Major taxi, maxi fare hike along popular routes

In less than two weeks, commuters will be paying more to travel along two major routes, as the Chaguanas to Port-of-Spain taxi drivers and the Route 2 Maxi Taxi Association—which covers the East/West corridor—will be increasing their fares.

The two routes see thousands of commuters travelling every day.

Vehicle owners said yesterday that they have been forced to mash the brakes on months of operating at a loss, as the daily demands cut through their pockets.

Yesterday, the Port-of-Spain to Chaguanas Taxi Association officially announced a $4 increase to its route which is set to take effect from October 11. A trip from the capital city to the central borough will now cost the travelling public $15 one way. If you’re making a round trip, you’d be paying $30.

The association is the latest to join other bodies making the decision to raise taxi fares and according to its president, Miguel Dolabaille, the adjustment was a result of foreseeable economic challenges.

“With expected future increases in the cost of living, we will no longer be able to continue to serve at a sustainable and profitable level,” he told Guardian Media.

Back in May, the San Fernando to Macaulay, Curepe to Chaguanas, Couva to San Fernando and the Chaguanas to San Fernando Taxi Drivers’ Associations reported increases in fares by $3, $3, $1 and $4 respectively.

Last year, the travelling public also had to fork out an extra $5 after the fare from San Fernando to Port-of-Spain increased by $2.

Taxi drivers have pointed to the economic fallout of the pandemic as the sole cause for the price adjustments.

Guardian Media yesterday visited the Port-of-Spain to Chaguanas taxi stand, located along South Quay, where taxi drivers lamented that shouldering the burden had become unbearable due to the pandemic.

They said being among the last to adjust their fares came at a cost. According to driver Hayden Lowe, his pocket could no longer take the pinch.

“Can I use difficult as an understatement, will that be fair? I am renting, I have two kids, they are my choice and my happiness, online schooling, that’s two laptops, internet bills to pay, groceries to buy even though prices always going up.”

Kendal Ashby, a taxi driver for 17 years, explained that those on the stand were also finding it extremely difficult to maintain their vehicles, as the cost of car parts also climbed.

“Kiss raise their prices, grocery raising every week, nobody saying anything. I does run brand new tyres, prices for that gone up, I use Premium gas to help save my engine, that gone up, it real hard for us too.”

With more than three decades on the road, Richard Glim explained just how grim his livelihood had become, adding he was hopeful the new prices would not chase passengers away.

“You go to the groceries this week and next week is a different price on something and the price keep going up, the hardware is the same thing. We did not do this to spite our passengers, it is just very hard for us to make it out here now.”

Passengers will also be paying the new fare to uniformed drivers, a measure the association has taken to weed out rogue drivers.

Also effective from October 11, passengers travelling along the east-west corridor will have to dig a little deeper to get to their destinations, as Route 2 maxi taxi fares are also set to increase.

The Arima to Port-of-Spain or east-west corridor is the largest commuting route in the country for maxi taxis, with thousands of passengers travelling daily.

Head of the Route 2 Maxi Taxi Association Linus Phillip said it has been four years since prices were adjusted. According to him, fares will be adjusted between $1 and $2 based on location.

Maxi taxi drivers told a Guardian Media team who visited City Gate yesterday that the move was timely and fair.

The announcement about the hike in fares came hours after the Kiss Baking Company said it will be increasing the prices on select bread products, citing the rising cost of raw materials. Kiss did not indicate when the increases will take effect.

But as news of the taxi and maxi fares spread, some passengers were also surprisingly empathetic towards the maxi and taxi drivers.

They explained that the pandemic had worsened conditions for many people and that the men and women behind the wheels of passenger vehicle had a difficult time keeping their finances on track.

“Right now, an increase in any kind will be detrimental to the travelling public. We are the small men on the road. I understand though, the taxi drivers operating at half capacity so they also have to find a way to feed their family too,” one passenger said.

Another passenger said the pandemic had upended the lives of many.

“Due to how COVID has changed the world, they have to find ways and means because they operating at 50 per cent, which means they have lost income because of what COVID-19 has done, we have to be fair.”

Some passengers also explained they will be willing to pay the extra hike in fares, a move that had previously been met with public backlash.