Lauding the decline of passenger complaints since it began rolling out a new taxi meter system last year, state-backed transportation company Mowasalat has said it plans to install the devices in all of its franchised cars in the near future.
Mowasalat began outfitting some of its 4,000-car fleet of Karwas with the meters last summer, in response to increasing customer outrage over being overcharged by drivers who doctored the devices or said they were broken and set their own rates.
Speaking to the Qatar Tribune, a Mowasalat official said that passenger complaints have declined by 50 percent since the new meters were rolled out.
The devices apparently send an alert to the main office if tampered with, and are also outfitted with displays that show GPS coordinates, a driver’s full name and other information.
Bane for drivers
However, while the system may be a boon for customers, many taxi drivers have complained that the new meters have cost them hundreds of riyals in forsaken or withheld wages.
Last month, airport taxi drivers – who are only allowed to pick up fares from Hamad International – complained to Doha News about the recently installed GPS systems.
Because they were being more strictly monitored, the drivers said they could no longer pick up any additional passengers to supplement their salaries before returning to the airport without facing sanctions.
Other drivers said Mowasalat has been garnishing their wages for allegedly breaking traffic rules or returning cars with scratches or dents – even if they did not receive any actual citations from police.
One said there was no way to contest the penalties because drivers are not told of the location, date or nature of the offense, leaving them wondering if it was a parking infraction, moving violation or damage to the vehicle.
Over the past few years, Mowasalat has been in the process of franchising its fleet.
However, in recent months customers have not been able to individually call the franchised operators, which must all charge the same rate but have tried to distinguish themselves based on customer service and other offerings.
Instead, there is now one unified number – 800TAXI (8008294) – that passengers can call to book the car that is closest to their location, a move that Mowasalat officials said would lead to “faster and better” service to clients.
Some have welcomed the idea of a unified bookings system, as drivers would have to spend less time touring the city and touting for business.
But others say the change has made it impossible to book taxis in advance, leading to long waiting times for passengers in areas that are not frequently trafficked by drivers.