Mon, Nov 13, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Taking a taxi need no longer be a taxing experience

CABS YOU CAN TRUST Plum Blossom taxi drivers can be relied on as safe, while Tour Taxis could prove a godsend to non-Chinese speakers

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Trying to hail a taxi at night that will ensure you a safe ride home or finding one with an English-speaking driver can be a challenge.

With the establishment of the "Plum Blossom Taxi Club" and the "Tour Taxi Fleet" by the Taipei City Transportation Department, however, passengers can now easily identify such taxis.

All 1,790 Plum Blossom Taxi Club members have been rated as excellent cab drivers over the past four years and have no records of traffic violations or accident liabilities over the past year, while the 163 Tour Taxi fleet members have passed English proficiency tests held by the city government, according to the department.

"Improving the quality of the taxi service will provide city residents and foreign visitors alike with a safer and more convenient service and increase Taipei's competitiveness in terms of tourism," commissioner of the department Jason Lin (林志盈) said yesterday at the launch ceremony of the taxi clubs in front of Taipei City Hall.

Fluorescent logos

To help passengers identify the taxis easily day and night, the department provided fluorescent plum-blossom shaped logos and English-speaking stickers for display on the taxis' windshields.

Foreign visitors can also pick up brochures with a list of English-speaking taxi drivers at major hotels and call the drivers for service.

While thanking the government for its efforts, William Yang (楊斌), director of the Tour Taxi fleet, suggested that establishing a call center for the fleet would help visitors find English-speaking taxi services even more easily.

"Foreigners can call the center, and we would dispatch a cab upon request. Without a call center, they need to call individual drivers on the list and try to find one who is available," he told the Taipei Times.

Looking for lessons

Besides negotiating with the transportation department for better support, Yang said that the fleet is also looking for English teachers to give lessons and sharpen their language skills.

Louis Guinaudeau, English consultant for the fleet, said as a foreigner in Taiwan, he found Taiwanese taxi drivers were friendly to foreign visitors, but their poor English did not help create a good first impression of the country.

"They are friendly to foreigners and try to communicate with them ? It's a shame that more don't speak English," he said.

Addressing the ceremony, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) lauded the establishment of the taxi organizations, while urging the department to set up a Japanese-speaking taxi fleet in the near future. The largest number of visitors to Taiwan come from Japan.

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