Friday, June 30, 2006

talk about overdoing it!

Ever wonder why services (taxis) in Beirut are so damn cheap - as opposed to the prices of almost everything else? Well... we always knew there were just too many of them! But how many?

According to Emerging Lebanon's 2006 Report, "there are estimated to be at least 30,000 registered taxis in Lebanon [most of which, operate in Bierut]." Again, according to the report, that number is around 30% more than the number of taxis in London - a city with a day-time population of 12-14 million people!!!

Go figure!


vox p said...

There's too much supply and these people can barely bring enough money to feed their family. It's sad. In most countries, the government limit the number of taxis, but I am not sure if this would be a good thing in Lebanon or not.

ghassan karam said...

I believe that NYC (population over 10 million people) has 12,779 yellow cab medallions. Are there too many cabs in Beirut? Of course there are and I would usually argue that the number should be reduced by 60-70% in order to reduce traffic congestion, improve the quality of air and reduce co2 emmissions. But in this case I do think that regulation will turn out to be counter productive. Lebanon has so many Taxis not because the profession is so highly rewarding but because it is better than the alternative. What is a relatively unskilled person expected to do? To buy a car and operate a Taxi is neither educationally demanding does it require a prohibitive investment and above all it lends dignity to life because the owner will have the pride of not being unemployed. Any attempt to limit the number will not work but will generate illegal Taxis.

Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

Ghassan, I have thought about the pollution problem but if the cab drivers accept those low incomes, it is because they don't have any alternative. If you introduce regulations in that sector (and note that the current legislation is not even enforced) how will the cab drivers who don't receive taxi license live?

Jamal said...

On average they make $600-$800/ Month + SS benefits, so it beats anything else they would do.

As for the High number of cabs, the lack of any sort of public transport system in Beirut (other than ja7esh el dawleh) is the biggest factor in this number.

Anonymous said...

You need to take out a mortgage just to take a black cab in London.

JoseyWales said...

You guys seem to be complaining about the one thing that works (and at low cost) in Lebanon.

Paris, NY, and London ought to have many more (cheaper) cabbies.

Cynic said...

many of these poor bastards are working as taxis as a second job to make a little extra or are unemployed and have no other choice. $600-$800!!!! If they make $400 a month they would be lucky. The Lebanese bi7ibo yishab7o and prefer their own cars than to take a cheap cab ride and avoid gas and a parking.

acrobat said...

great post raja!

In london there are a lot of minicabs in addition to the Black cabs. to get a black cab license, you need to study for 5 years then pass an exam. one of the requirements is to be able to know by heart 3 different routes for any trip from A to B.

in all cases, there are not enough cabs in london - try to get one on a saturday night! and too many in beirut - you have to beg them to stop harassing you to get in. i've been in service cabs in beirut that had such a pavlovian reaction that they would BEEP their horn at anything that moved, even at 3:00 am, there would be no one in the street, they see someone in their own car, or a cat, they BEEP it!

anyway, it is definetely a good way out for hard-done people, and the only regulation should be that they shouldn't BEEP so much. we need to reduce noise pollution now (it did make a HUGE difference since they stopped diesel/mazout engines on taxis a few years ago)

PS it is stupid to keep repeating that there is no public transport in beirut, the service taxis are much more convenient and accessible than any public system in europe or the US, plus there are excellent bus services inter-cities, and very cheap ones inside beirut for those who can't pay more than 500LL for their daily commute.