While most of Ecuador’s taxis are in compliance with the new federal law requiring the use of meters, a delay in the adoption of a new fare schedule has delayed its implementation in Cuenca.
Negotiations have been underway since July between the Cuenca Union of Taxi Drivers and the city’s Mobility and Transit office to determine new fares but a final agreement has not been reached. The country’s National Transit Agency has said that regardless of the negotiations, meters must be installed and operating in Cuenca’s 3,600 taxis by the end of March.
President of the Union of Taxi Drivers Sucuzhañay Bolivar says he has no objections to the meters and that he understands they are required by law, but says that a “point of balance” has not yet been reached in discussions about fares.
Bolivar says that the current fare schedule, adopted 11 years ago, is out of date. “We have seen increases in the costs for maintenance, parts and automobiles,” he says, claiming that inflation has been 40% in the last decade.
The current official minimum fare for a short taxi ride in Cuenca is $1.14 but Bolivar concedes that $1.50 is the minimum used by most taxi drivers.
Some members of the committee formed by the taxi and union and the city to negotiate rates, say fares being requested by taxi owners are too much. Because of disagreements, the committee has met infrequently in the last seven months.
Although Bolivar acknowledges that the new schedule must be in place by the end of March, he is says it may take weeks more to have meters installed in all taxis.
A member of the negotiating committee who asked not to be identified said that the union is simply obstructing the process. “They don’t want the meters and they want a fare increase that is unreasonable,” he said. “We showed them the new rates in Quito and Guayaquil, which we believe are fair, but they don’t want to listen.”
Committee member and president of the Azuay Bar Association Reuben Calle says that the taxi drivers are not above the law and will face stiff penalties if they do not comply. Fines for non-compliance are 15 percent of the basic salary of $340 plus a deduction of 4.5 drivers’ license points.
One way or another, says Dario Tapia, manager of the city’s mobility office, meters will be operating in Cuenca taxis by April.
Photo caption: Meters will soon be in Cuenca’s 3,600 taxis.