Sydney Morning Herald - Friday 2 January, 2009

Fare's unfair: law-flouting cabbies steer clear of fines

By Name Paul Bibby

THEY are a constant source of frustration for Sydney motorists and pedestrians: taxis stopped in the middle of busy roads or bus zones as traffic banks up behind them.

Yet while illegal taxi drop-offs are a daily occurrence, it appears the drivers are fined only once in a blue moon.

Figures obtained by the Pedestrian Council of Australia under freedom of information laws show only a handful of parking fines were issued to taxi drivers by councils and police during the last financial year.

The classic taxi misdemeanour - double parking - was picked up just 244 times across the state, 650 fines were issued for parking in a bus zone and 21 drivers received fines for stopping in a clearway.

Across 28 different parking offences chosen for their connection to public safety, just 3879 parking fines were issued across NSW. This was 0.41 per cent of total parking fines issued during the period, and less than one fine for each of the state's 5500 taxis.

"Why have these offences applying to taxis at all if you're not going to issue any fines?" the president of the Pedestrian Council, Harold Scruby, said.

"Is the potential for road trauma any less when it involves a taxi than a regular car? What we're seeing here is that councils are driven entirely by revenue rather than safety. They can spot an expired meter from Mars but apparently they can't see a taxi stopped illegally in the middle of the road."

More than half the state's councils issued fewer than than 10 taxi parking fines across the 28 categories for the year.

This included many rural councils where parking is easier to come by, but also a significant number of inner city and suburban councils such as Canada Bay (2 fines), Burwood (7), Ashfield (8), Baulkham Hills (0) and Penrith (2).

Mayors and general managers contacted by the Herald said the low figures reflected the fact that taxi parking offences were not a problem in their areas.

"We rarely get any complaints from residents about taxi drivers parking illegally. If we did we would do something about it," the acting general manager of Baulkham Hills Council, Michael Edgar, said.

The NSW Taxi Council said the numbers reflected improved taxi driver behaviour.

"Like all motorists, taxi drivers have been subject to an information campaign to improve their compliance," a spokeswoman, Tracey Cain, said.


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