Taxis in Bogota are now required by local law to modernise by switching from traditional taximeters to intelligent devices tablets or smartphones. The system was launched on March 28, 2018, and the deadline for cabs to comply is the 28th of May, 2018. After this date, any taxi without it will be considered illegal.
According to the Bogota’s District Mobility Ministry, by mid-March, out of 50,000 registered taxis in the city, more than 22,000 already have the new system in place, but that means over half are still yet to introduce the new measures.
Figure 1: Taxis in Bogota, Colombia
In Bogota, the taxis are organised in different companies and unions, with a significant number of them against the implementation of the new technology. The taxi drivers and companies in Bogota claim that the new technology is inadequate for day-to-day operations. One argument is people using the service will not always have all the necessary information to calculate the right fare or want to make stops along the way. In addition, taxi drivers are concerned about their security, some claiming that having the devices could make them susceptible to crime as people could look to steal them. reason why they are opposing is the supposed cost increase for both drivers and users. For the drivers, on top of paying their normal fees (concession fee, insurance and registration), they have to acquire the devices, and for clients the new prices set are higher, making the service less affordable and competitive against providers such as Uber or Cabify, which are not regulated by Bogota’s transport authorities and do not have to pay such fees.
The fallout has seen numerous strikes and protests around the city in recent months, though despite the pressure the authority has not made concessions. As an attempt at a compromise, some taxis have installed new metres that give a receipt with the name of their company and driver but are still fighting against the new system promoted by the local government.
How does the new system work
Each vehicle will have two tablets/smart devices - one for the user and one for the driver. Once you get in the cab, you will have to enter the exact address you are going to. At this point, the final tariff will be displayed so that the user knows how much they have to pay.
The price of the service is set by the authorities, and on top of the regular fare determined by distance, some additional increases will be included in your total fare:
- Initial fare $2,800 Colombian pesos (1 USD=2,720 COP)
- Extra charge for travelling to the Airport $5,000 COP
- Night charge $2,400 COP
- Door to door charge $900 COP
The technology installed on the devices in the taxi will automatically calculate any congestion surcharge and distance to display the final fare to the users.
Any additional charges are illegal, except for luxury (bigger cars) services that have higher rates, though the price will be displayed on the tablet at the beginning of the journey so there are no surprises.
Pros of the new system for customers
Bogota, just like most major cities, faces mobility/congestion challenges. One of the government’s steps to tackle the problem has been to take control and regulate the different modes of transport around the country’s capital. Regulating the tariffs of taxis through the introduction of new technologies gives certainty to passengers on how much they will pay and avoids the ability of some dishonest drivers of tricking the metres to charge more. Furthermore, it should in principle stop the old tricks, such as “the meter isn’t working.”
For expats, and especially tourists, this also gives them an ease of mind as there are no unpleasant surprises.
Taxi drivers claim that the new technology does not give enough flexibility to users as people request several stops or want to use their own routes, which is not allowed or calculated into the fare. Other problems include:
- Increase in tariffs for users
- Cost of the equipment for drivers
- Areas in the city with no Internet connectivity
- Passengers unfamiliar with the use of technology (elderly and people that can’t read or have visual impairments).
- Exact address not always available/known by passengers
- Security concerns for drivers (they claim that by having these expensive devices they are now even more of a target to criminals)
- Unfair competition by app-based service providers that are not regulated by the authorities, as they do not have to pay the fees imposed by the government and industry making their service cheaper.
If you are in Bogota there are other options apart from the ‘amarillos’ (how yellow cabs are called locally). Private transport apps/services are available from:
- Cabify (Spanish company with an important presence in Latin America)
- Easy Taxi (Brazilian app with a presence in 420 cities)
- Tappsi (Bogota-based app created for Latin American cities)
For all of the above options you need to download the app and register a credit card. They are all available for Android and IOS systems.