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New taxi placards target 'civility'

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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.

Image: Yunnan Net

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This is a great idea.. but I wonder if it will actually make any difference...

The shift change times are not helpful at all. One possible cure. Inspectors, out and logging cars that do not stop. Photo evidence and fine. Inspectors get bonus based on fines. and/or like beijing. 3 strikes and your out - suspend taxi licence for a day/week/month.

They made a law banning inconvenient shift change times and didn't enforce it, unsurprisingly it didn't make any difference.

Now they are making hazy recommendations and new signs, which of course won't be enforced again. Gee I wonder what the result will be?

Why do ALL taxi drivers have to follow the same shift?

Who is going to manage to read the sign as the cab is passing by.

There are too few cabs and too few busses. Ban private cars from the city center.

Public transport can never be too convenient because car ownership is a major part of GDP.

Banning cars from the city center was proposed by one of the top architects in the US decades ago (who used to get around mostly by taxi, incidentally). It's not going to happen because convenience is not the main concern.

With the limited amount of taxis in Kunming it is quite possible to make a living during non-rush-hour hours. I several times spend travel times exceeding at least twice the normal time during rush-hours. This means that more trips can be done during non-rush-hours thus the hourly income is higher (And the frustration lower) than during rush-hours. To remedy this a rush-hour surcharge could be introduced but then everybody would be complaining that things are to expensive.

Magnifico is right - the main concern is profit, and to this end brains are cheerfully twisted through advertising that preys on insecurities derived from the past: "Buy a car and be modern, with a face larger than the moon!" - minor alterations in this message have made it work everywhere; locally the traffic-jam situation in Kunming is the result (almost magically created within a mere 5 years or so - those who have been around awhile can tell you that there were then no taxi or bus problems 5-6 years ago). Now profits can be made by building an underground train system at enormous cost, to relieve the problem that served the competitive greed of corporations and nations (Game of Thrones: You win or you die) rather than the needs of the population.

There has been a few times that I have tried to get somewhere only a few kilometers away and ended up having to walk the entire way. Buying a car or ebike isn't practical for many people, especially expats here only for a few months. Its so frustrating when 4 or so empty cabs drive straight past you. They need to enforce the laws in place, and I agree with the idea of inspectors. Place them randomly around the city, you wouldn't even need very many of them. Even just a few might be enough to scare drivers into changing up shift times or to stop for people who are obviously trying to waive them down.

I have noticed a lot more 'black' cabs where I live. One advantage of the little guy now owning a car. They will negotiate, some are greedy just find the next one. They actually line up like a taxi rank where I live.

Hm ok banning cars won't work. How about a toll? Many countries and cities have done it - and by the way a discount for eco-friendly cars.

I hated Kunming taxis so much, I bought a bicycle - which was promptly ripped off. So I bought another - which was promptly ripped off again - police response - yeah, we know lot's of bikes get ripped off from that place. I assume that means I should support our local bike thieves, as the police don't seem to care about clamping down on bicycle thieves in hot spots (like Yunda...there...I said it).

Anyway - I still hate Kunming taxis because of their shift changes, rude attitude (could be cultural - but I recently had a crap driver who was scolding me because he was "lao kunming ren" and knew where I wanted to go - and then dumped me off at the wrong location - refusing to go where I wanted to go - rectal hole) and dumping fares during rush hour and inclement weather - so I'll get yet ANOTHER bike (I also vehemently hate bike thieves). Since Kunming changed the taxi hotline complaint menus AND seemingly don't answer the hotline too much these days - I'll just assume the city gave up trying to enforce the laws that come with taxi licenses - I'm guessing because if they're not driving taxis, they're ripping off my bicycle...

And did I mention I hate Kunming taxis?

Problem with "Black Taxis" is that they all have fixed rides during rush hour. They have fixed agreement with people to pick them up at home bring them to their work and bring them back home again and that all during rush hours. So black taxis are not the solution to the problem.

I put 亮牌 into google translate...it says Showdown. Google is just beyond smart. It can predict the future too.

I have had better experiences with Kunming taxi drivers than with those anywhere else I've ever lived - a few times some driver has screwed up, but I've never been ripped off by a cabbie here, and I have learned a few things sitting in the front seat and chatting with them (have also been bored by the usual repetitive questions & comments concerning foreigners etc.) - I'm not in a position to say that everybody's experiences are good, but it could be you're doing something wrong.

However, taxis are just as damaging to the traffic situation as private cars are - hence the requiem for the period that ended just a few years ago, when buses, bicycles - and cabs when necessary - were more than sufficient to get everybody where they needed to go, reasonably dry, in reasonably good health, and with a reasonable degree of mutual social contact and cooperation.

I agree with @Alien. I can count the bad experiences with Kunming taxis on the fingers of one hand, despite living here 7 years and taking 2-3 taxis a week on average. I don't doubt others have had less positive experiences but I do wonder why. Compared to many other cities in Asia, the Kunming drivers seem to be generally honest and pleasant. Perhaps it's because I usually take taxis around the Green Lake area where they are frequent, and more used to having foreigners using them?

However, I have to admit that the worsening traffic situation has recently led to somewhat of a decline in cabbie-customer relations - waiting in traffic must surely hurt cabbies' incomes, and trying to pry a cab out of the machine rivers that once-pleasant streets have become - where cabbies have to work - certainly doesn't improve the attitude of either fare-payers or drivers.

many taxi refused to take us from rail station to outside of er huan at 8pm yesterday. took an hour to find a taxi. Should have lied and changed my mind on destination when on route.

I've heard the taxis around the rail station are "mafia" controlled and do, indeed, refuse to use meters or take certain passengers to certain places. I've found a brisk 5 minute walk up Beijing Lu and there are plenty of "non-controlled" taxis who will whisk you away.

Ocean, you may be right - I recently had similar trouble at the West bus station - as the traffic situation worsens, taxi practices are perhaps changing for the worse.

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