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Emission requirement upsets taxi license price

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The bidding process for 200 new taxi licenses kicked off yesterday as the first step to solve the problem of insufficient cabs in Macau, but industry players have warned that the new emission requirements imposed on the new vehicles would significantly upset the bidding prices. However, it is believed that the fleet of new cars will serve to cut average taxi-waiting time which has increased from five minutes in 2010 to nine minutes last year.
At a press conference held in the Transportation Bureau’s office in Estrada de D. Maria II, bureau director Wong Wan and other officials announced the beginning of the 23-day bidding period and relevant details. The 200 new licenses will go to the bidders offering the highest prices. The minimum bidding price is MOP 200,000. Each bidder can only bid for one license. Two or more persons can bid together for one license but companies are not allowed to participate. In addition, each bidder will have to pay a MOP 20,000 deposit.
Wong would not speculate on the dealing prices for the new taxis but said that offering numbers ranged between MOP 800,000 and MOP 1.2 million in the previous bidding. The industry, however, expressed reservation if this price range could hold this time. Kowk Leung Shun, president of the Macau Taxi Driver Mutual Association, told Macau Daily Times yesterday that he expected the new dealing prices for the 200 licenses to be much lower that the range the government specified. But he would not give a precise figure how much the prices would fall.
The most important reason, Kwok said, is that the authority requires the new cars to meet the Euro IV emission standard. While the requirement can help to alleviate air pollution, he said, the cost is that car prices and maintenance fees climb significantly. Kwok said the switch to Euro IV means the price of a new taxi would rise from MOP 190,000 to MOP 300,000. “This is just a one-off expense, but the more harming factor is that maintenance fee would double for these new cars,” he said, adding that new techniques and equipment are required to fix the new engines, and that the filters have to be changed frequently to keep the emission level under control.
Kwok listed other risks, such as the start of Light Transit Railway’s operation in 2015, which is expected to have negative impact on taxi buses operators just like other mass transit systems. “I urge the investors (bidders) to exercise extra cautions this time,” he said.

Nine minutes taxi waiting time

Wong also released statistics on taxi waiting times, saying that the average was five minutes back in 2010, but then increased to nine minutes in 2011. In some districts, especially the northwestern areas such as Fai Chi Kei and Ilha Verde, taking a taxi could take as long as one whole hour. But Wong believed that the new cabs would greatly reduce the waiting time, although the taxi-related problems would not be solved right away.
Wong said it required complementary measures such as stricter regulations. That is why the authority is drafting a new taxi ordinance that impose more severe punishments on violation of services rules, such as abolishment of license for triple violation of the same offense.
Wong said that in response to concerns that additional taxis would crowd taxi stands outside major casinos and hotels or resorts, inspectors would be dispatched to “black spots” and ticket the drivers who violate service regulations. The new draft, Wong said, will be sent to Legislative Assembly for approval this year.
Kwok Leung Shun was glad the government did not impose restrictions on the areas of operation by the new cabs. He stressed that authorities should let the drivers decide for themselves where to go, more importantly, casinos and hotels may not be a guarantee of passengers, and that there are business opportunities outside the city center, where traffic congestion is less severe than downtown areas. He expected the taxi-waiting time to reduce significantly after the new cabs starting running.
According to the bureau’s schedule, after the bidding results are announced on  April 14, the licenses will be issued in four phases (50 each) from June to November. Following that, the authority expects the successful bidders to purchase cars and finish pre-operation checking of the vehicles in less than three months, which means the first batch of cabs will hit the road late this year or early next year.
The new licenses are valid for eight years, after which no renewal is allowed. The bureau will decide if new licenses should be issued after expiration because they expect a possible decrease in demand in the market after the light rail system starts running in 2015.
Wong also mentioned that another two batches of taxi licenses will expire within the coming few years. The authority has already decided not to renew these licenses, and it depends on the market situation whether new ones will be issued through a similar bidding mechanism.

S.C.  

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