Kunming residents who have found themselves unable to find an empty taxi, particularly in certain locations or at certain times of day, may be unsurprised to learn that the number of taxis in Kunming has remained constant for the past 11 years.
Despite population growth, increasing sprawl, and new long distance bus stations much further outside of town, the last time Kunming added new taxi licenses was during the lead-up to the 1999 World Horticultural Expo.
At that time, officials increased the number of Kunming taxi licenses by 600 to the current number of 6,901.
Despite popular support for more taxis, Kunming has not made public any plans to increase the size of the taxi fleet. One reason may be wariness to add more taxis and further congest the city's choked streets – which already see hundreds of newly registered vehicles every day.
Even now, officials say, many empty taxis get stuck in traffic jams, unable to make their way to a place where they can pick up a passenger.
Relief may not come until the Kunming metro system rolls out beginning in 2013. Until then, the city is working on a mandatory GPS-based dispatching system for taxis that it hopes will lead to a more efficient distribution of the cars across the city.
But technology cannot solve one of the biggest shortcomings associated with the city's taxi system.
One government worker voiced a common sentiment in Kunming that the 6:30pm taxi driver shift change causes much inconvenience. There was no mention of plans to adjust the time of the shift change.
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