“I'm standing here; you make the move. You make the move. It's your move...” So say the taxi drivers of Hangzhou, China, and unless they get city authorities to make a move on compensation, thousands of cabs will sit unmoving at the side of the road, further clogging Hangzhou's nightmarish traffic.
At least for a day or three – Chinese cabbies still have to make a living. Trouble is, making a living driving a cab in Hangzhou gets more difficult day by day. The drivers are fed up and though striking won't add any yuan to their daily pay, in the words of one driver they “had no other choice.”
Can anyone really blame them? Hangzhou's minimum taxi fare is 10 yuan ($1.50) per kilometer within the 3 km and 2.4 yuan ($0.37) for every additional kilometer after the first 3 km... it's been that way for 10 years!
Meanwhile, the prices of consumer goods, cars & parts, and gas have all increased over the same period. You don't have to do the math to know that cabbies are taking it on the chin with every fill-up.
Hangzhou also hits their taxi drivers' wallets by not allowing them to charge for time stuck in traffic, only by distance traveled. This wasn't a problem a decade ago when China's major cities had minimal traffic but the times, they are a-changin' and the taxi drivers, they can't be a-chargin'.
Rush hour used to be a boon for the drivers but no longer: “Before, I could strike four or five deals an hour,” complained one cabbie. “Now I can only get one.” Adding to the sense of frustration is the fact that both Beijing or Shanghai allow taxi drivers to charge for time as well as distance.
With up to 4,000 cabs parked along city thoroughfares and disgruntled cabbies considering anonymous calls online to extend their strike for 3 days, Hangzhou city authorities may be buckling to the band of Bickles by offering a subsidy of 1 yuan ($0.15) for every fare from August 1st until a new taxi price policy is be introduced in October.
One measly yuan? When Travis Bickle said “Then suddenly, there is a change,” I don't think one yuan was what he had in mind.
Latest statistics show that China's consumer price index rose at an annual 6.4 percent rate in June, the highest level in three years. The government is said to be worried about the potential for rising prices to cause social unrest. Don't think for a minute those in positions of power aren't noting Hangzhou's taxi driver strike and feeling a note of concern. To quote Robert De Niro's iconic New York cabbie, “Here is a man who would not take it anymore... Here is a man who stood up.” In Hangzhou, there are thousands. (via Ministry of Tofu and MSN Malaysia)