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Kunming addresses taxi shift change troubles

By in News on

The days of taxi drivers refusing a ride to weary workers at the height of the evening rush hour may soon be over. Authorities announced last week that starting on June 1, taxi drivers are forbidden to conduct shift changes from 7 to 9am and from 5 to 7:30pm – under threat of a stiff fine and possible suspension.

Most pairs of drivers currently change shifts around 6:30pm. As GoKunming pointed out recently, changing drivers at the time of day when taxis are most needed exacerbates shortages in a city that has not added any new taxi licenses since 1999.

Under the new regulations issued by the Kunming Taxi Management Administration, drivers who are caught refusing passengers during the aforementioned peak travel times can be fined up to 2000 yuan (US$293) and suspended for up to 10 days.

Kunming citizens and authorities alike have long suspected that taxi drivers use the 6:30pm shift change as an excuse to pick and choose which fares they want to accept, avoiding taking passengers to undesirable locations by saying they need to go in a different direction for their shift change.

The new regulations have reportedly been spurred by a desire by officials to streamline transportation efficiency on the city's choked roads – especially as construction of the first two lines of the new metro system has caused disruptions on Chuncheng Lu and Beijing Lu, two important north-south urban streets.

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WOW!!!! It's about time!!!!!

I hope this works. My wife told me she saw some news interviews with drivers who said that they will simply not stop at all, pretending they didn't see people, instead of stopping and then refusing a fare.

We'll see.

^Yeah Greg, they seem pretty set in their ways. I asked a driver about why they waste time and money by driving around with empty cabs during the busiest time of day and he said he would be too tired if he got off at 8pm. I think the actual problem might lie somewhere in the murky division of labor and finances between the two or more drivers of cab.

yeah, I was told once before that because that is the busiest time of the day it is preferable that neither of the 2 drivers gets it than one of them makes money instead of the other.

Of course this is nonsense as they could swap shifts at different times (before and after rush hours) on alternate days.

Wish we'd known this a couple of weeks ago. We arrived in Kunming on August 10th and left on August 18th. We stayed in the Bai Huo Da Lou area, and we were refused plenty of times between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. — very unashamedly.

Wish I'd read this article before then ... maybe we could have gotten some better results. Of course, in a city where the vast majority of people disobey the law unless the police are standing in front of them (and some don't obey then), no one should expect it to change UNLESS it's enforced. Fat chance of that, eh?

Kunming is still just as backwards as when we arrived in 2002 ... only now there are twice the number of people! No more taxis; but more cars, and entirely too many 2-wheeled vehicles! The rudeness of drivers in Kunming, especially the electric bike and motorcycle drivers, is astounding — absolutely unbelievable!

We heard from Chinese people even before moving that "Kunming is a big village" — now we know first hand.

This article explains why I've seen so many empty taxis driving around during rush hour with their flags down.

What i find that's totally bizarre to me is that in a developing country like China, no taxi driver follows a foreigner like would happen in neighboring Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia or elsewhere. In those countries, you don't look for the taxis, they look for you! In Kunming and China in general, you can walk down the street and no taxi driver will ever stop for you unless you want them to.

@yuanyangren: Good point. Never occured to me before. Mind you, I think being constantly badgered in the street by passing taxi drivers might be worse than occasionally being ignored or refused. Tough call.

Yep...though I'm more used to getting hassled than ignored. I thought we were all walking atms to these guys! Haha...anyway, it really depends though, because those taxi drivers that constantly pester you in places like Vietnam often rip you off, but if you go for the ones that are not specifically looking for fares they'll actually use the meters. Of course, taxis are better than motorcycle taxis though since they are less likely to rip you off. Also, you can almost always find a taxi or something else when you need one in those countries, even during rush hour. Something that's hard to do in Kunming and even Shanghai...

Also, apart from the occassional three-wheeled scooter or electric scooter driver willing to drive you somewhere, there are few alternative forms of transport in Kunming apart from the standard forms you'd see in the west: buses and taxis (and eventually, a subway). Only on the outskirts of town will you find motorcycle taxis who congregate around tourist spots such as the Nationalities Village, but these guys don't pick up fares inside town, probably because they aren't allowed to, I presume.

I'm curious. How does it work in China? Do the cabs work for a 'central' company or are they all individually self-employed and follow their own agenda? Forgive my ignorance but I've never asked.

I was a taxi driver in Australia for five years. We all worked as individual operators and paid a 50% commission including fuel. However, due to supply and demand, the changeover times were staggered. My shift used to be 4pm to 4am. One colleague's was 5pm to 5am and another's was 6pm to 6am. That way, there was minimal disruption to service. If this is not being implemented in KM (and elsewhere in China), then perhaps it's time someone suggested this, no? If the driving factor is income related, then an alternating system could be implemented; week 1: 4 to 4, week 2: 5 to 5, week 3: 6 to 6, week 4: 7 to 7. That way, all is fair in love and war. The bottom line: the customers are happy; the drivers are being treated fairly.

Anyway, it worked in Australia. Just sharing. After all, sharing is caring.


Taxis are mostly franchisees - they buy their own cabs then have to pay a serious fee for the license, then monthly fees to the taxi company as "commission" or franchise fee - this is why you see many drivers taking time off whenever they feel like it - they're owner operators.

If you have any problems with drivers - example - my favorite - stopping to ask where you want to go, then waving you off because the destination is too troublesome - just call the complaint hotline with the taxi's license plate number - of course you'll have to do this in either putonghua or kunminghua...but the driver's don't know that - scares the hell out of most of them as complaints are bad.

What's the current status on this shift change law? I got refused about 6 times yesterday at 5:30 by the zoo on Qin Nian Lu. What shoudl I do? Catch them at a light, get in, and write down their number and threaten them if they don't take me? Is the law even enforced at this point or is it ignored like so many other laws?

Ride a bicycle. Really. I don't know why you would waste time and money on those unreliable suckers.

I live in Chenggong's University City. Bringing or riding a bike to the city is a little impractical. Makes more sense for a city of millions to have operating taxis during rush hour. But really, what's the status of the shift change timing law?

Three years on and nothing has changed. Taxis still refusing to take passengers at rush hour and even at other times two out of three sail past empty with their for hire

lights on. I don't understand the economics of it especially since I recently met an ex-driver who sold his badge for 100,000 US dollars. How can you make an investment like that pay if you constantly refuse fares?

Many taxis still refuse passengers, but it's still A LOT easier to get one compared to Chengdu.

Kunming has a taxi complaint line - except it's Chinese language only. If you actually make it in to a taxi - always get a receipt (fapiao) in case you lose your mobile phone, wallet, baby, etc in the taxi. If you feel the taxi took a ludicrously long route to jack the fair (it happens), the fapiao can be used to track the driver down - and if true - they usually end up having to refund the entire fare.

I hate kunming taxis for all of the above reasons - the service is too unreliable, not well monitored or regulated for quality.

As for empty taxis dumping fares during rush hours - remember these things also double as their personal cars (unprofessional - but this is NOT a two-car city with parking). The drivers are either on their way to mealtime with their buddies, late for mahjong, or off on family errands (pick up the kid or wife - or maybe even the illegal shift change). Just call the complaint line if you fell miffed (and navigate the chinese language menu system).

If you don't complain - nothing will happen.

Also - beware - some taxis are banned from driving on certain days (why I don't know - but it also happens) - so if you see a driver cruising by with an empty cab - they may be on a mandatory break for that day - on that note - also beware of using these taxis as they may take you on circuitous routes to avoid getting fined for driving on mandatory off days.

can't they at least turn off or cover up their "for hire" lights when they are on a personal errand? How frustrating to repeatedly get your hoped up seeing that light on the dashboard only to be waved off or ignored.

Well - that was certainly a short-lived and impotent response from the city government. During rush hours and inclement weather, I've found it easier to just offer the driver an extra CNY 10 bribe above the listed meter price - I've yet to be refused.

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