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April 29, 2013

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Home » Metro » Public Services

2nd taxi firm adds a booking fee

SHANGHAI'S largest taxi fleet operator Qiangsheng is to charge for telephone booking from today as a "scarcity premium" is becoming part of the fare paid by passengers during rush hours with the increasing popularity of third-party smartphone applications.

The company's 13,000 taxis have had their meters updated to add a fee of 4 yuan (65 US cents) for each phone booking, which will be divided between the taxi driver and the dispatch center.

Booking feels were halted by the local government in the late 1990s but Dazhong taxi company started charging for telephone booking again in 2006. Before today, it was the only company charging a fee.

The Jingjiang and Haibo taxi companies are expected to charge for telephone booking soon though they haven't released an exact timetable.

The Shanghai Transport and Port Administration called a halt to charging the fee before the Spring Festival in February to assess the issue following passengers' complaints.

Earlier this month it clarified that a booking fee did not violate local pricing regulations and "will ease and partly solve the demand-and-supply problem during rush hours."

Taxi dispatch centers are facing increasing competition from smartphone applications allowing users to book taxis.

Using apps, drivers within a certain distance from the passenger can receive a "pick up" signal and the two parties can then negotiate a fee for the booking, to be divided between the driver and app developer.

Dazhong and Qiangsheng also run smart-phone applications.

Taxi drivers worry the new booking fee may turn off passengers.

"Those who want to take a short trip may stop calling," said a Qiangsheng taxi driver surnamed Huang. "Four yuan is not much, but some people may not think it is worth it."

For those who are not tech-savvy, making a phone call still seems the most convenient way to book a ride, Hu Yaping, a regular Qiangsheng passenger, said. The extra fee for phone booking is "totally reasonable."

"It saves me a lot of time, and time is precious," Hu said.


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