Taxi and bus concessions

Cars and taxis queue up along Brown St in Suva. Government has approved concessions to assist the elderly to travel either by taxi or bus. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

Cars and taxis queue up along Brown St in Suva. Government has approved concessions to assist the elderly to travel either by taxi or bus. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

LIVING on a limited income can be very difficult to make ends meet when costs increase for essentials such as health, housing, food, and travel.

This can be challenging for senior citizens living in the absence of assured and sufficient income to support themselves.

The Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation has always recognised the contributions of senior citizens in the country.

In a bid to support them and ensure that the elderly are able to commute at an affordable rate, the ministry came up with the concession card scheme.

The concessions are discounts or preferential allowance provided by the state to assist the elderly to travel either by taxi or bus.

Similar concessions are also given to those who are physically challenged. Both groups are provided with concession cards to ease their financial difficulty.

Anyone over the age of 60 years, persons receiving food or family assistance or physically challenged are eligible to lodge their application with the Social Welfare Ministry.

While bus concession card is clear in terms of discounts given to both groups of people, the same cannot be said for taxi fare concession.

There are some taxi operators who deny senior citizens and physically challenged individuals from state sanctioned concessions.

In other cases, there is lack of clarity in terms of how much discount is given if one travels by bus or taxi.

Based on the agreement between the Government and the Fiji Bus Operators Association, all elderly persons over the age of 60 receive a 50 per cent concession on bus fares whereas persons with disabilities can travel free on buses.

The concession cards are colour-coded to assist bus drivers determine the concession rate. Yellow identification cards (IDs) are used by senior citizens and the red ID cards are used by persons with disabilities.

Holders of yellow ID cards will pay half of the fare while those carrying the red card will not pay bus fare.

Similarly, a deed of agreement was signed by the Government with the Fiji Taxi Association in November 2011 when the new taxi fare was approved.

There was a huge increase in taxi fares.

Under that agreement, taxis could charge 10c for every 100 metres when the previous charge was 10 cents for 200 metres of travel.

And the flag fall for taxis in Ovalau, Vanua Levu and Taveuni increased to $1.70.

Taxis operating from Nausori and Nadi airports have a flag fall of $5 and all other taxis shall have a flag fall of $1.50 and all taxis can increase its flag fall by 50 cents between the hours of 10pm to 6am.

The agreement had a provision for the 20 per cent discounts which clearly stated that: “The association together with all its members jointly and severally, hereby agree that with effect of the date of commencement of this agreement, all taxi operators will provide taxi service, at a discount rate of 20 per cent of the actual fares, to disabled persons, senior citizens and those persons receiving food or family assistance from Ministry of Social Welfare, provided that these persons are certified and issued with relevant identifications card by the relevant agency. The discount rate shall only be valid for journey up to 20 kilometres”.

There was also a clause in the new agreement which did not allow taxidrivers to refuse any passengers unless they were drunk, carrying animals or kept changing destinations.

These current ID cards are sufficient proof for the individuals to get the 20 per cent discount on taxi fares.

However, the council has noted that a handful of taxidrivers are not complying with the agreement.

Numerous complaints have also been received from consumers who were denied service by drivers when they showed their concession cards.

Taxidrivers made excuses to avoid taking runs for senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

Taxi operators cannot be selective on the basis of losing out on a few dollars because of the travel discounts given to these members of society.

Furthermore, taxidrivers are not allowed to refuse passengers from any short runs.

Senior citizens and persons with disabilities are also advised to always carry with them their ID cards to ensure they qualify for the bus and taxi fare concession.

Consumers facing such problems can always visit the council offices in Suva, Lautoka and Labasa or call the National Consumer Helpline tollfree number 155 to seek advice or lodge their complaint.

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