Sydney’s transport behind Mumbai

The Sydney Morning Herald ran a piece today about Sydney’s transport being behind Mumbai’s. Actually, it is behind a lot of places. What I can’t understand is that the problems are fairly simple to look at and solve if you step one step backwards and look at it slightly differently.

Taxi Shortage

Have a look outside of my window – they’re all queued along Market Street and York Street 😆 no, I am being facietious. There are always a lot of them parked at Sydney Airport and given the surcharge the cab pays for the airport destination plus the cost of petrol recently, I can understand why. Simple solution, subsidise taxi petrol costs (take the tax off maybe) as well as removing any location surcharges and make it attractive for taxis to remain on the road roaming. This will also increase the number of vehicles on the road at any one time and make it more attractive for other drivers to return to public transport.

Trains

The missing metros are a problem, however, the biggest problem is that the Railways folks try to run the Sydney network as a big network. Now, given that already train trip times are longer now then they were 30 years ago, give up on that big schedule. Instead, break up the network. Have trains shuttle between Hornsby and North Sydney and Return. Shuttle between North Sydney and Central and Return. Between Central and Strathfield; Between Strathfield and Parramatta; between Parramatta and Blacktown; and between Blacktown and Penrith. A passenger wanting to travel between Wynyard and Blacktown takes a train to Central, changes there for a Stathfield train, then changes for Parramatta, and then changes again for a Blacktown train.

Do this and a delay anywhere in the network does not debilitate the entire network. It is also possible to schedule some direct trains between the “interchange” stations to speed the trips up. However, doing it this way will allow more people to be moved and a better servide to be provided. It also avoids the malarky of the new rail route from Hornsby to Epping to Chatswood and then via Strathfield back to Epping. Better to just have a few trains that shuttle between Epping and Chatswood.

So – not so much of a problem after all 🙂

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Taxi Drivers in Saudi Arabia

Well, in Jeddah to be exact.

The taxi driver here that so far takes the cake for his driving is the one that was in the taxi next to us tonight. We  were whizzing along through the middle of Jeddah at about 100 kmh and the taxi driver next to us (also whizzing along at 100) leant his head back and started putting drops in his eyes.

Dinner in the hotel tomorrow night I think.

Singapore Taxis

Hmm, might have to start a separate classification for taxi articles at this rate 😀

OK, so now I am in Singapore for a bit. Last night I had to catch a taxi from the bars along the riverside (the Penny Black to be exact where I was reacquainting myself with draft Kilkenny – memories of Trondheim and Dirty Nellie’s pub (now gone) came flooding back to me (if you’ll pardon the pun). This morning was a reminder of all that is good with Kilkenny too – but that can wait for another entry.

So in the past I had always caught taxis in Singapore in the daytime as I had only had really short trips here. If anyone had asked me about Singapore taxis I would have rated them with Hong Kong, really good, and not known for overcharging customers.

OK, so last night was an eye opener. Coming back from The Penny Black at midnight, I rounded the corner and there were about 20 taxis waiting. The first taxi asked me “taxi?”.

I said “yes.”

He said “where to?”

I said “M-Hotel.”

He said “$20.00.”

I said “Bull****, it is only a $7.00 ride.”

OK, so some haggling with other drivers and to avoid ‘waiting’, I accepted a $15.00 ride to the hotel. The driver noted that he had been waiting there for an hour for a fare. I noted to him that I was not surprised if they all were trying to charge that way.

So, in Singapore, around midnight, taxis seem to try to charge what they like.

Beijing Taxis

I have noted before about Mongolian Taxis. I have now had a chance to study Beijing Taxis more thoroughly. So far I have taken 10 taxi trips in Beijing and 3 of them have been dodgy – either the route taken or the fare.

Today was the corker. We got into a taxi outside my hotel which is next to the West Station in Beijing. I asked the taxi driver to drive me to Silk Street. Now this is a distance of about 15 to 20 kilometres maximum. Beijing Taxis today charge CNY 1.60 per kilometre so a charge of 26 to 30 Yuan is appropriate. This driver took me the shortest and most direct route.

When we arrived at Silk Street he switched the meter off very quickly (not that I could see the bloody thing anyway) and printed a receipt. The receipt he gave me was for CNY 109. He also had the temerity to look at me with a hurt look when I called him a big liar. In any case, in double quick time he folded and accepted 30 Yuan.

Then there was the driver a couple of days ago that took me three sides of a square for 65 Yuan and when I pointed out to him that he had taken a really really long way to the Australian Embassy (which is just down the road a little from Silk Street as it would happen), he accepted 30 Yuan.

So, 10 to 15% of the taxi rides in Beijing have been a bit suspect. Seems the biggest problems are in the little red taxis and the black taxis (although to be fair the red taxi that took me back to the hotel tonight was spectacularly good and fair in his charging). I am starting to think that there is a “taxi Mafia” operating outside the hotel here as all the bad taxis have been called over by the guy at the front of the hotel.

My best advice when travelling by taxi in Beijing is:

  1. Check the odometer in the car if you can. The fare should be about 1.5 times the distance travelled (plus or minus a little). This could change to twice soon as the government has approved a price increase.
  2. When the taxi driver flips the “For Hire” sign you should hear the recorded message in Chinese and then English thanking you for using Beijing Taxis.
  3. Look for a clear and easy to see taxi driver license. If the picture is really faded then probably he stopped being licensed a couple of years ago.
  4. Never be afraid to argue the price when it is excessive. In Beijing a foreigner is treated as “fair game” and prices are always excessively high. To give you an idea, when buying a pair of pants today, the price quoted was CNY 380 per pair. The price paid was CNY 60.

Like most places, in Beijing you need to be alert to what is going on around you. This is doubly so with taxis. If you are staying at a 5-star hotel, then the hotel will record the taxi details of the driver that collects you and if you have a problem they will contact the appropriate authorities so even the Chinese are aware of the problem.

And Speaking of Taxis

I do the same trip each day in UB (well, really, each evening). I call a taxi and a metered taxi arrives at the apartment and waits for me to come out. There is no waiting charge in Mongolia. All metered fares are distance only.

So, I have been taking a taxi each night now for a couple of months. Over that period the taxis and I have travelled exactly the same route. The metered fare has ranged from MNT 4,500 to MNT 9,000 each trip. I know that the MNT 9,000 fare was dodgy as at the half way point the driver’s meter was showing MNT 2,600.

Go figure.

I do, I do, I do, I do, I do!

Travelling back to the apartment tonight in a taxi here in Ulaanbaatar and I heard something on the radio that was at once familiar, yet strangely unfamiliar. It was ABBAs song, “I do, I do, I do, I do, I do”. It sounded like ABBA singing … but I can’t ever recall ABBA singing in Mongolian before.

Still, it sounded good in Mongolian 😀