We've written before about how frustrating catching a taxi in Chengdu has become in the last few years. And although 800 cabs were allegedly added to Chengdu's streets last month, it doesn't seem to be getting any easier.
But now help is on the way, in the form of a "chubby figure" who chases down cabs for passengers, collecting 2 RMB each time.
From Sichuan News:
Thursday, October 15. 5:30 p.m.: afternoon rush hour. Hongxing Lu, Champagne Plaza. On one side, the bus commuters, forming a long dragon of a queue. On the other side, vehicles stream in, preparing for the next passenger to come out of the mass rushing toward them. Among the mass, a chubby figure frequently emerges from the crowd into the intersection, waving down the cabs and frantically calling, "Here comes a car, hurry!"
At 5:33, a taxi rolls into the square, and while it's still moving, he grabs onto it with both hands. When it finally comes to a stop, he pulls open the door, lets the passengers out, and then the woman at his side steps in.
For the service he makes from 2 to 5 RMB. The industrious 20-year-old, Xiao Long, started grabbing cabs for passengers about a month ago, during which time he's earned a few hundred yuan.
Who is this plump traffic angel? Xiao Long came from Anyue to Chengdu with his parents, who repair electric tricycles. To pick up some extra money for his family, Xiao Long had been collecting plastic bottles, but inspired by children at Yanshikou who were grabbing cabs, he decided to try cab grabbing himself just a few blocks down at Hongxing Lu.
The first day on the job he earned 20 yuan and since then has spent three or four hours a day chasing cabs for others. "Want me to help you hail a cab? Just 2 kuai!" he calls out to passengers stranded by the side of the road, no empty taxi in sight. What started out as an experiment has become a job. "I could go to a restaurant and order a plate of fish-flavored eggplant. Sweet!" he said.
But the job is not without its risks. Xiao Long runs, grabbing onto the trunks of cabs and trotting behind them to ensure his clients will get a seat. Still, sometimes others will knock him down in order to grab the cab out from under his grasp. Sometimes the cabs themselves inadvertently knock him to the ground. And passing bus drivers verbally abuse him for running in their way. Other times he'll run and run to catch a cab, only to have the driver say, "Sorry, my shift just ended."
If he is unable to successfully get a cab within 30 minutes, he'll return the client's money.
After a month selling his services, Xiao Long has started to develop a following. The elderly like him since they're usually less able than others to aggressively hail cabs. And once a man on his way to the airport gave him RMB10 for helping catch a cab. More recently, a 16-year-old boy from Mei Shan named Xing Lin has been taken under Xiao Long's wing to learn the trade.
City residents call hailing a taxi "guerilla warfare" (游击) and all have their own strategies for catching one or avoiding them altogether, including avoiding certain areas, timing strategies, and taking alternative modes of transportation.
In a separate article, a reporter joined a cabbie during rush hour and found that from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., he picked up a total of 34 passengers, clocked in 300 kilometers, and took in about RMB500. The driver said these numbers were lower than usual and that the reporter sitting in the front seat might have discourage people from taking his cab that day.
The Sino-Japanese Taxi Company (中日出租汽车公司), who operates over 530 of the city's cabs, reported that their drivers take on average 50 passengers per day, which is higher than the national average of 30 to 40, according to a statement from the Southwest Jiaotong University school of urban and transportation planning.