HAVANA – A government plan to regulate the private cabbie business, which sprung up decades ago in an effort to counteract the many urban mobility problems affecting the city, began on Monday in Cuba’s capital.
For years, Havana’s bus system has been known for its many inefficiencies, and every day hundreds of people are compelled to resort to any one of the private cab drivers roaming the streets in a country where buying a car is a luxury beyond the reach of most Cubans.
The “experiment” requires private drivers – most of whom own US-made autos from the 1940s and ’50s – to reach out to any one of the government offices authorized to issue taxi licenses.
To apply, drivers must own a valid driver’s license, as well as contract to purchase fuel and a bank account to their name.
As part of the main incentives of the program, applicants will be able to purchase fuel and obtain spare parts and accessories at prices up to 20 percent lower than market.
Once approved, drivers will have to meet minimum and maximum fuel consumption quotas, depending on the specific vehicle they own and the routes they are assigned by the state-run transport system.
Owners of personal vehicles, as well as SUVs and vans with capacities between four and 14 passengers, are encouraged to join the program, which will provide as many as 26 terminals across 23 associated routes.
Cuba’s Transport Vice Minister Marta Oramas recently said that the measures proposed seek to strike a balance between “the interests of the people” and those of Cuban drivers adhering to the service.
“The state must guarantee a stable, ordered and quality service,” Oramas added.