The committee overseeing changes in taxi fares and the installation of meters in Cuenca’s 3,600 taxi cabs, got an earful on Wednesday as various interests laid out there positions. In several instances, the meeting erupted into catcalls.
Taxi drivers protested the cost of installing meters and said it represented an unfair financial burden.
Speakers representing passengers said that meters were essential for reigning in arbitrary fares. A representative for disabled people said the 50% fare discount his clients are entitled to was not being enforced and that taxi drivers often refuse to pick up the disabled.
Sucozhañay Bolivar, committee member and president of the Union of Taxi Drivers, is pushing for an analysis of the cost of meters. “There is a lot of confusion about the expense that drivers will be expected to carry. This needs to be understood before the plan is implemented.”
Sucozhañay also suggested that the committee take its time to hear all sides before a decision about a new fare structure is adopted. “The rates must incorporate the increase in the cost of living and must take into account costs for maintaining and operating taxis. Maintenance costs have increased faster than the general cost of living,” he said. He added that current fares were adopted more than 10 years ago.
Representatives for passengers said that the current rate schedule is rarely followed and has become irrelevant in most cases. Mauro Carrion said that fares vary widely, based mostly on the whim of the taxi driver. “Different passengers will pay different rates for the same trip. I don’t know of anyone who pays the legal minimum rate of $1.14 anymore.”
He also said that nighttime fares are often double and even tripled daytime rates and said that meters would eliminate the practice.
Several speakers said meters are essential for providing receipts that are mandated by the SRI for tax purposes.
Representative for the National Council on Disabilities of Azuay, Daniel Villavicencio, demanded safeguards to make sure handicapped passengers receive the 50% required by law. He said that the 30,000 disabled people in the province are frequently overcharged or simply ignored. “Some taxi drivers drive by the disabled because they can make more money with full fares.”
Taxi union president Sucozhañay said the one of the most important areas in the discussion should be controlling unlicensed or “informal” taxi services. “They do not pay taxes and are not regulated. They hurt our business. Enforcing the law is essential for us to have sensible fares and service.”
Coopera meetings stir more anger
Meetings to appoint a board of creditors for the failed financial cooperative Coopera and to provide infromation to unpaid members, created more controversy than they solved yesterday as many claimed that the process is being handled improperly.
At one point, police barred some Coopera members from entering the Jorge Calvache Coliseum, where the meetings were conducted.
Representative for unpaid members, Gustavo Castro, said the strategy of the Superintendency of Economic Solidarity (SEPS), the government agency in charge of liquidating Coopera, is to divide the claimants. "Why are we put into separate groups? Why can’t everyone affected hear the same story at the same time?” Quito asked. “The enitre process is illegal.”
Quito has filed legal action in a local court to stop the liquidation process.
The press, also barred from the meetings, complained to SEPS authorities about the lack of access. Yesterday afternoon, SEPS provided a press release defending its actions, claiming that the liquidation process is proceding legally.
According to Quito, 640 Coopera members with about $24 million invested have not been repaid. An estimated 150 to 200 of the unpaid members are North Americans.