- Language Tips
Beijing traffic authorities are encouraging residents to share taxis to overcome the shortage of cabs during rush hours.
"Regulations permit co-hiring a taxi when all passengers get in the car at the same place and head in the same direction," Yao Kuo, director of the Beijing transportation law enforcement team, said.
"We hope taxi enterprises will try to offer such a service," he said.
Yao warned that taxi drivers who refused to accept shared hiring would be penalized.
The city's traffic and finance authorities already have rules that stipulate a passenger pays 60 percent of the cost of a trip that is jointly taken.
Beijing has more than 60,000 taxis, carrying about 2 million passengers every day.
Zhang Changqing, a traffic law professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, welcomed taxi sharing as it would not only help relieve the city's traffic congestion but also reduce exhaust emissions.
But he said authorities should regulate to differentiate between multiple hire arranged by the passengers and that arranged by taxi drivers intent on making a profit.
"Co-hiring a taxi should be encouraged with the passengers' full willingness and knowledge of an arrangement. But some drivers randomly pick up passengers when there are already customers in the taxi and they finally charge all passengers the same fare in order to make more money, which is not legally permitted," he said.
But residents and taxi drivers do not seem to share enthusiasm for co-hiring.
Lu Xiongyu, who works at a trade company in Beijing, said it was worth sharing a taxi to save money on a long journey, but not for a short one.
"Also, I have to spend time finding other people who want to share a taxi with me and, at the same time, go in the same direction," he said.
Gan Qianyi, a Beijing resident, said she would not choose to share a taxi unless she urgently needed to get somewhere.
"It's okay to share a taxi with others if it's in the daytime and the place I want to go to is not that remote. But I would refuse to share a car with strange men at night because I think it's dangerous and embarrassing," she said.
Zhang Yi, a Beijing taxi driver, said he heard he could offer the co-hire option several years ago, but the technical problem of invoice printing has made many passengers shy away from it.
Other cities have varied policies on co-hiring taxis.
Fuzhou, Fujian province, allows it, but any driver who forces passengers to share a taxi would incur a fine of up to 1,000 yuan ($160) or have his taxi driver's license suspended for two years.
In Shanghai, taxi drivers are strictly forbidden to solicit customers to share taxis.
Huang Rong, director of the Shanghai urban construction and communications commission, said Shanghai's traffic conditions were different from those in Beijing, and taxi sharing may not be the best solution.