Dublin hit by taxi shortage

by Rachel Cunningham
0 comment

Rachel Cunningham

Dublin is suffering from a dearth of taxis, especially at weekends as the post-Covid night lifestyle of city dwellers kicks in, it was claimed this week. 

And this return to a sense of normality ahead of the St. Patrick’s Day festival following two years of pandemic restrictions has exacerbated the pressing need for more drivers to be incentivised back into the industry.

Highlighting concern over the problem of long delays and weekend queues was Bolt Ireland operations manager, James Bowpitt. He told the Dublin Gazette: “The real root of the problem is that there are less registered taxi vehicles on the road now than there have been before. The NTA (National Transport Authority) figures for the last decade indicate that it has just been declining steadily.

Read more in this weeks Dublin Gazette out in stores now

“Access to taxis has actually improved over the last three or four years, the implementation of apps has helped to connect drivers and passengers. It’s evident that we’re really facing a supply problem in Dublin; we need more drivers”.

With 235 fewer registered SPSV taxi vehicles than in 2020, FREE NOW, Ireland’s leading multi mobility app, has estimated that this weekend’s festivities, in addition to the Ireland v Scotland match, will see demand for taxis soar between March 16 and 20, predicting a 173 per cent increase in trips year-on-year over the four days.

Despite improvements to mobility app technology, many drivers opt not to use mobility apps during peak periods to avoid paying a commission to a third party, while some prefer not to waste time trying to locate a specific customer in extremely busy areas.

In an effort to resolve this, Bolt Ireland will be offering drivers zero commission for St. Patrick’s Day, while it also provides cash bonuses for completing a certain amount of trips, to entice drivers to work into high-demand hours.

Rising fuel costs as a direct result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will place added pressure on the already overstretched industry and Mr Bowpitt explained that an increase in fare costs would be the most likely solution.

“The NTA undertook its maximum fare review in 2019 but did not implement it due to COVID-19. What that means is that drivers’ fare prices haven’t moved for nearly four years. The reality is that drivers need support on this and prices will have to adjust to make being a driver a more logical financial option.

“The NTA is currently undertaking its 2022 review but that will take three to six months to complete and then implementation probably won’t begin until 2023. That isn’t going to solve the immediate problem we have with a general shortage of drivers on the road.

“I can’t estimate what the NTA will decide in their fare review but the authority has always been quite measured in the way it does its fare adjustments. There will be slight adjustments but I don’t think they will be so dramatic as to make passengers less inclined to travel by taxi”, he said.

He also listed alternatives that councils and legislation could enable, such as following the lead of other European cities that are providing e-scooters and e-bikes.“More than 40 per cent of our trips are less than four kilometres. While these aren’t an option if someone has consumed alcohol, there’s definitely space there for other mobility options to fill that gap and free up taxis for longer journeys”, he stated.

To avoid delays and disappointment in the short term, Niall Carson, General Manager FREE NOW Ireland, advised pre-booking journeys. He said: “This will be the first time that people will have had a chance to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day outside of the home for two years and with a double Bank Holiday and the Ireland v Scotland match at the weekend. We’re expecting it to be a busy one.”

As well as pre-booking, FREE NOW advised considering multiple transport options and avoiding peak times, where possible. Mr Bowpitt’s top tips for passengers were to share taxis, walk away from crowded areas when using apps or to flag taxis on the left-hand side of the street, as they drive into the city, so that you can get to them before they reach a crowded area.

Related Articles