A Taiwanese tourist was declined a ride by over 20 taxis in the mainland’s Xian city, causing local newspapers and netizens to reflect on Xian's transport problems.
On July 22, a Taipei traveller named Liu Hsiang Mei arrived in Xian and tried to hail a taxi to her hotel, Xinhua reported . Various taxi drivers stopped to ask her where she wanted to go, but after hearing that her destination was only 1.3 kilometres away, the drivers either rejected her outright or said the roads were bad or they were unsure of the route. At least seven empty taxis also passed Liu without bothering to stop, and after waiting for over an hour and hearing rejections from more than 20 drivers, Liu was forced to carry her luggage to her hotel by foot.
Reporters from Xinhua conducted an investigation on Xi’an taxis after the incident and waited at various city intersections and street corners to see whether taxis would stop for them. The results were mixed - while certain streets yielded taxis faster than others, reporters generally had to wait from five to 15 minutes before they could successfully hail a taxi. On more than one occasion, empty taxis would drive by and ignore them completely.
A Xian Taxi Management Office spokesman, named Zhang Xiaoping, told Xinhua that it was unclear why Liu had been rejected so many times. He apologised for Liu’s misfortune and said if she could provide evidence the drivers had intentionally ignored her, they would be punished in accordance with Taxi Management Office regulations. Zhang also said that generally, if passengers felt taxi drivers had wrongfully denied them a ride, they could call the office and file a complaint.
Sina Weibo commentators were sympathetic to Liu. Many said that even though her destination had not been far, dealing with unwilling taxi drivers was a common problem in Xi'an.
“The number of Xian taxis who refuse potential passengers is unparalleled,” one blogger wrote. “I’ve never seen so many in any other place.”
Several took the opportunity to discuss problems with the city's other forms of transport - such as buses.
“Compared to Xi'an bus drivers, Xi’an taxi drivers are relatively decent,” another said. “Bus drivers treat their passengers like cattle, always telling them to move backwards [to the end of the bus] in a rude tone of voice… These people believe that…in a state-run public transportation world, they are the ‘masters.’ This is a deep-rooted problem in our society.”
A common sentiment amongst Weibo commentators was that this sort of incident “would never happen in Taipei”.
“I just came back from Taipei yesterday,” a netizen from Shenzhen wrote. “I sat in taxis several times and met many drivers… They all had a good attitude and would chat with me and introduced me to local places. Taiwan’s service industry - we really have a lot to learn from them!”
Taxis in Taipei are generally easy to hail, and the city has been making efforts to improve its public transport services. In June, the Taiwanese Ministry of Transportation and Communications offered Taipei taxi drivers a subsidy of NT$400,000 (HK$103,700) for purchasing wheelchair-friendly vehicles.