Mon, 04 Sep 2000

Taxi operators cancel fare increase

JAKARTA (JP): In reaction to the declining number of passengers following the adoption of new fares on Friday, several taxi operators decided on Sunday to return to the old fare.

"Last night our management took back the fare conversion tables which were distributed on Friday," Kosti Jaya taxi driver Sudjana told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Several other operators, such as Express Taxi, Citra Taxi, and Prestasi Taxi also decided not to apply the new fares.

However, the Blue Bird group, the biggest operator in the capital, continued to apply the new fare.

An employee at Express taxi, Endang Sunarya, said the company executives told drivers not to apply the new fare because the City Council had yet to pass the regulation.

Taxi drivers complained about the new policy saying that the hike made passengers reluctant to travel by taxi.

"The number of customers has decreased because of this new fare," Citra Taxi's Saman said.

Saman's opinion was shared by other drivers.

"I prefer the old fare because today it was difficult to get passengers, but it's the company's policy," a driver at Gamya Taxi which is under the Blue Bird group, said.

Kosti Jaya's Sudjana blamed the Organization of Land Transportation Owners (Organda) for issuing a decree that created uneasiness among the public.

"This is all Organda's fault. You know what? I already own this car and I think the hike is too high," Sudjana said, explaining that Kosti Jaya drivers could own a taxi after paying monthly installments for about two and a half years.

Separately on Saturday, Organda defended increasing the taxi fare, claiming it was important for the business to avoid bankruptcy and to save other related lines of work.

"We call on all parties to rationally and realistically asses the problem of taxi fares. Taxi business does not only support our drivers and their families, but also other members of the community," head of Organda's taxi unit Izak A. Rumaedi said in a written statement.

"Our business supports other businesses, such as spare part shops, and food stalls operating near our taxi pools. It's also important to keep these businesses alive by ensuring taxi operators live," he added.

The organization has been under harsh criticism recently for its unilateral decision to increase taxi fares without official consent from city administration.

"The administration cannot regulate our fares because we aren't of economy-class base, which is regulated by the government," said Izak.

"Besides, other modes of transportation have also hiked their fares. So, it's unfair if we cannot hike taxi fares," he said, citing recent transportation fare increases announced by the government.

Izak was suspicious that opposition to the fare increase was part of systematic efforts to destroy the taxi business.

"Most of our taxis are over five years old with maintenance costs exceeding income," he said.

"Hiking the fare was the only solution to increase our service to the customers. There is no other way," he added.

He also denied that Organda had not publicized the fare increase to the public.

"We made it public in May when we requested permission to hike the fare," he said.

Earlier on Friday, Governor Sutiyoso ordered head of City Traffic and Land Transportation Agency, Buyung Atang, to take action against any taxi charging higher fares.

"My approval wasn't to implement the new fare but rather to circulate the new fare," he told reporters.

Through Gubernatorial Decree No. 2503 dated Aug. 22, the administration agreed to raise the flag fall from Rp 2,000 (25 US cents) to Rp 3,000 and the meter charge from Rp 900 to Rp 1,300 per kilometer. The waiting fee was hiked from Rp 10,000 to Rp 13,000 per hour. (jaw/nvn)