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Kunming to add 400 new taxis by year's end

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Locals often refer derisively to the Spring City as ducheng (堵城, or "traffic jam city"). All manner of efforts have been made to alleviate Kunming's congested streets, including freeway and subway projects and the establishment of now-defunct no-car days.

After more than a year of consideration, local authorities have adopted a new strategy: add more cars. Today the Kunming Municipal Transportation Bureau announced plans to issue 400 new taxi licenses, East Day is reporting.

Licenses will be put up for auction only to existing taxi companies with registered capital of one million yuan and current fleets of no fewer than 50 taxis. Bidding is set to begin at 20,000 yuan per license.

As part of a pilot program, one hundred of the new taxis will run on alternative fuels such as natural gas or ethanol. All new taxi licenses will be valid for eight years.

Kunming currently has 7,201 taxis on its streets. Taxis usually operate 24-hours a day and shift changes, although forbidden by law, often happen during rush hour. This counter-intuitive schedule lessens the number of cabs available during peak hours.

The new taxis will use a GPS on-demand system that aims to send taxis where they are needed most. Deputy director of the Municipal Taxi Management Office, Su Chaowen, was quoted in a Xinhua report as saying all taxis in Kunming should by now have been retrofitted with equipment linking them to taxi hotline operators via the GPS system.

By calling 3312533, those in need of a car can order a taxi or make a reservation. East Day reports that of the roughly 16,000 people using the new hotline for immediate pickup in July, only 20 percent actually got a ride.

Although off-peak pickups were often completed in five minutes, the hotline reportedly did little to direct cabs to people during rush hour. It is hoped the 400 new cars will remedy this shortcoming.

Su also said once road beautification projects are completed, Kunming's existing but seldom-used taxi stands should be remodeled and made more readily accessible.

Image: Yereth Jansen

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I wish they were all electric cars.

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