Cabs back on right road: taxi chief
Challenging times: Night taxi driver Howard Lance. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

Perth's much-maligned taxi industry is getting on the front foot, urging sceptical passengers to give it another chance amid falling wait times and improved coverage of bookings.

WA Taxi Council chief executive Steven Gill said the flood of new taxi plates from the State Government and a softening local economy meant the servicehad never been better or faster.

Mr Gill acknowledged service standards were poor during the height of the mining construction boom and conceded Perth taxis might have earned their poor reputation.

"We're putting a positive message out there to say that the boom has gone," Mr Gill said. "We admit we were challenged during that boom but service is definitely on the improve."

Statistics from Swan Taxis, which dispatch about 90 per cent of Perth's cabs, show 97.5 per cent of taxis in peak times arrived within the 20-minute service standard time, and 94 per cent of taxis on off-peak times arrived within the 15-minute service standard time. Those figures had fallen below 90 per cent about Christmas 2012.

But separate figures, from the Department of Transport's 2013 taxi user survey, show that while perceptions of service have risen, perceptions about safety continue to decline.

About 38 per cent of women surveyed said they would not catch taxis at certain times of the day because they felt unsafe.

Mr Gill said the industry hoped the Government's Taxi Driver Licensing Bill, which will introduce demerit points for drivers, would weed out bad drivers.

Asked if he acknowledged the industry had an image problem, Mr Gill said: "Most certainly.

"If you talk to the majority of people in the street, they will all give you an example of them or someone they know who, over the past six to eight years, has struggled to get a taxi at the time that they want.

"There are still some challenges in the peaks late on Friday and Saturday night . . . but we are certainly getting better at it."

Night taxi driver Howard Lance said official figures said business was down 6 per cent, "but it feels like more".

"It's just a general downturn in the economy. People aren't going out as much as they used to," Mr Lance said.

Mr Gill said competition from taxi services and booking smartphone apps such as Uber would be an enormous challenge to the industry.

The West Australian

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