Taxis, Road Rage, Christmas & all that

13th October 2000

THE evenings are drawing in, there’s a chill in the air, the leaves are falling and the great taxi saga is back – all signs of an impending Dublin christmas.

But this time the debate has taken a turn. Last week’s road rage tragedy has turned the issue into a major social problem. What are to make of Gay Mitchell’s conclusion that our lack of public transport is leaving young people open to violent attack?

It’s crap.

I hate to be negative but getting young people out of the city centre is much more likely to prevent them causing trouble than to save innocent youths from trouble.

In any case there’s no excuse for not providing transport home for anyone who needs it.

So we’re back to the hoary business of too few taxis, too many punters and christmas just around the corner.

I have a bit of knowledge of this problem as I covered the issue for local newspapers when the Corpo had responsibility.

All I can say about my time covering the problem is that it has been such mish-mash of proposals and counter-proposals I, like most people, am bewildered by the history of the issue.

Councillors would propose a solution, then would set up a study group, then would reject the study group’s proposals, then would propose new proposals. These proposals would be voted down in favour of counter-proposals. Then the taxi drivers would object and that would be the end of the proposals.

After that there would, of course, be new proposals.

There wouldn’t be many new taxis.

This has been going on for years and only a few hundred new licences have been issued.

The Government finally got fed up with the inability of local councillors to come up with something tangible and took back the powers.

Bobby Molloy is now the man in charge and his idea is to give a licence to every owner who already has a licence, in effect to double the number of taxis.

Meanwhile, the number of hackneys (or mini-cabs) has mushroomed. Ironically it is now these hackneys that are objecting to the minister’s proposals.

That, roughly, is where we’re at now.

From what I can discern the taxi owners are not too annoyed with the proposals as they will get a free licence. The idea that each owner will only be given one licence each has set off, apparently, a flurry of licence transfers to family members, etc.

It’s all mighty crack but christmas is coming and the Dublin public are facing worse delays than ever. What can be done now?

Dublin Bus should be made provide a full transport service at night or have it put out to public tender.

There can’t be any excuse for not providing a full 24 hour bus service. Drivers can be protected with properly designed cabins.

The current Nite-Link service is great but the idea that it can only pick up in the city centre is a nonsense.

Secondly, strike up a relationship with your local hackney firm so that when you are stuck in town you can call them to come a get you. They are much less likely to respond if they don’t know you.

Thirdly, taxi owners should be issued with temporary second licences for the Christmas period. As there is a huge amount of business the hackneys can’t claim that their interests are being impinged

Fourthly, there should be a taxi office opened to ensure that all licences are in operation at peak periods. The onus should be on driver owners to ensure that a car is available for business.

In the longer term I would be against deregulation. As a former mini-cab driver I know that drivers are open to merciless exploitation and work very long hours for little pay.

I would only allow working drivers to own licences. Multiple licence holders should be made sell their licences to working drivers.

When you are standing freezing in a queue remember that the driver is not to blame.


As well as that…

And what’s wrong with walking?

Gay Mitchell’s intervention in more or less implied that it was dangerous for people to walk home at night.

Suppose we all acted on this belief? We would cede the streets to all sorts of thugs and criminals.

The best way to ensure safer streets is to have people milling about and as a lot of people now live in the city centre, we should be encouraging them to walk home rather than queueing for a taxi to take them a mile or two.

This is a very important point. Many studies have shown that areas go downwards when people accept, or pander to, anti-social behaviour. This is why inner-city regeneration is so important.

Dublin’s planners, to their credit, have been trying to turn around the inner-city for many years now.

The principle means is to create mixed social environment together with better streetscapes, better lighting and a bustling civic life.

You can see this happening now in the Smithfield area.

This old part of Dublin has been fantastically transformed. I hope that when it’s finished people will feel safe to use the new civic space at any time of the day or night.