Anyone who has spent time in the Spring City knows getting around by car or bus can at times be a nightmare. Hailing a cab, especially during peak traffic times, can be frustrating when drivers wave off potential customers even though they are driving an otherwise empty vehicle.
City officials have tried for several years to deal with this situation through a series of generally ineffective rule changes. A new attempt to alleviate this predicament will debut October 8. Following the National Day holiday, each Kunming taxi will be required to display a standardized placard on its windshield stating when specifically the driver is not on duty, Yunnan Net is reporting.
In addition to clearly displaying break times, the notices will state where a taxi is heading during shift changes. The Yunnan Net report claims the aim of such signs is not necessarily offered as a cure-all to rush hour taxi woes, but is instead an attempt to increase "understanding and civility" between cab drivers and their customers.
Following the announcement of the placard program — called "the bright sign" (亮牌) initiative — Kunming's mayor weighed in via his office's official microblog account. Although perhaps not a ringing endorsement, Mayor Li Wenrong (李文荣) wrote, "Every little improvement will make life in the city better."
Under the new program, taxi drivers found to have rejected rush hour passengers can, in some instances, face penalties. Drivers who do not pick up customers whose destination coincides roughly with the shift change location can face a fine of up to 2,000 yuan and have ten points docked from their driving record.
A continuing obsession with car and ebike ownership in Kunming has led to ever-greater numbers of vehicles plying city streets. For several years locals have referred somewhat derisively to Kunming as ducheng (堵城) — or "traffic jam city". Exacerbating growing vehicle numbers and commensurate congestion is the fact that most of Kunming's 7,000 taxis are unavailable during peak traffic times.
Cabs in the Spring City usually operate 24-hours a day, with the time split between two drivers. Although a law was instituted in 2010 forbidding cab drivers from conducting driver switches during rush hour, it has proven almost completely ineffective. A recent government survey of cab drivers estimated 80 percent of all shift changes occur from 7-9am and 5-7pm, not coincidentally when demand for taxis in almost any city on earth is at its highest.
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