there’s two sides to every story.

A local newspaper here told the other side story while another splashed report on cabbies ways of profiling their potential passengers.

These guys have no place to go tell theirs while their passengers use whatever means to tell their allegedly horror stories. Not that these cabbies would for fear of losing their job.

There are an estimated 5,000 taxi units (with about 8,000 drivers working in shifts) in Dubai, a city with 1.4 million residents and thousands of tourists flying in each day.
The paper gave them a voice that hopefully should reduce the deafening roar against them.
“I work a 12-hour shift every day, starting at 5.30 in the morning to 7pm in the evening,” said a taxi driver. “Often there’s hardly any time for even a cup of tea. From the time I put my foot on the pedal, there’s little time for rest. The pressure to make the minimum amount is high with 6,500 taxis plying on the roads of Dubai.
“We only step out of the taxi for a quick meal or a cup of tea. We breathe air-conditioned air for 12 hours, we get no exercise of any kind and when we finally get home - if you can call it one - we just flop on the bed (there’s little room for anything else as three others share the small room). We get up for our first real meal of the day, chat a bit and then hit the sack.
“It’s the same every day, day in and day out seven days a week. We cope with salary cuts, grumpy passengers and traffic jams. We have no-pay annual leave and an annual ticket is just a dream. You report in late or someone complains and our income is cut. Our side of the story does not matter. This is not living. This is existence,” he said.
And he’s been driving us around since 1992. Time we gave these drivers a break.
One tabloid reports that many cabbies use rudimentary racial profiling – the practice of judging people by their racial or ethnic characteristics – to guess which part of town a potential passenger is heading for. If you are familiar with Dubai, this would make you laugh.

How cabbies racially profile Dubai’s passengers
Africans They usually head for Deira, Baniyas Square (popularly known as Al Nasr Square), Naif Souq, Frij Al Murar, Hamdan Colony and Al Baraha.

Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Pakistanis They go to Bur Dubai, Karama, Old Pakistani Consulate, Oud Metha Road, Al Rigga Road, Al Muteena Road and Al Qusais.

Indian businessmen Great to pick up during business hours as they take business routes. After 5pm, they head back to the aforementioned locations.

Asians The Chinese live in large congregations, either at International City or in various areas around BurJuman Centre.

Filipinos Usually residing in Satwa, Jebel Ali or Al Muteena in Deira. Always take short rides

Emiratis A rarity

Saudis Singles usually stay at hotels in Deira near Al Rigga or Muraqabbat Roads. Saudi families make great customers as they tend to travel to major shopping malls such as Mall of the Emirates and Ibn Battuta Mall

Arabs Risky pick ups. They get upset fast and go to Sharjah a lot

Eastern Europeans Usually stay in Sharjah or Ajman, which means running into traffic.

Westerners Preferred customers. They usually go to new Dubai, from Jumeirah onwards.
That's not yet about Abu Dhabi's taxis (which about 4,000 new taxis are still without drivers)

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