Taxi drivers who refuse or try to cheat passengers will be punished in a new 12-day citywide campaign.
It includes a crackdown on drivers who decline fares when they have the “available” light on, or who charge more money by making detours.
“Passenger complaints about unwilling drivers recently increased, partially because of the heavy rainfall,” a media department employee with the Beijing Transport Law Enforcement Corps, surnamed Fu, said on Wednesday.
The corps dispatched teams Tuesday evening to 50 locations in Beijing including Gongzhufen in Haidian district and the Military Museum subway station in Xicheng district, to check whether taxi drivers were behaving badly.
“We only found one driver who refused to take passengers in two hours at Gongzhufen,” Fu said, adding that the city’s taxi order has been greatly improved, especially as they often conduct extensive and random crackdowns.
But according to respondents in a Weibo-organized activity on July 12, in which over 100,000 people participated, Beijing had the most unwilling or dishonest drivers. In July, the corps received more than 120 complaints on their official website. Most of the answers are the same: “We have received your message and will see to it.”
“I was refused by four taxi drivers Tuesday in Houhai during the heavy rain, and the one who finally agreed to take me for a shared ride with two other girls charged us three times,” said Lin Li, a university student.
“The driver said we were lucky that he didn’t charge us for a round trip as the way he goes back could be difficult and flooded with water,” she said.
Passengers better not ask drivers whether they are willing to go and how much the journey will cost, the Municipal Commission of Transport warned, and they should ask for the receipt. They can take photos or videos to use as evidence as well, Fu said.
“I often refuse passengers when I’m getting off work. I also do it when the trip is too near to make good money or too far to travel at night,” said taxi driver Wang Hejie.
Wang said he has tricked foreigners or passengers from outside Beijing by taking circuitous routes, as they don’t know the city well enough.
“But sometimes I have to take them if they are really tough,” Wang admitted, “or I may face a few hundred yuan fine and get banned from driving for several days.”
Drivers found refusing passengers will face a 1,000 yuan to 2,000 yuan ($155 to 310) fine, according to local government regulations. A serious case can lead to the suspension of the driver’s license, Wang said.
“The city needs more severe punishments, if the existing ones prove ineffective,” said Xu Kangming, transport expert and government advisor.
“Restrictions on buying cars, crackdowns on drunk driving and the number of tourists make taxis in great demand. That’s why some drivers don’t care about complaints and so many people are failing to get a cab,” said Zhu Tao, an academic at the Beijing University of Technology who specializes in transportation.
The existing policy is fine, he said. “It’s more important that the public put more pressure on unscrupulous drivers by filing complaints. Many probably won’t bother,” he noted.
The crackdown started on July 18 and will last until this Friday.
To register complaints, call the hotline on 6835-1150 or 6835-1570, or e-mail Liuhongli@bjjtzf.gov.cn. Provide the plate number, taxi company, driver’s service card number and the time and place you had the problem.