Some friends were celebrating birthday of the fellow in one of the capitals cafe. Not one toast was raised to the birthday boy, thus it was decided to call a cab. However, the cab was not so easy to find. Dispatchers asked to wait and after 15-20 minutes reported there were no cabs available in the district, although the things were happening in the very center of the capital. In the end, disappointed an tired people had nothing but to hack a picker-upper, who charged them a fancy price.

Such situations are common for those who use taxi service regularly. You might think that the problem is the lack of cabs, but the monitoring of public unions in Kyiv shows there are more than 20 thousand vehicles working in the sphere of taxi service, and 19 thousand of them are illegal. According to the calculations of the all-Ukrainian public organization "Ukrainian taxi association", 15 thousand cars will be enough for the capital's needs.

"The problem is in numerous illegal information dispatcher services (IDS), which attract clients with low tariffs," head of the association Andriy Antoniuk told ForUm. According to him, phony IDS multiply like mushrooms after the rain. In 2007 there were 70 taxi dispatcher servicers operating in Kyiv, while this year they number already 400. "They have taken the role of the market regulator - a role to be performed by the state. Fighting for clients, they reduce prices and offer ridiculously small tariffs, making the service unprofitable. The orders "hang" on servers and drivers do not want to take them," Antoniuk complains.

It may appear strange, but not all dispatcher services you call have regular staff of taxi drivers. In some cases, such IDS are mere mediators of mediators. A client's order goes to the central server, where there are hundreds of other active orders. This list is available to taxi drivers, who cooperate with various IDS. A driver who answers first will take the client. If you are told there are no cars available in the area, it means none of the drivers agrees with the tariff, set by the dispatcher, who has taken your call. Dispatcher services take 9% order fee from taxi drivers they cooperate with, and 10-12% order fee from others.

We want to point out that legal taxi services have at least minimal responsibility for their vehicles. They may punish a driver for charging extra, for example. Illegal call-centers are not responsible for anything - neither for passenger's safety no for being late.

Job vacancy: taxi driver

Theoretically, any person who has a car can become a taxi driver - a middle-age manager, 18-year-old student or pensioner with heart problems. The diver can have problems with alcohol, nerves or memory, but some dispatcher services do not care.

A ForUm correspondent decided to call a job offer announcement and pretended to be a potential taxi driver. Certain Valeriy asked about the car model and knowledge of Kyiv streets and then immediately offered cooperation. "We will install a certain program on your cell, with the help of which you will see orders." That was it. The employer did not want to know any other information about his potential worker.

When asked about official employment, Valeriy vaguely responded, like, start working and we will see. Moreover, it turned out that the installation of taximeter is not obligatory, although our legislation clearly stipulates that taxi drivers must use similar devices. "We do have such norm, but there is no control over its observation, that is why many taxi drivers do not bother to install taximeters," chairman of the public organization "Taxis of the capital" Evhen Klymenko told ForUm.

"One-size fits all" approach

Last winter, preparing the country to Euro-2012, the officials showed sudden interest in the taxi service. On the eve of the championship, the authorities did not want to shock foreign guests with fancy prices for taxi services, dirty cars and poor knowledge of English among taxi drivers. Thus, it was decided to create Sky Taxi service for international airport Boryspil, to force all taxi drivers to install taximeters and equip all taxi cars with identification mark. However, the authorities failed to take all Kyiv taxi drivers under control.

Now the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has registered a draft bill, aimed at bringing the taxi service to light. According to the document, a taxi car must be equipped with electronic taximeter, ventilation and heating system and available/occupied indicator. Taxi drivers must undergo obligatory evaluation and get accreditation card, valid for five years. According to the draft bill, tariffs for taxi service must be developed by city (town) unions of taxi services and agreed with local authorities. The control over taxi services will be carried out by traffic police and state departments on consumer rights protection.

Such propositions have already caused a buzz among taxi operators. In particular, Evhen Klymenko is sure that simialr draft bill cannot be realized in Ukraine, because the society is not ready for state total control. "The authors of the draft bill have followed the example of European countries, but they forget that such system has been operating there for a long time, while in Ukraine this scheme will cause corruption and bribing. Moreover, this is 'a one-way-street' case: we think about passengers, but not about drivers. The draft bill must provide something for taxi drivers as well, certain benefits for buying a new car, for example," Klymenko believes. Besides, in his opinion, the authorities must work out certain penalties to be applied to illegal taxi drivers and gypsy cabs, which place the livelihoods of legitimate cab drivers at risk.

Our people don't take a taxi to the bakery!

95% of the taxi service market is in shadow, and only legalization and proper control over drivers and dispatchers will bring order to this sector, Andriy Antoniuk believes. However, in this situation the price rise for services is inevitable. "This is a least-evil solution, and we should understand that taxi is not a public transport and that security, timely execution and service cost money," Antoniuk underlined. He also notes that every Kyiv taxi driver is occupied by 40% only, because gypsy cabs stand idle waiting for a "golden" client, legal taxi drivers work under average tariffs and get fewer orders and illegal taxi touts do not always want or can take the orders. If all work legally and under single tariff, drivers will have less idle running, and as a result, tariffs will not grow.

Current tariffs for taxi service vary from two to five hryvnias per kilometer. "With 12 hryvnais of gas price, the minimal tariff per kilometer must be five hryvnias," Antonuik believes. Thus the route from the train station to Obolon, for example, will cost 80 hryvnias, not 50 as offered by some operators. Besides, already now some dispatcher services, offering cheap tariffs, practice a new service - tariff "Plus". For example, there are no cars available in your area, but if you agree to pay extra ten hryvnias, in 95% of case the car will arrive in 5-7 minutes.

"You may become a taxi driver and charge clients one-two hryvnias per kilometer for a week. You still do not understand where there is profit and where there are losses. After a week, the tires will get worn-out, the car will break and you will understand there is no point in working under such conditions. You will leave the dispatcher, but someone else will come on your place, and dishonest phony dispatcher services will keep earning money and set economically unsound tariffs," Antoniuk says.

However, possible price rise for taxi services does not make Kyiv residents happy. Passengers do not want to pay more and taxi drivers fear the outflow of clients. Anyway, it is still too early to speculate on whether the draft bill will be adopted - new parliament has not been formed yet. 

Meanwhile, here there are some recommendations how not to lose time waiting for a taxi. Try to make the order in advance. If you are late for a meeting, don't be cheap and call more expensive dispatcher service - there are more chances your car will arrive on time. The best variant is to use online taxi order system, but for this you must have internet at hand. With online order service you can chose among several tariff variants, set the pick-up time, specify special requirements to the car, like large trunk, working air conditioner, etc.

Alina Yeremeyeva


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