Rising taxi rancour as fines grow
Sydney Morning HeraldSaturday 10 July 2004
|By Alexandra Smith
Hailing a cab from a corner in central Sydney depends on the willingness of taxi drivers to defy the law and risk hefty parking fines, the taxi industry warns.
Parking restrictions introduced across the CBD have resulted in drop-off and pick-up taxi points across the city slowly disappearing, forcing drivers to pull over illegally, the NSW Taxi Council says.
The council said the changes to the road rules were "making the task of taxi-driving extremely difficult".
"Despite efforts by the council over the last two to three years, infringement notices continue to be issued unreasonably to taxi drivers who stop to drop off passengers in no-stopping zones," the taxi council wrote in a newsletter.
NSW adopted the Australian Road Rules standards in December 1999, paving the way for all "no standing" signs to be phased out and replaced with "no parking" or "no stopping".
A spokeswoman for the taxi council, Tracey Cain, said the number of drivers receiving parking fines had increased greatly, forcing some drivers to ignore passengers trying to hail a cab from the pavement.
Ms Cain said the council had met the city council and the NSW Transport Services Minister, Michael Costa, to try to allocate more legal pick-up points for taxis.
One cab driver, Michael Jools, a spokesman for the Taxi Action Group, said drivers risked being fined up to $155 for pulling over illegally to pick up a passenger.
"The city council is more interested in revenue-raising than anything else," Mr Jools said. "There aren't enough taxi ranks around the city, which means the drivers who can afford to turn down a fare will drive past people who are standing in 'no stopping' zones trying to hail a cab."
Mr Jools said some drivers were prepared to risk the fine rather than lose a fare, or have a complaint lodged against them with the Ministry of Transport.
Half of Sydney's 20,000 taxi drivers had been fined for stopping illegally, Mr Jools said, and many of those had been fined multiple times.
He said the CBD's parking restrictions were complex, leaving drivers confused about where they could stop.
A spokeswoman for the city council, Pam Walker, said "no standing" signs in the city had become no-parking or loading zones and were not simply changed to no-stopping areas.
"We allow taxis to stop for one minute in loading zones," Ms Walker said.
The city has reaped as much as $14 million from parking fines in recent financial years since the "grey ghost" parking officers, formally employed by the State Government, became employees of the council in 2001.
A 50-50 profit-sharing agreement was struck with the Government as part of the transfer.
Ms Walker said she could not say how many parking fines had been issued to taxi drivers.
The chief executive of the Pedestrian Council, Harold Scruby, said the Roads and Traffic Authority should implement a specific taxi zone in the CBD to allow drivers to pick up passengers.
"The Government needs to clean up the confusion of parking in the CBD and I do have sympathy for cab drivers."