Thursday, February 16, 2012

Taxi zum Klo

The Economist discovers the power of System D--through an examination of the unlicensed taxis that are the backbone of public transportation in Tehran. From the article:
In the absence of formal structures, a sophisticated eco-system of cab options has emerged. Commuters can call a taxi to the door or flag one down on the street to go dar baste (literally, “closed door”), hiring the whole cab for themselves. Or they can walk to the nearest main road and, at any point on the street, jump into one of the passing shared taxis that ply fixed routes up and down that particular street or between major city squares. These shared taxis form a city-wide hub-and-spoke network. Unlicensed cabs look like normal cars, but move slowly as they look for fares, flash their lights at waiting commuters and tend to have the window open just a crack so people can shout their destination at them.
Two commenters provide different takes on the quality of System D taxi systems in other cities:
1. I live in Lima, Peru where there exists a de facto total liberalized and unregulated taxis market (I say de facto because in theory, you would need to be registred to work as a taxi driver). I can tell you one thing about Lima: traffic is a mess, and that's mainly because of the huge supply of taxis that overcrowd the streets. So you have to take in conunt this externality that spreads well beyond this market and, at the end, impacts the city productivy of the country as a whole also in the analysis.
2. I regularly do business in Tanzania. The taxi system there is very like to is in Tehran - if I try and walk I am regularly 'peeped' at by hopeful taxi drivers who want to take me wherever. I will take a taxi, and, if he and I get on, often I will hire him for the time I am in country. He teaches me Swahili and waits for me between meetings. We agree a fair price. I have never had a bad experience. As everyone has mobile phones, if he doesn't know how to get to where I want to go, he phones my client and gets instructions. I love it. I learn a language, make a new friend, and get my work done at a reasonable price. Do I need anything more?
[A hat tip--and a taxi ride--to Zach for sending this my way]


Anonymous said...

I lived in Brasília-DF/Brazil between 1993 and 1994 and - at that time- exisited exactaly the same "taxi-sharing". I took it several times from the Central-Bus-Station (above the Conjunto Nacional) or along the "L2-Avenue" to the Federal University (UnB). This year (january 2012) i was there and there is no sharing any more, desapeared :( They were prohibited since the 2001.

Anonymous said...

The same with me! I also lived in Brasília when I was a teenager and at that time we had three options to go to school: 1) undergo a contracted (regulated) transfer, usually associated with security but also expensive; 2) take the public/private (regulated) bus - shitty service, buses were full and breaking every week; 3) take this taxi-sharing or shared unregulated vans - cheaper, faster and a bit more confortable. During the last years, these vans were banned after severe political pressure from private companies (corrupted and stupidly managed, btw) who engaged in contract service with government for the public/private buses....

You can see, it´s not all about government stupidity in the end, we all know that these buses companies bride political officials to get the contracts ....