The blazing morning sun, the dust blowing from the streets being cleaned or the long single file queue has not shaken or deterred civilians from eagerly awaiting for a taxi to arrive. The sparsely arriving taxi, akin to a sardine, packs civilians without a single murmur coming from the passengers who are pressed for time.
“I just wanted to get to work on time, in peace, with my cloths still in good shape and intact; but that is too much to ask for. I sat in the back seat of the taxi by the window and as soon as I got in, I noticed filth and vomit all over the corner of the seat and floor. I told the assistant to which he replied to stop complaining and just open the window,” said Zekarias Alemayehu, recounting his morning taxi ride from a week prior.
“That not it. He then proceeded to pack the taxi with extra passengers while the whole thing still smelled like vomit, and we all just sat there and accepted it because we needed to get to work,” added Zekarias.
Countless passengers like Zekarias have turned a blind eye to the mistreatment of themselves and others, while those that choose to speak up have either gotten ridiculed, made out to be the villains or were forced to wait for another taxi in hopes of a better service.
The public transport in the city has been a source of nightmares for many residents for years now, with many sticking to it due to a lack of options.
With demand for public transportation rapidly increasing, aided by rural urban migration, and limited resources, taxi drivers have milked this opportunity as a means to demand more tariffs especially after dark. Although some taxi drivers claim that the prices they charge is barely enough to cover their living costs, the impulsive price increases has frustrated the masses.
“I don’t own this taxi; I have to pay my employers on top of paying my assistant. I usually do charge the regular amount but when it gets dark, yes I charge an extra amount because I am working overtime,” said Getahun Telaye, a taxi driver that has been in the business for more than eight years.
“I understand how it could feel unfair and I try and stick to the tariff for that reason but when it is really late and I am working for an extra cash, of course I am going to up the prices because I am sacrificing the time I could be spending with family and friends,” added Getahun.
The problems plaguing the public transportation system, its availability, safety, fairness and quality of services are not all to be put on the shoulders of public transport providers themselves. According to a research on public transportation published by Frehaileab Admasu, the shortcomings are attributed to all stakeholders.
But tariff is not the only problem encountered by civilians that use public transports. Most women are left to deal with overzealous men, inappropriate remarks, and groping especially on trains.
“As if it isn’t bad enough that I count the ratio of women to men in a taxi because I’ve heard of many horror stories of people getting kidnapped and mugged in regular taxis; I also have to hold back my complaints anytime the taxi driver decides it’s a minute after sundown and the taxi fare has doubled somehow,” said Lidiya Tesfaye, a working woman who resorts to public transportation after working long hours at her office job.
“I can’t afford ride hailing services and the rail transportation is too crowded and full of creeps to even consider, so I put up with whatever is thrown my way in a taxi. It is totally unfair and yet I put up with it because my choices are limited,” added Lidiya.
The government is trying to mediate the problems in the transport sector by availing buses, minibus and free transportation for government employees. While all these started to contribute in alleviating the issues faced by civilians, the rate at which they are being implemented hasn’t caught up with the pressing needs of citizens on a regular basis.
“Taxis haven’t gone back to their regular tariff after the corona, when they were forced to carry half the passengers for double the price. Now they carry more than the capacity and charge just as much. So, I don’t doubt they won’t do the same thing in months’ time when fuel prices increase. There is no solidarity between the public and the service providers so we shall see how it goes,” concluded Lidia.