Browsing 'taxis' News

A taxi queue at City Center Mall.

Kelly Wright / Doha News

A taxi queue at City Center Mall.

One of the most popular places to catch a taxi in West Bay / Dafna is going to be overhauled to include a climate-controlled waiting area with kiosks.

But the new area, inside City Center Mall’s parking garage, may not be ready in time for the warmer summer months this year, so shopping center officials have plans to install cooling vents once the temperature rises.

“We will make sure to take care of our customers waiting for taxis this summer,” City Center director Joerg Harengerd told Doha News.

Up until early 2014, taxis would pick up passengers from a service lane along the north side of the mall.

City Center Mall

Kelly Wright / Doha News

City Center Mall

However, the government ordered the taxi stand be moved over safety concerns, due to the traffic congestion and large volume of passengers coming from the busy mall and surrounding buildings.

Harengerd said the move has been a success and has created a more efficient environment for passengers to catch cabs.

Challenges

In the parking garage, there are separate lines for Mowasalat taxis and Sydney Limousine Service. Harengerd said Mowasalat recently started to send marshalls to regulate the flow of vehicles.

On average, between 500 and 600 taxis depart the mall each day. Busier days can see 900 vehicles, according to Harengerd.

However, some challenges remain.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Penny Yi Wang / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Unlicensed taxis still attempt to solicit customers around the mall’s perimeter, contributing to traffic jams. Harengerd said the mall is in contact with police who patrol the area as a deterrent.

Mowasalat also appears to have trouble matching supply with demand at times. While Harengerd said most passengers are able to immediately board a cab, but other times passengers must wait in line for some 30 minutes.

However, speaking to Doha News, one cab driver said that it is usually the taxis waiting for customers:

“Sometimes I come in and get a customer right away, but many times I have had to wait up to one hour to pick up a fare,” one said.

Other malls

Despite the hiccups, the scene at City Center is far more orderly than some of the country’s other large malls.

A lineup of vehicles at Villaggio Mall.

Kelly Wright / Doha News

A lineup of vehicles at Villaggio Mall.

Villaggio Mall – where Doha Metro construction has closed a large portion of the shopping center’s parking lot – suffers from serious traffic congestion at peak periods.

With no designated taxi stand, taxis and private drivers constantly blocking the driving lanes around the mall, making it even more difficult for motorists to maneuver.

Speaking to Doha News, several security guards say they often see vehicles backed up out of the lot and onto surrounding roads.

“Every gate is the same with taxis waiting and blocking the driving lanes. We work all day trying to get them to keep moving, but many do not want to leave until they pick up a passenger,” said one guard.

“We let them stay for a minute or two, but then they must move on. The weekends are the worst because traffic gets very backed up, but they have no taxi stand to go to. If they did they would go there and leave this area alone.”

Ezdan Mall

Ezdan Holding Group

Ezdan Mall

A few of the other malls around Doha such as Landmark Mall and Ezdan Mall have small designated lanes for taxis. However, they typically only feature a few spots, forcing other taxis and private drivers to circle the mall and contribute to congestion.

Hyatt Plaza, however, has an air-conditioned waiting zone with individual areas for men and women as well as couches and a TV.

What’s your strategy on getting a taxi from a mall? Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Penny Yi Wang / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

To help facilitate a safe and comfortable way for women to get around Qatar, members of the Central Municipal Council (CMC) have recommended that more female taxi drivers be hired to meet high demand.

The proposal to urge state-run transportation company Mowasalat to expand a female taxi driver service was discussed during the council’s regular meeting today.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

sixoone/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Speaking to Doha News, CMC member Nasser Ibrahim Mohamed Issa Al Mohannadi, who first presented the proposal for discussion, said more women are seeking transport options as the country’s population rises.

Adding more female taxi drivers would help working women, mothers, students and tourists avoid harassment and make them feel more independent and secure.

He added that expanding such a service would help preserve the customs and traditions of a conservative society like Qatar.

Bullying

Previously, some female customers have complained about taxi drivers bullying them into paying higher fees, especially at night.

In 2013, the Peninsula reported incidents of cab drivers stopping halfway into their journeys, keeping their doors locked and then demanding that customers hand over a certain fare immediately.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Lawrence Wang/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The newspaper quoted a female expat saying, “It was so terrifying an experience. I instantly handed over the money.”

A few months later, Alijarah’s Limousine service, which is Qatar’s second taxi franchise operator under Mowasalat, launched a female drivers service to accommodate women.

At the time, the company announced that it had hired and trained women from Kenya and Ghana to provide the service.

However the service is limited, and mostly used by people booking a taxi service on a regular basis, not for one-off demand.

The female drivers are available only by booking through Alijarah by calling 8004488.

Speaking to Doha News today, an operator said that trips inside the capital could be booked for a monthly fee of QR2,925 for five days a week.

The taxis can also be booked for a flat rate of QR60 for one trip and QR70 per hour for more than one trip per day, although this is difficult to reserve, he added.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Quan Shen/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

He said that the customer needs to call one day in advance to check if there’s a driver available, as the service is usually fully booked.

Al Mohannadi recommended that the expanded service be offered by taxis that are of a unique color, so women can easily spot them on the street, such as pink cabs in Dubai.

Such a service is also available in many other GCC countries where women prefer female drivers to get around the country, like Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE.

The council member also said it’s important for the official taxi operator to offer the service, which is safer than the freelance female drivers advertising in newspapers.

CMC members agreed with Al Mohannadi on the importance of the proposal, which was referred to an internal committee for further discussion and recommendations.

Seats for women

Meanwhile, in a bid to encourage more women to use public transport, Mowasalat announced this week plans to reserve front seats in big public buses for women only.

Seating reserved for women in public buses.

Mowasalat official website.

Seating reserved for women in public buses.

Mowasalat said that stickers were posted inside the buses and on the women’s seating areas and announcements were made in the media regarding the changes.

Mowasalat has been pushing to make public transportation a more attractive commuting option, with traffic congestion in and around Doha seemingly getting worse by the day.

The number of daily users has fluctuated in recent years, including a decline attributed to delays and congestion. Currently, about 60,000 people use the bus daily, officials said in May. They are mostly single males, as women usually shy away from taking public transportation.

There are now 200 public buses that serve 50 routes and are operational from 9:30am until 11:30pm daily.

Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

jerry dohnal/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Hundreds of taxi drivers in Qatar have started receiving monthly salaries and no longer need to pay their employers a daily cab rental fee, the head of Qatar’s state transportation firm Mowasalat has said.

Previously, these drivers needed to collect more than QR200 in fares during their shift to compensate Mowasalat for the use of the car before they could earn any money for themselves that day.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Omar Chatriwala/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Many drivers have said this requirement often compelled them to turn down smaller fares and tamper with meters to make enough money to cover their rental costs and debts.

This contributed to a steady stream of complaints about poor customer service from Qatar residents who used the taxis.

Mowasalat runs one of five taxi franchises currently operating in Qatar.

Speaking to Doha News earlier this month on the sidelines of the Qatar Transport Forum, CEO Khalid Nasser said that the company started paying its drivers a base monthly salary of QR1,200 on July 1.

He added that his employees are receiving bonuses of between QR50 and QR1,400 a month, depending on how much money in fares they bring in.

“Our drivers are more than happy. We have no issues,” Nasser said.

Driver’s reaction

Speaking to Doha News this month, several Karwa drivers have said they are pleased that Mowasalat has abandoned the rental system for its drivers, because it made it difficult to save money.

“Even after working for five years, my bank balance is zero,” said one driver, who hails from the Indian state of Kerala.

He said he previously paid QR265 to Mowasalat for a 12-hour taxi rental. The driver added that it was difficult to recoup this during a single shift, which would lead to arguments with customers and requests, for example, that they pay QR15 for a QR10 fare.

While a regular salary is welcome, the man said it’s still insufficient. Drivers don’t have cooking facilities in their company-provided accommodation, which means they’re often forced to buy takeaway food.

Additionally, their pay is often docked for traffic violations as well as returning a car with scratches or dents.

“Being a taxi driver is not a good job,” he said. “Qatar is great, but the company isn’t good.”

Franchises

Meanwhile, drivers employed by Mowasalat’s Al Million franchise are still required to rent cars from their employer.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Ramy Khalaf

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Some of the company’s employees staged a rare two-day strike in Qatar, where such labor action is illegal, in 2014 over a dispute about the company’s rental model.

One driver, a father of three from Nepal, told Doha News last week that he pays QR300 to use a newer car for 24 hours and QR250 for an older model. A 12-hour day shift rental costs drivers QR220, he added.

When Doha News spoke to the driver, he said he had only collected QR30 in fares during his first four hours of work.

“With the increasing traffic, it’s becoming harder and harder to make ends meet. So we have to resort to backhanded methods, (such as) making deals with customers, changing metered fares (and) taking on side customers,” he said.

“If we don’t make the daily rental fees, sure, we pay out of pocket. But how many days can we do that for? One day? Two days? Beyond that, no one can afford (it).”

The man said he was promised a monthly salary of QR1,200 in a job offer letter he received in Nepal, but was moved to the rental model three months after arriving in Qatar.

He said that objecting would be pointless.

“We can’t say anything. Everyone is tired of this, but if we complain, we risk going home. We have families to support. We can’t afford to lose our jobs.”

Executives at some of Qatar’s new cab franchises, such as the yellow-roofed Cars Taxi, have acknowledged that the rental model can be a source of conflict with drivers and instead launched operations with a compensation system that pays employees a base salary plus bonuses.

Customer service

In recent years, Mowasalat has taken several steps to improve passenger service, including setting up a unified call center for booking taxis.

Taxi meter

Mowasalat

Taxi meter

Nasser said the call center is receiving some 15,000 calls a month and that customers are generally waiting no more than 30 minutes before a cab arrives.

This has been enabled in large part by new GPS-enabled meters, which allow dispatchers to more efficiently assign taxis to customers.

The devices are also supposed to be tamper-proof and have led to a 50 percent drop in customer complaints, according to Mowasalat.

However, some drivers still attempt to work around the system by obscuring the on-screen fare amount.

Thoughts?