MyTaxi advocates ‘surge pricing’ for Irish taxi market

Ability to raise fares during peak periods would get people home quicker – country manager Alan Fox

MyTaxi currently has 11,000 registered drivers in the State, having added 1,700 more since the start of the year.

MyTaxi currently has 11,000 registered drivers in the State, having added 1,700 more since the start of the year.

 

Allowing taxi drivers to raise fares during peak periods, such as in the run-up to Christmas, on Saturday nights and in situations where public transport is unavailable, could help get people home quicker, boost public safety and encourage more people to work in the industry. This is according to MyTaxi’s Irish country manager, Alan Fox, who said the company has held preliminary talks with the National Transport Authority (NTA) about increased flexibility around pricing.

Mr Fox told The Irish Times that driver numbers in the Republic had fallen by nearly a quarter since 2008 as the State approaches full employment.

At the same time, demand for taxis has jumped sharply with MyTaxi recording its busiest quarter to date between July and September, carrying more than four million passengers.

Surge pricing, in which businesses set flexible prices for services based on current market demands, has proven controversial, particularly in the areas of transportation. Rival Uber has previously received heavy criticism for increasing fares during terrorist incidents in cities including London and New York.

Under current regulations, taxi drivers in the Republic are restricted in the amount they can charge passengers. Mr Fox said his company was keen to see more flexibility on pricing in all markets it operated in.

“Would customers be prepared to pay more? I don’t think they would be happy about it if I’m perfectly honest but I think there are certain situations where consumers would do it, on cold, wet Saturday nights for example,” he said.

Recruitment

MyTaxi currently has 11,000 registered drivers in the State, having added 1,700 more since the start of the year. However, Mr Fox said that, despite introducing a number of incentives, including assistance to help individuals pass the SPSV (small public service vehicle) entry test, it was proving difficult to recruit enough drivers to meet growing demand from the public for taxis.

Flexible pricing was another possible incentive that could help increase the number of taxi drivers in Ireland, he said.

“We haven’t had a full-on conversation with the NTA on this just yet but it is something that I think makes a lot of sense for the market as it brings in flexibility at peak times,” Mr Fox added.

MyTaxi had recently struggled to respond to a surge in demand during Storm Ali when the Luas went out of service, he said.

“The Green Line went down just as torrential rain started and our service levels went through the roof as 50,000people who would normally get the Luas home had to get a taxi or walk. We were able to get hold of drivers through instant messaging to let them know there was plenty of work there for them and we were able to meet demand,” Mr Fox said.

“A year ago when we had 25 per cent less capacity in the fleet, we would have struggled with that but we are in a much better place now although we still need more drivers,” he added.

Mr Fox said said MyTaxi had also been having talks with city planners and cultural and business representatives about new approaches to help people get home quickly and safely during nights out. These talks include possibly appointing a night tsar and lobbying for different closing times so that people don’t all spill out on the streets at the same time wanting a taxi.

Mr Fox said that, while his company had experienced technical issues following the migration over from Hailo, he felt MyTaxi was highly regarded by users. He cited rising passenger numbers as evidence.

He also said the number of Irish customers using MyTaxi outside Ireland was increasing, with 39,000 people having taken trips in foreign cities using the app. That figure is expected to rise to 50,000 by the end of 2018 – a 125 per cent increase on last year.