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November 08, 2003

Ronnie's Rantings: TAXIS!!!

As five ships were in the harbor Thursday, and with the traffic I went through driving around. I will be ranting about taxis! Yup! Everyone’s favorite subject around here!

Let me start with the airport. What a freaking mess. You get your luggage and then, as you get ready to leave for your destination, you are grunted at by the dispatcher as to where you are going. Now, you have to get into a van with maybe 12 other people, and wait for it to fill up, then head in your direction, just that, in your direction. If there are 3 hotels to be going to, and you are the last one, you get a quick hotel tour. Just what you need after traveling all day! My rant here is to why do they have to have those big unsafe vans? Do you know the rental companies no longer rent them because they have been found to be unsafe by the NTSB? And for years we have been told that the safaris aren’t safe either!

We need regular cabs, not vans or safaris. No reason why you shouldn’t be able to hop in the first cab and go and not pay any extra money. Now if these guys want to have the big cabs and take more people, then they should charge less for that service! In Puerto Rico they have them and call them Publicos. In Trinidad, they are called route taxis. Also in Puerto Rico, they are so tourist conscience, that they have fixed rates to the popular areas, so neither taxi nor visitor get the short end of the stick. The dispatcher writes down the fare on a ticket and hands it to you when you are waiting in line. It tells you how much you will be paying. You hand it to the driver when you get into the cab and that’s it!

Now, if the Senators had any balls, they would change our taxi laws. Taxis have a lot of clout because during the days of the machine in the 60s, they were the ones hired to take voters to the polls to vote. They were the last person that a voter had to talk to sway them in the direction of the machine. In return, they give them anything they want. This has to stop! Most importantly, they need to realize that most voters now get themselves to the polls, and most of the taxi drivers can’t even vote, as they are not citizens!

Main Street would be so much better as a walking street. Lots would be accomplished here. First, the taxis won’t be driving down the street at 3 miles and hour asking you if you want to go back to the ship. If I were a downtown storeowner, it wouldn’t happen. At 9:30 in the morning, they are asking if you want to go back to the ship! What nonsense! There were a few days last season when there were 8 ships in that they closed Main Street to traffic. Guess what? There were no traffic jams on the waterfront, traffic flowed smoothly! This time it’s up to the administration to call the shots, hopefully they will this season!

We have way too many taxis. Something like 1400! I was in Las Vegas once and had the same cab twice in two days caught in a different location. I thought is ironic and when I told the cabbie, he said not. He told me that there were only 250 taxis in the entire city of Las Vegas (that was 1987, I understand they have 350 now) and it is easy to get the same one twice as they run 24/7! And we have 1400!!!And they are still adding 5 a year to veterans!

Not even going to get into their stopping wherever they want, they not picking up locals, the safaris deciding to be dollar rides when they want to, unless tourists are in town, their parking in regular parking spaces, but you can’t park in theirs! I can go on and on, but will stop for now.

What do you think?

Posted by afinta at November 8, 2003 01:29 AM


This article was written by Ronnie - it got posted with my moniker due to technical difficulties.

Posted by: Anthony at November 8, 2003 01:31 AM

I think the overall taxi cab culture, especially on St. Thomas, is probably worthy of a grad students PHD. This is a problem with a long history and complex social issues. The taxi situation does seem out of control - but then so do most other services here. Obviously owning a taxi is one way for someone to make a decent living here, but how they have managed to get and keep so much power, and how the island has mananged to survive with the current transportation options in place is nothing short of miraculous. I would like to know how much an active taxi driver makes a year, and I really should take an island tour on one of the Safari's some day just to hear the version of island history the driver tells. I have been charged $15 for a ride from Redhook to my house in a broken down station wagon that was filled with exhaust - and then recently was charged only $30 for 4 of us with luggage! How does that make sense?
This issue is a real can of worms!

Posted by: Anthony at November 8, 2003 01:39 AM

I've lived here for 20 years.
A few weeks ago I was stuck downtown after a "girl's night out" ended up rather badly when she got soused and stupid and I had to get a taxi back to my place. It was a rather embarrassing situation. I was dressed to the nines (not a normal ting for me to do these days) but she had driven me to this night spot and then she basically dumped me, preferring to stick around and drink more and get more stupid.
The taxi driver who finally took me home was a very nice young chap but, dressed the way I was, he obviously (mistakenly) took me for a newcomer.
We got chatting. I asked him how long he'd been taxiing. He said, "a long time". Further pressing resolved that he'd been taxiing for three years.
"That's no time at all. honey!" I said.
Turned out he was from St. Kitts, had been on St. Thomas for about eight years and had worked in construction before getting into taxiing.
He asked me how long I'd been living here and I told him.
"You local!" he said.
Ronnie - water taxis! A water taxi running from Brewers (right next to the airport) or from waterfront to Frenchmans Reef and even to the East End . This controversy has been going on for years. A water taxi would certainly alleviate the waterfront traffic melee.
And why do the taxi drivers continue to sabotage any effort by any local entrepreneur to put this kind of transportation in situ?
Because they suffer from tunnel vision of the worst kind.
If they had any damned brains they might figure out that if they got together and pooled their resources, they could run a water taxi operation with the greatest of ease.
Ignorance runs rampant.
So, Ronnie, will you ever get out to my place?

Posted by: ANNA at November 9, 2003 01:53 AM

To your place? Are you the Anna from the Toad and Tart? Thought you were here longer than 20 years!
One day, if you are, I will surprise you. I am a townie basically!
Water taxis would be too logical. Once again the ball-less lawmakers should see to it it gets done, instead Celestino White had proposed a bill prohibiting water taxis! It got no support , so it did not go any further. He went on to attack the various tour organizers and groups like Kon Tiki and Leylon Sneed and the like, who pick up their guests on the cruise ship dock, where no taxi would make any money from them. He is so obtuse in worrying about his votes that he fails to realize that those various tours that pick up on the dock could hardly take 300 people away from the taxis, when on a 3 cruise ship day, there could be at least 10,000 people in port! Don't the taxis get their chance on the remaining 9,700 people? I guess we are stupid.
The taxi associations have been told countless times to get into the water taxi business. They choose not to. I know that they have the power in a bloc to do it, but I also know that in order to go to a bank to get a loan, they will have to divulge what they really make and not the little pittance that they report to the IRB.
One instance when I had to hire three safaris for a group I was doing, I got them from VI Taxi. When I questioned one of the guys about his safari, since I knew him only to drive a van, he told me the safaris belong to the association and they are just driving them. So, I asked if they can own safaris (five of them) as a group why don't they do the water taxis. He said the guys are so stupid that they can't see that's the future. He was the first sensible taxi driver I ever spoke too!
Oh well!

Posted by: Ronnie at November 9, 2003 03:22 PM

You all have some great solutions to the taxi problems!! Think you (or they) can get this thing resolved before I come back next June? Taking a water taxi to Red Hook sounds like a wonderful alternative to fighting rush hour traffic all the way through CA!!

Posted by: Bert at November 10, 2003 01:18 PM

i agree with all said.
lived in stt [town] for a while, and now on stj... where we have the additional problem of lazy taxi drivers. like, if a safari is at cinnamon, three people want a ride back to town, the taximan will say hop in, no problem. then continue to sit. for half an hour, if necessary, until more people show up. apparently making $25 for a fifteen minute drive isnt good enough.
at times ive actually given rides to perturbed tourists who have been sitting in a taxi for 20 minutes, because the taximan wouldnt leave without a full load. taximen hate this, [they know my cars and seem to try to run me off the road whenever possible] but their 'business' practices are rediculous. im all for reform.
i think my perfect job here would be that of a free stj north shore beach shuttle driver... you wouldnt need a taxi license for a free service, right? ;) run continuously, from the ferry docks out to maho and back, work for tips only..... every tourist who's ever dealt with a rude taxi driver on the islands would appreciate it i know!

Posted by: kudzu at November 15, 2003 08:38 PM