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Despite falling gas prices, taxi drivers still want fare increase

Although gas prices are lower, President of the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union Wesley Ferguson said yesterday the bargaining body still wants its request for fair increases approved by the government.

Earlier this year, as gas prices peaked above $7.00 a gallon, Ferguson said the union wanted a 25 percent increase in fares.

But even though prices have fallen to pre-pandemic amounts, below $6.00 a gallon in some cases, Ferguson said the need for a fare increase persists.

“Gas prices falling is part and parcel to what the taxi rate increase is all about. Gas prices falling, doesn’t mean the food in the food store falls too, it doesn’t mean that school fees fall, mortgage falls,” he said.

“One entity does not suffice the other. Gas prices is not the end of it all when it comes to the increase we were asking for. We were asking for increases in light of inflation and gas prices are just a part of that. So yes we still need the raise, and we still are waiting on the minister to make a decision.”

Government at the height of high gas prices said it was considering increasing bus and taxi fares as inflation worsened, but kept putting a final decision off.

Ferguson said what’s worse is that despite a robustly rebounding tourism sector, taxi drivers are not seeing the benefits because of inflation and the oversaturation of the industry.

“You have to understand, one of our main issues is that the minister oversaturated the industry with taxis. The oversaturation minimizes the impact of the little increase in income they may have had. When you add more taxis, that’s less jobs for the guy who would have possibly had two or three fares for the day. Now he may only have one, because now you have 20 or 30 other taxi drivers that were added to that particular holding area. If the taxi industry was left the way it was, or maybe increase the taxi plates that we agreed to, this would not have been an issue, but when you decide to oversaturate the industry then it really intensifies our need to apply for an increase in taxi fares, because you have that much more taxis out there,” he said.

“Gasoline is not the only thing we need the increase to defray, it’s the whole environment and the whole inflation that is causing taxi drivers to lose revenue, and this is the slowest time of the year, so that just adds insult to injury. Taxi drivers are not busy out there, they are still suffering.”

In July, the government lifted its moratorium on taxi plates and Minister of Transport and Housing JoBeth Coleby-Davis announced that roughly 300 plates would be issued.

Ferguson said he’s still waiting for an official count from the Ministry of Transport, but estimates the exercise added 700 new taxi plates to the industry.

“That’s roadkill, that’s carnage. We haven’t gotten any reports yet, but my estimation is that is started out at 1,135 and now it’s just under 2,000 plates out there and counting,” he said.