Great reporting in the Saudi Gazette by Mariam Nihal about the new law that is to go into effect this month in Saudi Arabia, that no one can just hail a cab on a city street. A link to the story is here, and it's pasted in below. Women rely on taxis and private car services since they can't drive themselves. This law will make it just a little less convenient for women to get around. I wonder if they will have taxi stands where one can go to get a ride at malls and the women's colleges and universities.
Story by Mariam Nihal
JEDDAH — Starting Oct. 22, taxi drivers will be banned
from random passenger pickups at public locations including malls,
airports, commercial outlets and hospitals. According to the new law,
passengers who require a cab will need to call and make a booking in
Taxis and limousines are the only mode of public transport available to
commute within the city for women in the Kingdom. Since women are not
allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, public transport is the most relied
upon mode of travel used by women who cannot afford a private driver and
car. The new no-hailing cab law is a cause of concern for women
completely dependent on public transport.
"Our streets are not even numbered yet. How am I to call this taxi to my
house? The law has no relevance to our current ‘women cannot drive’
position," Nermeen Asad, a 45-year-old Saudi housewife living in Jeddah,
told Saudi Gazette.
According to Transport Minister Jubara Al-Suraisry, official guidelines
require Saudi taxi companies to be solely owned by Saudi nationals in a
bid to facilitate Saudization. Taxi companies will be obliged to meet
traffic department standards and maintain a quota of vehicles on their
operating license, depending on the size of the city and its population.
"This no-hailing law is just more of an inconvenience. It is common
knowledge that women face harassment on Saudi roads. Now if I am in a
situation that needs me to hail a cab and go home to my child in case of
an emergency I will have nowhere to go," Saba Afshaan, a Pakistani
teacher living in Dhahran, said.
"Wait. What will happen to limousines? The whole idea of a limousine in
Saudi Arabia is that along with private cabs you can book them in
advance and pay a premium charge. So why is public transport going to be
treated as private? Is it even technologically equipped to meet the
high rising demand of public transport users?" said Husna Mohammad, a
student of graphic designing in Riyadh.
Taxi drivers found guilty of violating the new rules will be fined SR200-400 and face possible license cancellation.
Noor Abdul Ghafoor, a Pakistani private driver in Jeddah, told Saudi
Gazette the move will be an added burden on cab drivers. "We get more
business because we will be competing within the same category now. Cabs
usually make more money because they can pick up whoever they want off
the street. Now this will cost them dearly."
Nashwa Ali, a Canadian teacher living in Jeddah, welcomed the law but
was worried it may not be enough. "The biggest metropolitan cities in
the world have cabs. New York, Tokyo, London and even Dubai. Guaranteed,
it is useful at times when you can't find a cab but the infrastructure
of any city allows you access to public transport at all times. That's
progress. Plus local taxi drivers are not used to the system. Not only
will they lose money, they might get fined in the process of learning
how to adapt to the new system."
An Automated Vehicle Locater system, which will be placed in each
vehicle for navigation purposes, will track and record information such
as location, speed and duration of operation.
Sami Abdullah, a business student in Jeddah, said taxi drivers in Dubai
are given Bluetooth devices to avoid using phones while driving and to
facilitate pick and drop services. "How will the drivers be trained in
such a short time to use the GPS systems and programs fitted inside cabs
that will help navigation and booking cabs? Most of them are
expatriates who don't speak Arabic. Most Saudi drivers don't speak
He said unlike Dubai, cab drivers in Saudi Arabia could barely speak
more than one language and lack basic communication skills.