A surcharge or financial incentive to encourage taxi drivers to come to ranks in popular nightspots around Perth has been suggested as a possible solution to the city’s taxi shortage crisis.
Michael Keiller, director of Mustang Bar and chairman of the Business Improvement Group of Northbridge, said an extra surcharge — such as the one imposed for airport transfers — should be introduced to make drivers service taxi ranks as a priority in entertainment precincts such as Northbridge and Fremantle during peak times.
Mr Keiller said each weekend he saw partygoers flagging taxis from the side of the street and chasing drivers down while others waited hours at taxi ranks.
“This law of the jungle system needs to end,” he said. “We need to get drivers to service the ranks as a priority, or indeed exclusively, and if that means substantially increasing the flag fall or putting in place a surcharge, so be it.
"People would be happy to pay $5-$10 more for a guaranteed, reliable service.”
Shadow transport minister Ken Travers said it was worth considering.
“We already charge a $1.50 fee if you book by phone so why not have a similar charge at ranks,” he said.
The West Australian revealed this week that private individuals were trying to cash in on Perth’s peak period taxi shortage, offering rides for money on websites such as Gumtree.
Olwyn Williams from the Taxi Council of WA said the practice was illegal and unsafe.
Ms Williams said illegal drivers and their vehicles were not subject to the same screenings and regulations that taxis underwent.
But an online poll by The West Australian found people were divided on the issue, with 45 per cent saying they would use an unlicensed taxi and 43 per cent saying they would not. Twelve per cent said they would only use them if they could not get a legal taxi.
Experienced taxi driver Marek Kuligowski said there was a simple solution to the problem that would not cost patrons a cent.
He said more than 100 restricted-plate taxis could be freed for service if the Department of Transport relaxed regulations for peak times.
As a restricted-plate driver, Mr Kuligowski said he could not collect people from hotspots such as Northbridge until after 1am on weekends.
“If this restriction was relaxed just for the busy, festive season there would be more taxis—it’s a simple solution but no one is listening.”
Transport Minister Troy Buswell said demand for taxis had never been higher and more taxi plates would be released next year.