“The Finance Minister wants to crash the maxi-taxi industry.”
This is how president of the Route Two Maxi Association Linus Phillip views the gas hike and opening up of routes to all maxi taxi operators despite measures to allow more people to buy maxi taxis with the removal of licence restrictions.
Gas prices have risen with immediate effect from $2.30 to $3.41 per litre for diesel, which most maxi taxi operators use, and is now $3.97 up fro $3.58 per litre for super gasoline.
“Right now the Finance Minister has hit us from all angles. The average maxi taxi driver spends on average between $165 to $180 daily in gas and to raise the price of gas again is hard. With the removal of restrictions we are not hearing about improvements to the hubs we have or the creation of new ones,” Phillip said in reaction to the 2018 budget. Route Two drivers operate between Sangre Grande to Port of Spain.
Phillip warned fares are likely to go up. “Government is taking from the poor people in society. How are maxi drivers supposed to cope with this? We have tried to keep down the fare but Government is squeezing us,” said Phillip. He questioned the measure to open up ownership, and removal of colour bands which indicate the routes maxi taxis operate on, noting a lack of details and suggesting the plan may require new laws. “He made a lot of broad statements in his presentation of the budget when it came to public transportation. The maxi-taxi association is governed by an act of Parliament, so is the Government going to amend the law?” asked Phillip.
“They are supposed to help us but they are only back-tracking the transportation system into chaos. Is there going to be a removal of the bands on maxis? A maxi is not cheap, how are we supposed to provide for our families if there is going to be more people able to easily access maxis. This is totally mad but, we are waiting to see the outcome because the minister is being vague,” he said. Imbert’s gas and transportation measures will be discussed by members of the Route Two Maxi Taxi Association later this week.
Jason Sampson, a maxi taxi driver for the past 17 years, said opening up the industry may not be practical as there are currently more maxi taxis on the road than people.
“There are less commuters because a lot of people are buying cars but if you allow the average man to buy a maxi and possibly have people working the vehicle on the road for him, (it) puts maxi taxi drivers at a disadvantage,” said Sampson.
Taxi drivers also lamented the increase in gas prices, with some saying they will have to raise fares. Also, the tax on tyres will also affect their maintenance costs.
“I may have to sell my car because it’s so expensive now. I have no choice but to raise the fare,” Marcus Elie, a taxi driver for 22 years. He operates on the Long Circular Road taxi stand in Port of Spain.
Charles Flemming, a taxi driver on the Port of Spain to Chaguanas route, expressed his dissatisfaction with the fuel increase. “They cannot raise the price of gas this is too much,” he said.
Kelvin Thomas, who plays the Diego Martin to Port of Spain route, said the changes “doesn’t really matter because the Government does not care about the people.”