No more bargaining over taxi fare, Kidero to introduce taximeters
Taxi users in Nairobi will pay time and distance-based charges if a proposed law that introduces taximeters is approved.
The metered payment will replace the current system where fares are arbitrary and subject to an agreement between the passenger and the taxi driver.
A taximeter is a device fitted in a vehicle that calculates the fee chargeable based on distance travelled and time taken according to a set tariff.
The Nairobi county government plans to introduce the system in the Kenyan capital with the passing of a Bill that will force all taxi owners to fit their vehicles with type-approved metering devices.
“Any owner of a taxi-cab shall be provided with a taximeter of a type approved by the executive committee, which shall be maintained in proper working order and shall be set to indicate no greater fares than those prescribed under this Act,” the Nairobi City County Taxi Cabs Bill, 2015 says.
“The taximeter shall be placed so that all letters and figures on the face thereof are at all times plainly visible to the passenger.”
If passed, the new law will put Nairobi in line with other world cities where taximeters are used to calculate fares payable. This has the advantage of letting passengers to pay less whenever traffic is light.
Besides displaying the meters, taxi drivers will be expected to openly display a tariff card on which the rates charged are based. New York’s yellow cabs display their tariffs on the doors of the vehicles.
Any extra charges besides the distance and time should also be displayed on the tariff card or will not apply, the Bill says.
Extra charges would typically include a pick-up charge, an extra charge during peak traffic hours, luggage charges, night charge and a higher cost if the taxi leaves the county. In some cities, extra passengers attract an additional charge.
SH 20K FINE
The Bill provides that any driver who charges more than the amount indicated in the taximeter will be liable to a fine of up to Sh20,000.
Operating without a taximeter or having a faulty one will attract the same fine.
The proposed law, however, does not indicate what would happen in the event of stops unrelated to the passenger like mechanical breakdowns which could see them pay extra fees for the time taken.
The taximeter is expected to be sealed to prevent anyone tampering with it or alter its calculations.
The proposed law also allows passengers to hire taxis based on time spent only but this will depend on an agreement with the driver.
The Bill, which if passed will replace the City Council of Nairobi (Taxi-Cab) bylaws of 1967, makes multiple changes to the taxi business, including the introduction of uniforms and limitation of the number of taxis in the city.
“The city has of late been experiencing vehicular congestion calling for a more appropriate legal framework to deal with the issue and to facilitate proper functioning of taxi operations in the county,” Jacqueline Nyang’ala, the sponsor of the Bill, said, adding that the existing bylaws were obsolete in view of technological advancements and circumstances of the city.
The Bill, however, does not mention the rise of app-based ride-sharing services such as Uber that have caused protests from traditional taxis in cities around the world. Traditional taxis argue that Uber, which launched its services in Nairobi in January, is not subject to the same laws as they are.
In January, Uber said it is a technology firm that does not need to apply for local taxi or transportation licences to operate in Nairobi, answering rival cab operators who claimed it was circumventing the law.
Uber does not employ drivers or own its vehicles, but instead uses non-professionally licensed contractors with their own cars.
The Bill before the county assembly is likely to intensify the calls for fairer competition with services like Uber given the tighter regulations that it will introduce on ownership and operation of taxis.
Among these requirements is that each taxi will only be part of a fleet in a company or sacco with a minimum of 25 vehicles.
Another requirement under the proposed law is that the vehicle must be taken for periodic inspections at the owner’s cost.
Taxis will also be limited to parking in taxi ranks only and parking outside these designated areas as currently happens will attract a charge of up to Sh20,000.
Taxi drivers will be expected to obtain a driver’s permit and a badge with the permit number and their photographs. They will also be expected to be in uniform when on duty.
Each taxi will also be expected to instal a flag – a device with the words ‘For Hire’ clearly visible to those outside and capable of being illuminated.
Upon issuance of an operating permit from City Hall, each taxi will also be issued with a permit plate which shall bear the number of the permit issued and the number of passengers the vehicle is permitted to carry. This will be affixed on the car.
The taxi owner will be expected to meet the charges for the permit, the driver’s permit and the permit plate.