January 21, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 61  

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Up front pay system eyed for London cabs

By Maureen Finn
Gazette Staff
Meghan Hart/Gazette
MAKING THE ROUNDS. London taxi drivers may be asking for a portion of the fares up front in lieu of dumbass drunks who run off without paying and other such miscreants.

London cab companies are looking to implement a fare-deposit system to prevent fare fraud. If the cab drivers of London have their way, riding and running will no longer be an option.

London Taxi Association president Hasan Savehilaghi is leading the initiative to put an end to what he sees as a growing problem. “Fare fraud is an ongoing problem. Overall, asking for a deposit in advance is the best alternative,” he said.

Savehilaghi said the LTA wants to legalize the advanced deposit system and make it part of the taxi bylaw in London. He said under certain circumstances London cab drivers have been asking for a deposit before driving customers to their destinations.

“It is a taxi driver’s right to ask for a deposit if he feels it’s necessary,” Savehilaghi said. “Whether the city accepts it or not, we are going to be asking for deposits in cases where we think we should.”

He explained that fare fraud tends to be a problem with young adults in London, but not specifically with university students. “Sometimes students become excited because they’ve been pre-drinking and a few get a little out of control, but overall I have no serious concerns with students specifically,” he said.

“The worst situations are when several people get in a cab and get dropped off at different locations, then the last person asks you to stop and jumps out without paying,” Savehilaghi explained. “But sometimes a customer will tell you to take them to a location and once you get there they say they don’t have any money,” he said, adding if a deposit was required issues such as this could be discussed ahead of time.

Savehilaghi plans on meeting with the London Police Department to discuss the issue. “Together, we can provide alternatives so that nobody is abused — cab drivers or customers.”

Const. Paul Martin, spokesperson for the LPD, said the idea of paying cab drivers up front has been contemplated for some time. He said fare fraud occurs on a regular basis and alcohol is usually a factor.

Savehilaghi said taking a deposit is the best option because there are legalities with requesting collateral, such as photo identification. He said he feels implementing the fare-deposit system will reduce the amount of time wasted by police, as well as taxpayers’ dollars. “If the deposit idea is accepted by the city and the police then there will be far fewer calls to the police regarding fare fraud,” he explained.

Michelle Smibert, manager of the City of London’s licensing elections, said London’s taxi bylaw does not currently allow for this new system. She said there will be a review of the bylaw early this spring.



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