Good vs. bad taxi drivers in Istanbul’s cut-throat competition

Good vs. bad taxi drivers in Istanbul’s cut-throat competition

There is new measure that requires taxi drivers in Istanbul to obtain a particular document - a kind of second license.

Halit Yılmaz, an executive board member of the Turkey Drivers’ Federation, said this new practice would improve the quality of the service. “Controls will increase. Not just anyone will be able to drive a taxi, minibus or shuttle vehicle,” Yılmaz said.  

In line with the new measure, a document will be issued and new training will take place every two years. Any driver who used up his given 100 points for violations will be banned for six months and will then have to do his training again.  

If this initiative transforms into a seriously conducted project to make taxies safer, the people of Istanbul will be so much happier. 

Previously, foreign language education was given to Istanbul’s taxi drivers in order to let them communicate better with tourists. Psychological therapy has also been provided to some of them for anger management. 

I’m a regular user of mass transportation. I mostly use the taxi company in my own neighborhood but also sometimes take taxis from elsewhere.    

As a resident of Istanbul, I have had some very unpleasant taxi experiences. I have heard even worse ones.  
There are some taxi drivers who systematically cheat tourists in the most popular spots of the city. There are abusers and beaters. There are drunks. There are some who use their taxi as a cover for illegal business. There are some who deliberately miscount the change, denying that you’ve given them a 100 lira banknote and claiming that you gave them 10 liras instead. There are deceivers who pay the change with counterfeit money hidden in their stash. 

You may say this is exaggerated. But listen to Sinan, a taxi driver who spoke to daily Evrensel for a report in July 2016. “You can do any kind of dirty business in a taxi. You can sell drugs and weapons,” Sinan said.  

Last month, in a brawl between two taxi companies, drivers attacked each other with knives and arms. Six people ended up wounded. If you put “taksici dehşeti” (taxi driver violence) into a search engine, you get 143,000 results. If you type “taxi driver fight” you get 292,000 results. If you type “intoxicated cabbie” you get 203,000 results. If you search for “taxi driver and tourist” you get 269,000 results. 

I assure you, a majority of the latter are not about taxi drivers who were helpful to tourists thanks to their foreign language skills. 

At the start of the summer we heard about a taxi driver in Istanbul kidnapping a tourist woman after pushing her husband out of the car. He locked her in a depot for four hours, after which the woman was thankfully able to escape by her own means.    

Officially there are 18,000 taxis in Istanbul (and 50,000 unregistered ones). Most taxi drivers have nothing to do with the scandals I detailed above. 

But it is true that anyone can be taxi driver in Istanbul. The “real” drivers are justifiably very uncomfortable with this situation. That is why they are sharing these stories. 

I hope that the new project, if conducted seriously, will help eliminate the bad ones and prevent their re-entry into the system. I hope Istanbul’s taxis reach such a standard that you can rely on them and trust them with your possessions, spouse, friend and child. 

Meanwhile, on a related note, a local rival of “Uber” has started offering services in Istanbul. Ertunç Kiriş, the founder of “Olev,” said in a recent interview that “the size of the market in Istanbul has exceeded $1.5 billion annually.” 

The pie is big. The competition is cut-throat. We know that taxi drivers have an “insane love” for these new businesses. But I want them to keep in mind why people opt for these applications. They often use them in order to ride with a driver they know. They use them because there is a certain office and authority where they can file a complaint, if necessary. They use them because they are clean and comfortable. Most importantly, they use them because they are safer than taxis.

With all this in mind, I wish Istanbul’s taxi drivers the best of luck with the new “documentation” practice.