Feb 14, 2008

[Metro] Why Don't We Flag Down?

Flickr: Julep67 - taxi meter
taxi meter
by Julep67.

Taxis are often both boon and bane here in the Philippines. Sure, given the rising prices of gas and how horrible the traffic can get at times, it's nice to be able to hop into an air-conditioned taxi cab to take you around the metro. On the flip side, dealing with taxi cab drivers can be quite the pain depending on their arguments about your desired destination being too far or out of their way or those allegations about the meters being rigged and them somehow cheating you to death. The list goes on and no.

If it's one thing I'll never understand is why we don't utilize one of the most basic principles of taxis around the world - the flag down. I'm not referring to the base rate of P30.00 you pay for hailing a cab but the reason behind it. I bet some of you don't even remember where the flag us supposed to be.

Once upon a somewhat more enlightened time, even taxi cabs here in Manila used to observe the flag down rule. Technically, the "flag" was the level the taxi driver would have to toggle up and down to indicate whether or not it was for hire. Sometimes this coincided with the light on the roof of the cab to turn on or off to also show if it is for hire or not. Truth be told, you still see those oval hire / not for hire lights stuck to the front windshields of taxi cabs here as well; it's just that no one ever seems to use them anymore.

Why is that? Why have we stopped such an efficient mechanism for improving taxi driver-passenger relations?

It's only here that you have to get into arguments with cab drivers about how far your destination is before you get in and that you even get refused for as long as there are no members of law enforcement or even mall security around. I'm sure all of you have at one time or another had to endure the seemingly endless tirade of a grumpy cab driver about some lousy passenger he got and how he has every right to refuse passage - or to ask for extra cash to sweeten the deal. Not only is it unfair, but it's pretty outrageous!

If you taxi cab drivers don't want to take passengers and make that clear to everyone, why don't you start taking the time to toggle your hire / not for hire lights on and off as needed? Stop cruising for passengers when it's close to your cut-off time as long as the destination is along the way and thus you refuse everyone else! It's nasty and rude! The flag down system is elegant in its simplicity and it would solve so many headaches about whether or not a cab is on duty or not and whether we commuters should feel disgruntle when an empty cab passes us by on the road.

Bring back the taxi flag!

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