Taxi drivers hold protests
By Levan Abramishvili
Thursday, March 21First steps in regulating taxis went into effect in January 2018. Since then, drivers have been required to obtain special permissions from the City Hall. Since then, the process of standardization of taxis is being gradually carried out in an attempt to create a safer and more comfortable service for the citizens and tourists. More regulations are scheduled to come into force in October 2019.
The reform envisions creating a uniform visual standard for taxis. There will be two categories of taxis – A and B. According to the taxi registration website, taxi.tbilisi.gov.ge, this is what the categories will look like:
Category A taxi standards:
- Is white
- Has passed technical inspection
- Is a left-hand drive (LHD)
- Is a five-door car
- Has a white luminous light with an inscription TAXI Tbilisi
Category A taxi drivers will benefit from several privileges:
- Using special parking spaces for free
- Putting an advertisement on the transport vehicles and gaining an additional income
- Will receive a free voucher for repainting their cars
- Will receive a free voucher for chemical cleaning of the car interior
Category B taxi standards:
- No requirement for the white color
- Taxis will only be able to operate using apps or calls (no picking up passengers off the street)
Category B taxi drivers won’t be able to benefit from privileges:
- Won’t be able to use special parking spaces
- Won’t be able to use a TAXI Tbilisi sign
The vouchers will be distributed to the owners of taxis that have attained taxi licenses by October 10, 2018, and have successfully passed a mandatory technical inspection of their cars.
On March 20, several dozen taxi drivers gathered and held a protest in front of the City Hall. They are demanding that the decisions regarding an obligation to repaint taxicabs, bi-yearly technical inspections, as well as banning right-hand drives and cars with two doors to operate as taxis should be reviewed.
As of now, the number of registered taxicabs consists of 28 040 vehicles. Taxi drivers at the protest are also saying that the vehicles would need to be serviced in order to pass the mandatory inspections. They stressed that there aren’t enough car services that would meet such a high demand in time for all of the cabs to conform to the set standards by October. Therefore, they are asking for the reform to come into effect on a later date.
The vice-mayor, Irakli Khmaladze, responded to the protesters’ demands and expressed his readiness to meet them, but also made it clear that the rescheduling of the reform is unacceptable for him.
“I had meetings with the taxi association and cab drivers before. But I don’t think that we should be discussing the postponement of anything. On the contrary, I think that the reform is very timely. If there will be a discussion regarding other issues it will be possible to have a dialogue. Postponement, changing the color standard and cancellation of the right-hand drive ban is unacceptable. If someone operates with a rented car, they can give it back to the owner or repaint it in an agreement with them. We have taken into account all of these circumstances and none of the drivers will experience unresolvable issues“ said Khmaladze.
Cab drivers at the demonstration said that they aren’t planning to stop protesting until their demands are met.