Government officials have ordered City Center Mall to relocate its outdoor taxi stand, known for its traffic congestion and dangers to pedestrians, the shopping complex’s manager has said.
Signage now directs passengers to catch a cab by walking through the mall and descending to the parking garage due east of the old taxi stand.
City Center manager Joerg Harengerd said extensive renovations of the basement area around the new taxi stand are planned, including new washrooms, refreshment stalls as well as an air conditioned waiting area. Speaking to Doha News, he said:
“Now that we are bringing (taxi customer) into our premises, we plan to take care of them. We want to make it very easy and comfortable if you have to wait for a taxi.”
Harengerd said that while the move wasn’t the mall’s idea – the directive came from the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning – he praised the government’s vision for the densely populated neighborhood, which lacks usable sidewalks in many areas.
“(It’s a vision to) beautify West Bay, make it safer for pedestrians and give them the possibility to walk on the street.”
Previously, catching a cab from City Center during rush hour entailed crossing two loading/unloading traffic lanes immediately outside the mall, ignoring the offers of several private drivers soliciting business and then standing in line on the sidewalk.
On especially busy nights, the system often didn’t work. Mowasalat-employed drivers – and those working for franchises Al Ijarah and Al Million – would become selective about picking up passengers, depending on who would pay them the highest fare.
Other Karwa drivers would skip the taxi queue altogether, lining up on the road to pick up passengers more quickly. In the process, they would block other vehicles and create a traffic “nightmare,” Harengerd said.
He added that while there was some confusion when taxis were first rerouted earlier this month, passengers are now finding their way to the mall’s basement without difficulties.
There are plans to add another dozen markers inside the mall – including some directional signs painted on the floor as well as large posters – on top of the roughly 60 signs that are currently on walls and pillars, the manager said.
Several cab drivers who spoke to Doha News at the new taxi stand said they were not informed of the reason for the move, but have been threatened with steep fines if they pick up fares outside.
One mentioned that a passenger had complained about the car fumes in the parking garage, but Harengerd said such concerns should be resolved when the new waiting area is completed by June.
He added that the mall would start collecting statistics on the number of passengers catching taxis, as well as how long they have to wait. Preliminary data from the weekend showed passengers were in line for an average of approximately seven minutes – information that officials previously didn’t have because the old taxi stand was in a public area.
Harengerd said the mall is in discussions with Mowasalat about ways of improving service, such as having supervisors on site that could put out a call for more cabs when passenger lineups reach a certain threshold.
Harengerd said it was his understanding that the old taxi stand would be converted to a bus stop with climate-controlled shelters.
“For us, this is an improvement.”