Although the use of taxi meters became mandatory on Sunday, many drivers were refusing to turn them on and arguments between Cuenca drivers and riders were common in the city.
Some taxistas maintain that they are not required to use the meters until Monday, June 9, despite the order of the municipal transportation office. In fact, transportation officials on Saturday clarified an earlier report that meters would be in a “testing” phase from June 1 until June 9. The confusion arose, apparently, due to the fact that police will not start enforcement until next week. “It is the law that meters must be in use from Sunday, June 1,” transportation officials said. “Just because police will not issue citations to violators for another week and because drivers will be testing the new equipment does not change this.”
The transportation office conceded, however, that enforcement will be difficult until June 9. “It is essential that we have the backing of both riders and taxi drivers until then,” it said. The office said it is establishing a telephone hotline that will allow riders to report violations by drivers.
At Mall del Rio, a driver who refused to turn on his meter told a rider that he could not make a living on the current fare schedule that begins at $1.14 and that he was waiting for a new fare schedule to go into affect before using the meter. “My costs have increased and I can’t feed my family on fares of $1.14,” the driver said. “Cuenca is an expensive city these days.” The potential passenger, a reporter for a local newspaper, responded that the driver’s personal opinion was irrelevant and that he must obey the law. The reporter caught another cab which was using its meter a few minutes later.
A committee, whose members represent the interests of both taxi owners and the government, is developing new fares and plans to make recommendations within 45 days. Everyone agrees that fares are outdated and need to increase. The current schedule was adopted 11 years ago.
In addition to disagreement with current fares and the fact that police are not yet issuing tickets, some drivers cited confusion about a rule that requires drivers to provide receipts to riders.
Even the representative for taxi drivers, Bolívar Sucuzhañay, agrees that drivers should be using meters and says he was contacting members by email to remind them of the fact. “We are in the process of developing new fares and have agreed to use the old ones until this is done,” he says. “This is a matter of good faith.”
Photo caption: Passengers discuss fares with a taxi driver at the main bus station on Sunday; Photo credit: El Tiempo