Photo by Michal Pachniewski
Word on the street is that it seems very likely that taxi flag fares are going to go up—and soon.
It's not yet confirmed, but months of discussion and meetings in the news and loose-lipped taxi drivers seem to indicate that of July 1, the flag fare of all cabs will be increased by RMB2 and each kilometer will be RMB0.4 more than it was previously.
The RMB5 flag fare, still in use by many of Chengdu's older taxis, was put into effect in January 1998. The prices were revised in July 1998 and again in September 2000.
Currently, Chengdu's taxis fall under two types of pricing schemes: the RMB7 flag fare and the RMB5 Jettas, Elysees, and Santanas. The proposal would raise the flag fare to RMB9 and RMB7, respectively.
Under the new scheme, the first seven kilometers would be RMB1.8 per kilometer and RMB2.7 per kilometer for every kilometer after that up to 60 kilometers.
As under the current pricing system, flag fare on nighttime service, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., would cost RMB1 more than daytime service (RMB10 and RMB8 respectively), with each of the first seven kilometers costing RMB2.1 and RMB3.15 per kilometer after that up to 60 kilometers.
Also in planning is an electronic-hailing system which would cost passengers RMB4 per use.
A spokesperson for the taxi industry said that the fare increase will help ease the difficulties of finding an available taxi during rush hour.
Part of the hesitation to officially implement and announce the increase might be due to a large backlash from both the public as well as cab drivers.
In an online poll, 21,350 citizens voted that the fare raise was "unreasonable" while 12,101 voted that it was "reasonable." Only 482 voted that they weren't concerned about the issue. Furthermore, 13,318 voters said that they didn't think the fare increase would help ease the difficulties in flagging down a taxi. Another 13,067 said they believed it would, and 7,548 said there probably wouldn't be a noticeable difference.
One reporter was told during a casual conversation with a cab driver: "From July 1, you might as well just start taking the bus." He went on to express his doubts as a driver about the new pricing system: "If our cabs start charging RMB9, nobody will take cabs, except maybe during rush hour, but at night, when there are so many cabs, will you take one?"
And in an online forum, a poster summarized what a driver had told him: Cab drivers currently take in on average RMB320 per day. Out of that comes around RMB80 for fuel and RMB170 for use of the vehicle, leaving the driver with a salary of RMB70 per day or at least RMB2,000 per month. But drivers feel that if there is a price increase, fewer passengers will choose to take taxis, and now fuel costs around RMB100 per day, leaving, in one driver's estimates, a meager RMB50 for the driver per day.
The price of gasoline has increased a total of 16 times since March 2005, from RMB3.57 per liter to RMB5.98 per liter. The price of natural gas that taxis run on has also increased five times in that time period, from RMB1.6 to RMB2.7 per cubic meter. Recently the price has risen again to RMB4.53 per cubic meter.
Meanwhile, the price of vehicles has also increased by 60 percent since 2000. The price of insurance has risen by 40 percent since that time. The total operating cost of vehicles is estimated to be RMB200 higher than it was in 2000.
Among the large cities in China's western region, including Kunming, Xi'an, Lanzhou, Chengdu's current taxi fares are, along with Chongqing's and Yingchuan, Ningxia's, among the lowest. At RMB10, Guiyang's is the highest.
As of today's latest news, whether or not the cab-fare hike will take place is still in question. A reporter who tried to confirm the news got the runaround from three city and provincial-level governmental bureaus as well as the Chengdu Rongcheng Taxi Company, each of whom said they didn't know and referred the reporter to the next department.
Comparison of cab fares in cities across China
Guiyang daytime RMB10 first 3 km, 1.6/km after; nighttime, RMB12 first 3 km, 1.6/km or 5 min of waiting time after
Tianjin RMB8 first 3 km, RMB1.5/km after
Xi'an RMB6 first 2 km, 1.5/km after
Guangzhou RMB7 first 2.3 km, 2.6/km after
Beijing RMB10 first 1.3 km, RMB2/km between 3 and 15 km, RMB3/km after 15 km
Hangzhou RMB10 first 3 km, RMB2/km between 3 and 10 km, RMB3/km after 10 km, plus RMB1 fuel surcharge
Shenzhen Depending on the vehicle, RMB12.5 or 10.5 first 3 km, RMB2.4 or 2 respectively per km after 3 km
Chongqing RMB5 first 3 km
Kunming RMB7 first 2 km
Shanghai RMB10 first 3 km
Wuhan RMB6 first 3 km, RMB1.4/km after
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