Drivers, Commuters Coping with New Transport Policy

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Drivers and commuters are gradually coping with the government of Liberia’s new policy requiring taxi cabs to take not more than three passengers in their back seat.

Although they met this decision with resentment, the drivers are now comfortably enjoying it. Also coping with and enjoying their ride are the passengers, who say they are no more congested at the back and front of taxi cabs.

 “It is good that people can now sit freely in the car without being squeezed by others,” said Helen Tucker, a resident of 72nd. “I enjoy my ride every day since President Sirleaf announced this measure” 

As part of measures to fight spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the country, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced a new policy last week requiring all taxi drivers and vehicle owners to take not more than three people at the back seat of their vehicles.

 The Ebola virus, which health officials have said can also be contracted by body contact and other physical contacts with infected person (s), has already claimed the lives of over 200 people in Liberia.

However, this measure was first met with bitterness by some taxi drivers. But many people are now suggesting that the measure remains in place after the containment and eradication of the Ebola virus.

“The new government policy is good and we will like for the government to ensure that it remains in place forever. It helps to protect our vehicles. Moreover, we are not losing at all as taxi cab drivers,” said Mohammed Sesay, a cab driver.

 Mr. Sesay runs his taxi between Broad Street and Mamba Point. He admitted that the policy does not only increase passengers’ safety, but saves time and increases his revenue.

Increment in Fares

 Drivers have meanwhile increased fares since the introduction of the new policy. “With three at the back seat each passenger is required to pay L$20 from Broad Street to Mamba Point for one way,” Sesay said.

Before the new measure, commuters used to pay L$15 from Broad Street to Mamba prior to the coming into force of this measure. Drivers were carrying five passengers at once during that time and earning L$75 per trip.

 But they (drivers) are now required to take maximum four passengers in their cars. With L$20 for each passenger, they now make L$80 for each trip from four passengers instead of L$75 from five passengers as they (drivers) earned in the past.

 “I run between Broad Street and ELWA Junction and I carry only four passengers at once with one in the front and three at the back. With this new policy, I still generate my daily report money plus profit,” said Andrew D. K. Sumo, another driver.

 Mr. Sumo, a taxi cab driver, told our business desk that he charges each passenger about L$80 from Broad Street to ELWA Junction. Prior to the new measure coming into force, each commuter paid at least L$60 for the same distance.

 Mr. Sumo attributed the increment to the high petroleum prices and the reduction in the number of passengers for a cab.

 “I’ll be happy if the government comes in with fare structure that benefits both the passengers and the drivers,” Sumo said as he admits to overcharging by some cab drivers.

“Some of our colleagues are using [this] opportunity to exploit people so it will be a good idea for the government to come in to resolve the fare impasse.”

 The drivers also want the government to subsidize petroleum products and ensure that the prices of petroleum products are reduced. The pump price of gasoline is L$360 (US$4.19).  

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