The hay days of minibus taxi
drivers and their associates are numbered. Assigning taxis along designated
routes has been the talk of the town for sometime now. The plan seems to be
underway and according to Fisseha Mammo, the head of Segon Taxi Owners
Association, it will be ready for implementation by June this year.
Passengers have waited with
some degree of scepticism, for the rumours to materialize. They have been abused
and exploited for too long. The owners of the taxis, too, are waiting eagerly
for the implementation of the assignment and designation of routes because it
enables them to control the drivers and improve their daily revenues. The
woyallas, as the assistants are commonly known, are dreading the loss of
their undeservedly gained incomes.
The technical preparations
obviously need some time. There may even be some confusion at the beginning
unless thorough training is given to implementers ahead of time. Tags and
operational toolkits have to be arranged.
"The operation of assigning
and sorting legally deployed people takes time," Fisseha Mammo, the head of
Segon Taxi Owners Association said.
This time around, the
management is to be conducted by owners and their associations under the
guidance and supervision by the Federal Transport Authority of Addis Abeba
Transport Branch Office.
"We are working in close
cooperation with the government because we have no executing mandate. We cannot
enforce the rules and regulations," Fisseha added.
that the associations are working hard to expedite matters and begin the
implementation as soon as possible.
"We want to make sure that
things will move smoothly and be able to serve the public efficiently."
So far, there are five taxi
owners associations among which Segon is the oldest and located inside the
premises of the old Arada Post Office.
Designating routes for city
taxis had been operational during the command economy system. It was also a
source of income for the government as each taxi had to pay a nominal fare. The
assignment had to cease following the change in government and the shift in
economic direction from socialist (communist) to capitalist (liberal). The
change seems to have given leeway to some taxi drivers and their assistants to
thrive in the business illegally.
Many experts object to the
idea of assigning taxis on main routes as they are indispensable modalities for
city transport. They argue that taxis should be considered as supplements only.
Following the expansion of old roads and the additions of new ones, city
transport service becomes a municipality challenge. Mass transport systems will
have to be deployed. Taxis carrying only small numbers of passengers cannot cope
with the demand for services. The argument seems very strong.
The shortage of city
transport system, or the lack of it, has given taxi drivers the opportunity to
take advantage of the situation. Assignment or designation of routes is only a
temporary measure intended to curb the critical problems before the services are
Tsige is a resident of
Gullele District and works in a factory in another periphery of Addis Abeba -
Kaliti District. She has to take at least three taxis to go to work and the same
number to come home. She is very bitter about the way the taxi drivers and the
assistants treat her.
"The taxi drivers are after
shortcuts. When they see that there are passengers waiting who are going in the
opposite direction, they tell us to step down and take another taxi," she said.
People like her have to wait
for a long time before they get another taxi. But what seems to have irritated
her the most is that the woyallas have no manners. They do not respect
elders or women. They think that people do not know the tariffs, according to
Tsige. Thus, they try to overcharge passengers and sometimes refuse to give
change. Many of them insult their customers for petty matters and trivial
Until very recently, many
travellers using the Addis Abeba - Kaliti District route complained about the
conditions of the road, which was under construction, and the subsequent traffic
congestion. Long delays were encountered and employees were vulnerable to all
sorts of problems. Taxi drivers were not to blame for these types of force
majeure. The other option left for passengers needing city transport services
was to take the city bus, which does not respect arrival or departure times.
One of the problems faced by
taxi owners is the involvement of the so called "turn regulators" (tera-askebaris),
or the almost outlaws that take the laws into their hands and seem to live by
the law of the jungle. These are young bullies who sometimes are self assigned
as controllers and collect money from taxi drivers every time they make round
trips. They assign turns after recording the ones that have completed a journey.
"Some of these controllers
have taxis of their own, which they run through employing people. We believe
that such men should be working on an employment basis," Fisseha explains.
His association has already
told them that they need to be recruited as waged workers, but they claim to
have formed legal associations which Fisseha says are not valid.
"The new arrangement takes
care of all these and related problems," He emphasised.
There are about 10,000
thousand taxi owners, some of whom have more than three or four minibuses. The
fleet that would be governed by the new allocations of lines includes minibuses,
midi-buses or "Higer-buses" and support-giving small buses. The medium size
taxis have given significant relief to passengers that traverse across the city
as they charge relatively nominal fares. The number of taxis is not commensurate
with the demands of service. Proper utilization of resources could minimize the
problems and improve the efficiency of service at fair prices.
It must be noted that the
current road widening and construction works going on in the city could improve
the traffic flows of the city transport system. Also significant is that the
incumbents of City Hall are planning to introduce other modalities of transport,
including electric trams, that will greatly improve the transport problems.
Until these additions are
made, the management of taxis requiring them to operate within specific
designated routes may alleviate the problems faced by passengers, as well as
owners of the vehicles.