You may have noticed if you've jumped in a cab recently that the base meter prices have become a bit... steep. That's because the Shanghai Development and Reform Commission recently implemented a two Renminbi fare increase, which means daytime trips will start at 14 RMB, and nighttime trips at 16 RMB. Why the change, which marks the second price increase in two years? Reports state the ever reliable “rising oil prices.”
As Expensive as New York!
Whether you believe the reasons behind the change or not, the fact is that taxis are becoming more and more of a luxury. As Asia Healthcare Blog points out, the current flag down rate for a taxi in New York City is the equivalent of 16 RMB, and “if the Shanghai government continues its every-two-years policy of taxi fare increases, and China's government continues its revaluations of the RMB against the US dollar, then by 2013, it'll be more expensive to sit down in a Shanghai taxi than a New York City taxi.” Granted, the per kilometre charge is still significantly lower in Shanghai, but you get the point and the fact that people are even mentioning New York City and Shanghai prices in the same breath should be a sure sign of worrying times ahead.
But what does Shanghai hope to gain from this rise in taxi prices? According to CNN, the purpose is to move citizens and expats alike away from using taxis and towards the more economically (and environmentally) friendly choice of public transportation. Remember reading about those three-day long traffic jams in Beijing? Well apparently authorities don't want something like that happening here, so the use of buses and subways are being made more and more appealing to the masses.
Reducing Bus Routes Too?
So in that case, it makes sense that Shanghai is increasing the number of bus routes available. Wait, what? That's right, in a time when taxi fares are at an all time high, Shanghai is actually scaling back its bus routes, making changes to 283 routes out of 1,165. They even plan on canceling some routes altogether and having other ones stop at metro stations instead of inner city locations. City traffic authorities say they hope to eventually increase the number of bus routes available, but in the meantime commuters will be having a hell of a time getting to work.
With taxi fares too expensive for many and bus routes getting canceled, what sort of transportation do the Chinese authorities want us using? It looks like the metro and bicycles are what are left. With all those bus routes stopping at metro stations, it forces many commuters to buy both bus and subway fare, making it more expensive (and time consuming) to get to work. But with all the aggressive extensions being built for the metro system, it's becoming more accessible to those in every part of the city.
According to the Clear Air Initiative, the metro will grow from its current 420 kilometres of track to 500 kilometres by 2012. At the beginning of this year, construction was under way for Lines 12 and 13, and extensions were being built for Lines 9 and 11. This should make all those shortened bus routes a little easier to handle.
Those who prefer a smaller carbon footprint can also take advantage of the growing bicycle share programmes offered in the city. Pudong, Baoshan, Minhang and Xuhui Districts have all implemented a system in which bicycles for rent are available all day, every day for 2 RMB for the first hour and 4 RMB for every subsequent hour. This will help those who haven't made the plunge toward buying their own bike, but still want to avoid the hassle of public transportation at rush hour.
Hey Illegal Ones Might be Cheaper
While the result of these taxi fare increases will ultimately result in improved public transportation and (hopefully) less pollution from cars, there are some distinct negatives that come from this price hike, namely, a probable increase in illegal taxis. Apart from oil prices, another supposed reason for the price hikes was to help increase the pitifully low salary of taxi drivers, but many people will probably refuse the higher prices of legitimate taxis in favour of illegal cabs. After all, if you negotiate with one long enough, you can most likely get where you're going for less than if you rode a registered taxi. The result will be a comparable number of cars on the road but fewer fares for honest, legal taxi drivers.
While some may have to find a new way to get to work now that the cab fares have increased, for most people in Shanghai it's simply an additional annoyance. In the end, only time will tell whether fares can increase so much that it makes a noticeable dent in the Shanghai traffic situation.
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Keywords: Taxi fare in Shanghai Shanghai metro public transport Shanghai clean air Shanghai bus routes Shanghai
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