Prague preparing taxi proposal

The city is hoping to stop another taxi protest from blocking traffic

City Hall has decided to prepare a legislative proposal to help solve the taxi situation. At the same time, the city will will ask taxi drivers to give up on the idea of the next planned protest. The exact form of the legislative initiative and when it will be ready was not decided.

Taxi drivers are preparing another protest at Strahov on Monday against app-based ride services such as Uber and Taxify.

City Councilor Jiří Nouza (TOP 09) said the resolution was intended to put pressure on the government ministries and the Chamber of Deputies to take action, and to send a signal to the drivers that the city wants to resolve the problem.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) and Transport Minister Dan Ťok (ANO) have already met with taxi representatives and have promised to take some action.

Originally, Minister Ťok planned to enforce restrictive measures against alternative ride services due to protests. In the end, he agreed to help create a broad amendment to the taxi law. The implementation of the amendment will take about a year. Licensed taxi drivers do not want to wait that long.

At the suggestion of City Councilor Ondřej Mirovský (Greens) the resolutions were supplemented by a call for taxi drivers not to block traffic in Prague. Representatives across political parties have agreed that blocking the city will not solve the situation and only bring new customers to the Uber.

They also agreed that Uber and Taxify are not considered “shared economy” but a taxi service. "I am convinced that Uber is not a shared economy, it is the normal dispatching of taxis only on a different technical basis,” City Councilor Vaclav Novotny (TOP 09) said, according to press reports.

Taxi drivers have protested against competition from app-based ride services both and the end of 2017 and also this year by trying to slow or stop traffic. Taxi drivers, for example, protested Oct. 2, 2017, when they tried to block access to Václav Havel Airport Prague. They protested again this month.

There are around 8,300 taxi drivers in the capital, and they are concerned that Uber drivers, which number about 2,000, do not have cars registered as taxis, do not pay full taxes, lack proper licenses and insurance, and do not have taxi meters.

Uber claims that it is not a taxi service, but part of a shared economy offering to help people share their cars to provide rides.

Critics, though, say the main reason why Uber and similar services are popular is that taxi drivers in Prague have long had a bad reputation for overcharging, giving worthless foreign money as change and other tricks.

The issue of taxis overcharging people goes back for decades, and many City Hall administrations have tried to tackle the issue. In April 2017 signs were put up near popular tourist spots to warn people against taking standing cabs and informing people of the proper rates. One sign warned that taxi drivers often charge more than 10 times the official rate, making it one of the highest in Europe.

In 2015, the Czech News Agency reported that one in three taxi drivers overcharged, based on spot checks made by city inspectors.

In January 2005 then-mayor Pavel Bém dressed up as an Italian tourist and was charged 500 percent of the official rate for a short trip to Prague Castle. In another cab, he was charged double for paying in euros.

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