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November 3, 2009

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Black-cab fines to fund buses

FINES collected from the crackdown on illegal taxis will help pay for the special community buses being planned for short distances between suburban transit hubs and residential areas, the head of the city transport bureau said yesterday.

Bus companies across districts have started purchasing buses dedicated to the special service, and the first batch of routes should be in operation before the end of this month, said Sun Jianping, director of city transport and port bureau.

"We should try our best to have more such buses open to help with traffic in the suburbs," Sun told members of the city's top political advisory body.

The short-route buses might only involve several stops covering the last few kilometers between residents' homes and Metro stations. Bus operators have long been reluctant to offer such service for fear of running a deficit.

In this latest effort to fill a gap in mass-transit - believed to be a major reason for the spread of underground taxis - the government has decided to provide allowances to the bus companies required to take part, Sun announced yesterday.

Sun said the fare will probably be 1 yuan (15 US cents), half the standard ticket price on downtown buses.

Both city and district level governments will provide gas allowances to the new routes' providers, Sun said. If these allowances aren't enough to cover operating costs, fines collected from punished "black cabbies" will also be used to make sure bus operators break even on the short routes, he added.

The transport bur-eau is canvassing public opinion through the government gateway Website,, to decide where to allocate the first suburban community buses.

Several members of the political advisory body yesterday suggested the government bring more traffic police into the crackdown on illegal taxis. Currently, the non-police traffic law enforcement team is the primary force in catching black cabs.

Also, the government should make new rules for places where private vehicles usually gather to pick up taxi business, designating them as non-parking zones to all cars except authorized taxis, the members said.

"Once a private vehicle stops inside such an area, the driver would immediately face a penalty ticket for illegal parking," said Duan Qihua, a local lawyer.

A traffic fine for illegal parking costs 200 yuan.

The transport watchdog said it has cracked down on 17,000 illegal taxis through September this year. The number of illegally operating taxi vehicles is estimated at 100,000, more than twice the city's 47,000 licensed taxicabs, officials said.


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