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Newly-launched taxi regulations raise prices for passengers

By Levan Abramishvili
Tuesday, October 8
The second phase of the taxi reform entered into force on October 1, according to which, taxis are divided into groups A and B. A taxi category has to be white. Taxis in this category are permitted to take passengers off the street. Category B taxis, unlike A, can work mainly on request.

Quickly after the regulations went into effect, the prices for the passengers increased significantly. Some say they had to pay triple the price for taking the usual ride from work to home. This unexpected spike in prices left many people helpless, especially those having to travel at night, considering that due to repair works the Tbilisi metro closes at 11 PM.

“The rise in prices for taxis was the effect of the first day. Today everything is already regulated,” the mayor of the capital Kakha Kaladze said when talking about the increased taxi fare. However, after a week since the regulations went into effect, the prices haven’t decreased.

On October 5, while talking about transport problems in the city, the mayor denied altogether that the prices have increased.

“You don't have the right information. On the first day there were problems ... I also have Bolt [taxi app] and we can verify right now and you will be convinced. My request will be to not lie to the population,” Kaladze told reporters.

The mayor also addressed the information that 27 thousand drivers were left jobless due to the new regulations.

“The information is being deliberately circulated as if we had left 27,000 taxi drivers without a job. This is inaccurate information and does not believe its sources,” Kaladze said in a Facebook live. Kaladze talked about the development of the transport system and made a presentation on how to use new taxi lightboxes.

“Nobody will have the opportunity to raise prices at the expense of the reform and the people. Inevitably, these things will be back to normal and the market will regulate itself,” Kaladze added.

Yesterday Tbilisi City Hall has started distributing the lightboxes. At this point, there are over 100 boxes issued. According to the number of registered taxis, it is planned to issue more than 6500 signs. They will only be issued to the taxis with category A permits. Furthermore, to help drivers adjust to the new regulations, all those who received fines on October 1 were pardoned.

Girchi, known for finding ways to get around the law, announced a new form of taxi, which they call ‘shmaxi.’ After being fined for driving a gray taxi to ‘check how the regulation works’, the leader of the party Zurab Japaridze registered the company himself in the public business registry.

Girchi began to distribute yellow signs with ‘shmaxi’ written instead of ‘taxi’ so that the drivers who don't drive white cars can still do business without violating the law.

According to Japaridze, the purpose of ‘shmaxis’ isn’t to drive passengers, but to educate them. If stopped by the police the drivers should say that they are educators, not taxi drivers. He says the fare will depend on how much educational material the passenger has time to listen to, not on the distance.

Since the regulation went into force, several ‘shmaxis’ have already been fined, as promised by Mayor Kaladze, who said that if the libertarian taxi drivers came out in the streets they would get ‘shmaxed [fined].’

The first steps in regulating taxis went into effect in January 2018. Since then, drivers have been required to obtain special permission from the City Hall. 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.”