Madrid wants cabbies to turn green
City Hall sets new regulations that aim to create an environmentally friendly service with exclusive pick-up points for so-called ecotaxis in the capital
The Madrid City Council last Wednesday passed an ordinance that makes significant changes to the city's taxi industry, as part of an effort to help reduce pollution through the creation of an environment-friendly service with exclusive stops throughout the Spanish capital.
For the first time, taxis will be able to post advertisements in their cabs - including commercials on video - but only in the vehicle's interior. Fixed rates will now be established between the Barajas International Airport and different points throughout Madrid, similar to other larger cities around the world.
On Friday, several thousand taxi drivers marched from the Public Works Ministry on Madrid's main Castellana thoroughfare to the Industry Ministry, in the Cuzco district, blocking the street for more than four hours, to protest against the government's plans to open the sector. Five people were arrested at the protests, which turned violent, with 20 vehicles damaged.
Taxi drivers had also called for a protest for August 1, in which they planned on blocking Barajas Airport and train stations. However, that was called off after the Public Works Ministry and representatives of the drivers reached an agreement on licenses. The accord maintains the number of licenses for car hires that come with a driver to one for every 30 taxi licenses.
The ordinance replaces the existing code that was approved in 1980, and could be further adjusted after public hearings. There are some 15,700 licensed taxis in Madrid. The new rates and measures could go into effect as early as fall. Here are the key points: Vehicles cannot be more than two years old when they apply for licenses and will not be allowed to circulate after 10 years. New emissions levels will be restricted to 160 grams of carbon dioxide and 80 milligrams of nitrogen oxide per kilometer. From 2014, new vehicles that do not comply with the law will not be allowed to provide service, and from 2020, all cabs must follow the emission rules.
As the vehicles begin cutting their toxic emission levels, the city will begin certifying them as "ecotaxis," which will give them additional benefits, such as allowing them to stop and pick up passengers at exclusive designated stops. Joaquín Navas, vice president of the Professional Taxi Federation, which represents about 5,000 drivers, said he will oppose the ecotaxi system because most vehicles still use diesel fuel.
Taxis will be able to continue to advertise their services on the exterior of the vehicle and, for the first time, they will be allowed to carry commercial advertisements, including videos, inside the cab. However, the publicity must be pre-approved by the city and has to be placed in certain designated areas. Along with the video commercials publicity will also include public service announcements, such as tourist information. Julio Moreno, the president of the largest taxi association, which represents two-thirds of the 15,700 licenses issued in the city, doesn't understand why drivers won't be allowed to place commercial advertisements on the outside of their cabs. He says it cannot be for esthetic purposes because buses carry them. Instead, Moreno said he will complain that the city doesn't want them competing with its own kiosks and bus stops, which allow the authorities to charge businesses for commercial advertising.
City Hall will continue to determine the price fares on an annual basis, but fixed fares from the airport to certain points across the city - such as sport arenas, train and bus stations, fairs and other destinations, will be established. Currently, there is a passenger supplement fee to the airport of 5.5 euros, and three euros to train stations and special fairs and congresses on top of the actual taxi fare. Within four years, all taxi drivers will have to give passengers the option to pay with credit or debit cards. Again, Navas is opposed to this, but said he will ask that it only be applied to passengers who telephone for a taxi.
Currently, taxis are not permitted to take more than five passengers at a time. But the new ordinance will allow drivers to take up to nine people, charging supplements for each passenger after the fifth. For security purposes, drivers will be allowed to install special rear-view mirrors and cameras to monitor their passengers.
The ordinance also establishes a minimum of seven hours that each vehicle must be in service, but will allow City Hall to determine the maximum hours. Initially, the ceiling has been set at 16 hours but could be modified for economic, traffic or environmental purposes. As of now, there is an exception to the rule that allows vehicles to be in service for up to 18 hours as long as there are two drivers in alternating shifts. The law prohibits license holders from renting or transferring their vehicles to other parties, but they can hire additional drivers at a fixed salary. It is estimated there are around 7,900 hired drivers in the city.