Sunday, September 02, 2007

Carpooling is a crime in Dubai

Just more nuttiness from the Arab world.

I can understand cracking down on non-licensed livery drivers, but the fact that they are also fining carpoolers shows that the government is thoroughly corrupt:
The Road and Traffic Authority in Dubai has doubled the fine imposed against motorists who illegally transport passengers without a livery permit. Residents from low-income background decried such measures saying that this is making transportation difficult for them.

Many residents of Dubai and the northern emirates benefit from these illegal taxis, as their prices are low compared to the licensed ones.

Another widely used form of transportation, which is also punishable by law, is the car pool. It is a system in which office workers with cars pick up their colleagues from their homes and drop them at work and vice versa for a fixed amount of money. The car pool is heavily advertised in the classified pages of the local newspapers.

These illegal systems benefit commuters who have no alternative means of transport other than expensive taxis or irregular buses. Dubai, which is revamping its public transportation system by adding hundreds of new buses, is considered better than the neighboring emirates that do not have such systems in place.

Mohammed Obaid Al-Mulla, CEO of Public Transport Agency at the authority, stated that the fine has been raised to AED5,000 from AED2,500.

“Statistics gathered from a series of field campaigns launched since 2004 up to July 2007 show that this phenomenon has several characteristics; namely: it is widely practiced and virtually covers all areas in the emirate of Dubai. However, it is noticed that passenger smuggling is habitual in certain locations well known to both smugglers and passengers, but rarely does it take place at sides of main roads. Moreover, these locations are constantly being changed to avoid reporting campaigns. In fact, it is rather difficult to assess the actual magnitude of this practice as it involves several categories of vehicles, at the top of which come private vehicles, rented cars, commercial transport vehicles and private-companies vehicles,” commented Al-Mulla.

Informed sources at the Public Transport Agency revealed that Franchise and Performance Control Section at the agency launched a new campaign aimed at heightening the awareness about passenger-smuggling in Dubai with a view to curb this phenomenon, which is inflicting heavy losses on the public transport sector.

He also noted that this practice retracts when reporting campaigns and fines are announced, but is usually matched with the entry of fresh smugglers, while those who were in the business return after a short break. He further added: “It is noted that upon streamlining of taxi activity in other emirates, taxi drivers switched their vehicles as private vehicles and deployed them in passenger-smuggling business in Dubai. More drivers are expected to engage in this practice following streamlining of transportation activities in various parts of the UAE.”

As to the losses inflicted by this practice on Dubai Taxi Agency, Al-Mulla stressed that it results in material losses to the agency as well as jeopardizes the standing of the agency as a service-providing body seeking to deliver optimum services in innovative methods in line with the best global practices applicable in this vital field. “Smuggling of passengers is viewed as an uncivilized practice incompatible with the standing of Dubai as a commercial and economic center in the region. Such a phenomenon is capable of undermining the efforts of the RTA to expand and develop the transport sector, let alone the resulting losses suffered by various service, tourist, social and other sectors,” added Al-Mulla.

Rather than improve their public transportation and taxi services to do a better job, they penalize its competition and call it "smuggling."