11 February 2008

Taxi Safety in Jakarta

Perhaps a more apt title here would be 'No Taxi Safety in Jakarta'. A spate of robberies over the last week or so by taxi drivers has again brought the issue of safety to the fore. The Department of Transport has made the obligatory statements that it usually does about ratcheting up the frequency of raids in conjunction with the National Police Force. Yet, the reality is this is an ongoing problem and therefore it is in need of a much more integrated and agressive approach from the relevant authorities if it is to ever be overcome.

Indonesia has a lot of poorly adminstered taxi companies and Jakarta has its share as Indonesia's largest city. The close proximity of the satellite cities of Bekasi, Tangerang, and Depok means that the taxi trade can be a lucrative business considering in the greater Jakarta area there is potentially access to some 12 - 15 million people.

It goes without saying that this will also be an attractive proposition for the bad guys who are looking at making a quick buck and getting a mobile phone or two and some jewellery for the girlfriend into the bargain. One of those too good an opportunities to pass up!

It seems that there are more taxis than potential passengers, except when it rains and then there is never a taxi in sight or those that are in sight have a conveniently broken fare meter, so in that sense a passengers choice seems good overall. The reality though is that there are only a small number of reputable companies, but even the reputable companies are encountering problems. This is particularly so in the clamour for drivers to ensure that they can get their taxis on the road and earning money, the reputable companies let their guard down a little in order to get drivers in cars. If your taxi is in the parking lot it is an under-utilized resource, you need 'bums on seats' to be making money!

The best safety tip is this. Order a taxi from a reputable company by phone and have them come and pick you up. I am sure an internet search or a simple question to a work colleague will enlighten you to the names of these companies. If you are a tourist and staying in a hotel there is normally a taxi rank with quality taxis available, but the concierge would certainly be able to make a recommendation to you. So order a taxi or take one from a reputable taxi rank.

This might ensure that you do not have to endure the hassle of being robbed. But even the reputable companies have a number of cornflakes license holders. You know the ones, these are the blokes who pulled their ready made license out of the cereal box at breakfast time! So, even without falling victim to a robbery, you might still be in for the ride of your life, literally!

Happy Travelling to you all...

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