Taxi operators in Barbados are willing to change how they operate, but the president of one of the island’s largest taxi groups is hesitant about supporting the implementation of any ride-sharing or taxi hailing service in Barbados.
President of the Bridgetown Port Taxi Co-op Society Ltd. Adrian Bayley says such initiatives would have to make sense financially for taxi operators and logistically for customers.
He explained that while cab sharing was already taking place, especially among his association’s members, certain parameters would have to be implemented for it to be used by the wider population.
Bayley told Barbados TODAY that while such a system in Barbados would work if family members, friends or other groups were travelling to the same destination, it would be difficult to get strangers to agree to a taxi operator diverting or picking up an unrelated passenger along their journey.
“If you are dealing with locals it is very complicated. For me to come to Warrens to pick up someone who say he is going to Belleville, but while driving my phone rings and somebody is going by the Garrison, for me to divert and pick up that person on the way to the destination . . . that is a no-no,” he said.
“All of them would have to be coming from the same destination. If all eight people are going in the same direction it is not a problem, but for you to have a customer in your vehicle and you want to divert to pick up somebody, that is a ‘no’.”
Bayley added that the COVID-19 pandemic made it even more difficult to carry unrelated commuters, and he believed that would be the case for a while.
He was speaking against the backdrop of recent remarks by Minister of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Kerrie Symmonds who pointed to the need for greater flexibility in how taxi operators ply their trade in Barbados.
Without saying what a new-look taxi operation would look like on the island, Symmonds suggested that legislation would have to be updated to allow them to have a wider scope.
Bayley’s comments also came on the heels of the introduction of the taxi-hailing application, PickUp Barbados. The app would allow individuals to locate and hail a taxi in their area.
Registered taxi operators who sign up would still be able to operate as normal but would also be able to accept jobs from individuals who hail them through the app. Those taxi drivers will be required to pay a 10 per cent commission on every trip for the rest of this year, with that commission doubling to 20 per cent come January. They would also need data plans on their smartphones.
However, like the over 220 taxi drivers at last Friday’s app launch, Bayley said that commission rate simply could not work. He countered with a five per cent rate.
He also said that using data could result in operators using more credit or paying for increased data.
Barbados TODAY understands that PickUp Barbados is expected to go back to the drawing board and then get back to Minister Symmonds in two to three weeks with a new plan that could be more mutually beneficial.
Bayley said the app would be for taxis that did not operate from a base, like the Airport, the Bridgetown Port or hotels, but those drivers had to wait for a job up to three hours at a time and it would therefore further impact their already slim margin.
“If you are looking to deal with Bridgetown taxis, Accra taxis, those that traverse the road day-to-day and don’t operate out of a base, the guys are willing to go with something like that, but they do not want that app infiltrating in the base these guys would have built up over the last 20 to 25 years,” he said.
The long-time taxi operator said he believed the first order of business, however, should be a change to the taxi fare structure.
“What we need to do is simple – adjust the tariff prices at the airport,” he insisted.
“Insurance gone up on vehicles, the permits gone up on taxis, and gas prices. Parts for vehicles gone up. This is 13 years we have been trying to get the prices at the airport change. It is unfair that is the only thing in Barbados that cannot be adjusted to suit the taxi operations in Barbados,” Bayley complained.
He lauded Symmonds for his “exceptional” push for taxi operators to get more business over the years, but insisted that “proper due diligence” needed to be done before any service was introduced into the market, including checking in with those in the industry that they would affect. ([email protected])