South Africa

LETTER: Subsidising taxis makes sense

Tom Eaton’s recent column refers (“Paying taxis might get more people to pay their taxes”, September 14). While it may be the case that the government “rolls over” for the taxi industry, there is sense in transport minister Fikile Mbalula’s proposal to pay an operating subsidy to a formalised taxi industry.

Public transport in SA is in a shambles. If there is a need to declare a state of disaster to deal with critical issues, public transport qualifies.

Cape Town intends to develop a safe, affordable, attractive-to-all, integrated public transport system. Unless we can do this we have no chance of tackling congestion and overcoming the spatial problems left from the segregated apartheid planned city.

We need one transport authority to co-ordinate the system responsible for all modes — rail, bus, taxi and whatever else is developed, such as light rail. However, rail — what remains of it — is the responsibility of the national government, most of bus and taxi sits with provincial government, and only some bus services, such as Cape Town’s MyCiTi, rest with local government. The funding is all over the place, and one can’t even have such a basic thing as a decent integrated ticketing system.

Trains and buses receive operating subsidies, but not taxis. They do qualify for the government’s recapitalisation subsidy.

To receive an operating licence, each taxi owner must also be a member of a taxi association. Taxi associations charge owners R30,000-R120,000 per vehicle to join. It is doubtful that any tax is paid on this money. The taxi associations thus have an incentive to get more taxis on the road. Is it any wonder that the market is overtraded, and that there are disputes between taxi associations over routes? The taxi industry also has an incentive to disrupt the operations of rail and bus.

It is not always appreciated that taxis are the most expensive form of public transport. Rail is cheapest, then bus and lastly taxi. It is therefore not in the interests of the travelling public that taxis are the only form of transport offered.

Given this situation any effort to formalise the taxi industry and include them in an integrated public transport system should be supported.

Cape Town is already running various projects on behalf of the department of transport to assess how best to incorporate the taxi industry into the overall transport system. It is not a straightforward or cheap exercise, but it is an aim Cape Town supports.

Felicity Purchase
Mayoral committee member for transport, Cape Town

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