MOTC plans to liberalize taxi services

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan–The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) has unveiled a plan to liberalize taxi services in Taiwan, allowing different fare schemes and different vehicle colors.

Ordinary taxis may still be yellow, but operators of cab appointment services may choose the colors of their own vehicles, according to the MOTC.

Taxis running appointment services will also be allowed to decide their fare schemes, the MOTC said. The plan, which has been submitted to the Executive Yuan for finalization, is expected to be implemented in May, the MOTC said. The MOTC started rethinking the country’s taxi policy in response to the impact from Uber, the operator of online car-hire services. Taxis in Taiwan did not have a unified color until the MOTC decided to make them all yellow more than two decades ago. Taxis in Taiwan have since earned the nickname “Little Yellows.” But the latest liberalization plan looks to divide taxis into two categories: ordinary ones and ones specifically for appointment services. According to the plan, the ordinary ones will remain yellow, while the ones for appointment services can be any color decided by their operators. Taxi companies will be able to distinguish their fleets from others by color. The appointment-service cabs will not be allowed to pick up passengers randomly on the street, but their fare schemes can be more flexible. They can set their own rush-hour and off-peak rates, with the highest rate to be as much as double that of the ordinary taxis. The MOTC will also encourage the appointment service operators to adopt electronic payments. The MOTC said the plan will allow taxi companies to run dual services — ordinary ones and appointment ones. Currently there are more than 80,000 taxis in Taiwan, about 50,000 of them running in the Greater Taipei area, the MOTC said, adding it hopes the appointment cabs will account for at least 10 percent of all taxis after the plan is implemented. Major taxi companies expressed support for the plan. Taiwan Taxi, which runs one of the major taxi fleets in Greater Taipei, said it is glad to see opportunities for diversifying its services. The company said it will work toward running dual services. But smaller taxi firms and individual taxi drivers expressed concern, saying the changes will favor big players and harm small ones. They said small taxi firms will not be able to construct their online service networks, undermining their competitiveness in the appointment service segment.