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Taxi firms propose reservation fee
2013-01-16
By Zha Minjie

A PROPOSAL by cab companies to charge for reservations will be studied by the Shanghai traffic administration after the plan was criticized by the public.

The Qiangsheng, Haibo and Jinjiang taxi companies will not launch the fee before the Spring Festival, authorities said.

The fee is expected to be set at 4 yuan (64 US cents).

Dazhong Taxi Co already charges 4 yuan for reservations and is the only cab operator in the city to do so.

The cab companies said they need to introduce the fee to cover increasing costs.

Operators said 2 yuan from the fee will go to the cabbie while the remainder will be used to cover increasing costs of the reservation systems.

The city's four biggest taxi operators invested their own money to set up call dispatch centers.

The centers handle 57,600 calls on average per day, or about 3.3 percent of total rides, according to traffic officials.

Passengers don't like the idea of a reservation fee.

"If I am going to the airport, I will still book a taxi," said a resident surnamed Lu.

But Lu said it's "unreasonable for the companies to transfer cost rises to the customers."

Karen Yu, who works downtown, said she will not book a cab for short trips if a reservation fee is introduced.

But she said booking a cab may be the only way to get one during inclement weather.

Drivers had mixed feelings about the proposal.

A cabbie, surnamed Wei, who works for Qiangsheng, said drivers might earn a little more, but it could also lead to less bookings, which would hurt business.

Qiangsheng said it spends about 10 million yuan a year on its reservation system.

The company has 13,000 taxis in its fleet, the most in the city. Its computer database has 600,000 customers listed. When one of them calls again, the system automatically dispatches a taxi to the correct address.

Taxi booking services in Shanghai first started in the early 1990s but were halted later that decade.

Dazhong resumed charging for reservations in 2006.

Company officials said they faced strong opposition at first and business dropped, but over time, the booking volume returned.

The flag-down fare for all cabs in the city is 14 yuan.

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