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Beijing to get more parking spots for taxis

By Zheng Xin  (China Daily)

09:17, February 21, 2013

Traffic management officers mark the sign of an exclusive parking space for taxis in Beijing on Monday. Nearly 50 such spaces are planned for 16 locations where people say it is often difficult to hail a cab. Taxi drivers can park for free .(China Daily/ Wu Ning)

Plans to add more than 800 parking spaces for taxis in Beijing to ease the difficulty of hailing a cab have received a lukewarm response.

According to the capital's traffic management bureau, the spots will be placed in downtown and residential areas, as well as near hospitals, schools, and subway and train stations.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Critics argued that the number of new parking spaces will not be enough to handle the 66,000 cabs on Beijing roads.

"Additional parking spaces might make it easier to get a taxi, but the move will not solve the problem in the long run," said Liu Ning, the head of the Yixing Law Firm.

The only way to solve the problem is to increase the number of taxis in the capital, Liu said.

"Although many people accuse unlicensed taxis - which number as many as their licensed counterparts - of disrupting the market, the bustling illegal-cab business shows that the demand for taxis in the capital is huge," he added.

"Only when the capital further relaxes the policies for operating a taxi, and allows more people to participate in the business, can we relieve the tension," Liu said.

During the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), the number of taxis in Beijing - which is at 66,000 - will remain the same, according to the Beijing Commission of Transport.

Liu Zihua, head of the Beijing-based Hualun Law Firm and a member of the Beijing committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said that the government should introduce a taxi reservation system to meet demand.

"The reservation system could well improve the situation for those who live in the suburbs and other places with few taxis around," Liu said.

"Reserved taxis could ask for a higher price," he added.

Wang Xiangfeng, a veteran taxi driver, said the increase of taxi parking spaces will help more passengers find taxis, but that the impact of the move will be very limited.

"Considering the price of fuel, taxi drivers prefer to stay in the same place rather than driving randomly around, especially around bustling business areas, which have many potential customers," Wang said. "Free parking spaces will help passengers find a taxi, while reducing costs for us."

However, he also said that the number of planned spots should be higher.

"Eight hundred more parking spaces can hardly improve the situation as the capital has some 66,000 taxis," he said.

Beijing's traffic management bureau said that 3,000 parking spaces for taxis will be available in the city by the end of this year, compared to the existing 2,158 spaces. The city added 500 taxi parking spaces last year.

He Qingli, a 47-year-old taxi driver, echoed Wang's views.

"Driving around looking for potential customers is hard work with low returns, especially during the morning rush hour and with bad weather - a small rear-ender will cost us a whole day's work, let alone that the price of oil keeps rising," he said.

According to the capital's traffic management bureau, Beijing will also set up more taxi-dispatch stations in downtown areas to further ease the problem, as the difficulty in calling a taxi has become a new source of public outcry.

Other vehicles occupying the parking spaces designated for taxis will face a fine of up to 200 yuan ($32), said the bureau.

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