Monday, October 7, 2013

Women express concern over 'no hailing taxi' law

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 advance.

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 English."

He said unlike Dubai, cab drivers in Saudi Arabia could barely speak more than one language and lack basic communication skills.

1 comment:

  1. What a completely senseless law. Don't allow women to drive; don't provide a bus system or public transport; don't allow taxis at major public places such as airports, shopping malls, hospitals, or in the streets. I think the message is clear: WOMEN SHOULD STAY AT HOME!! Back in about 1986, a law was introduced to prevent women from getting taxis home from the airport alone. The lasted a few days only. This "ban the taxis from the streets" law was first introduced 18 months ago. I doubt anyone will take any notice of it at all. Cities need roaming taxis. Especially cities with no addresses!!