Encouraging the Shift from Private to Public Transport- Are Taxis Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?

Encouraging the Shift from Private to Public Transport- Are Taxis Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?


J Hawthorne, Sinclair Knight Merz (Europe), UK



Taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) are commonly accepted by transport planners and modellers as a public transport mode, in that they provide an alternative to the use of private cars, particularly in circumstances where other forms of public transport may be unattractive, inappropriate or simply not available.

This recognition as a form of public transport is also commonly extended to the application of legislation and taxation, and in derogation from the application of local traffic restrictions, for example:

?Þ Exemption from the London Congestion Charge
?Þ Permission to use bus lanes
?Þ Access to restricted areas of town centres through gates and barriers.

At transport interchanges such as airports and railway stations, taxis and PHVs often enjoy a degree of preference over other modes such as bus and coach, for example through more prominent positioning of taxi ranks and PHV booking offices.

Yet in modelling terms their use of road space has much in common with private cars, and in situations where the over-riding objective is a reduction of vehicle movements, a switch from cars to taxis and PHVs may at best be neutral and at worst result in an increase rather than the desired reduction.

It could therefore be argued that the division between private and public transport is not clear cut, and thus that the status of taxis and PHVs may differ depending upon the nature of the issues to be addressed or the type of modelling to be undertaken.

This paper considers a range of issues which relate to the ambiguous status of taxis and PHVs on the private-public transport spectrum. These include:

?Þ How relevant and important is the availability of taxis and PHVs as part of the decision process regarding car ownership and use?
?Þ Is sufficient data available for effective modelling of the taxi mode?
?Þ How do taxis and PHVs compare with kiss and ride and car sharing?
?Þ How do taxis and PHVs compare with private cars in their use of road space, and under what circumstances does shared use of bus lanes make sense?
?Þ How significant are empty movements of taxis and PHVs and what is their impact?
?Þ To what extent can other public transport modes draw lessons from taxis and PHVs ¡V and vice versa?
?Þ How do the different characteristics of pre-booking, ranking and on-street hailing impact on requirements for road and kerb space in comparison with other modes?
?Þ Are there circumstances in which over or under provision of taxi capacity can impact adversely on other modes?
?Þ What are the pros and cons of schemes such as shared and line taxis?
?Þ What are the situations where taxis and PHVs can provide a more effective public transport solution than other modes?

In considering these issues, the paper makes specific reference to a number of situations where the use of taxis and PHVs is or can be significant, including;

?Þ City and town centres
?Þ Access to railway stations
?Þ Access to airports
?Þ Transport in rural areas
?Þ ¡§Out of hours¡¨ transport when other modes may not be viable or available

Taxis and PHVs are typically licensed by regional and municipal authorities, thus there are significant differences in the licensing and operating conditions both nationally and internationally. The paper draws on the authors¡¦ experience of taxi operation both in the UK and overseas, with particular reference to city centre operation including London and Birmingham and access to major UK airports and railway stations.


Association for European Transport