Thousands of pirate taxis operate across Istanbul

Thousands of pirate taxis operate across Istanbul

Emre Eser - ISTANBUL
Thousands of pirate taxis operate across Istanbul

Hundreds of pirate taxi stations have mushroomed across Istanbul, especially after Uber was banned, the chamber of taxi merchants has said.

“We behaved very aggressively about Uber. When we sued them, everybody learned about the Uber services. It was us, the protesting taxi drivers, who promoted Uber,” said Yahya Uğur, former head of the Istanbul Taxi Drivers Tradesmen’s Association (İTEO).

“Despite the tax advantages, they did not renew the vehicles. At this stage, there are more than 5,000 pirate taxis working through applications or advertisements,” he told daily Hürriyet, claiming that not enhancing the quality of taxi services opened the way to unlicensed taxis.

He also said that touristic passenger transportation services will affect taxi drivers badly in the upcoming months.

In a Google search for “pirate taxi,” 103 pirate taxi stations can be found operating mainly in the districts of Bağcılar, Esenler and Bayrampaşa on the European side, and Ümraniye and Kartal on the Anatolian side. At every station, five to 10 unlicensed taxis operate. They even offer VIP service with minivans carrying up to 10 people.

They also operate around the airports, according to taxi drivers.

“Former Uber drivers now wait at points near the airports. They have WhatsApp groups. The commissioners get inside the airports to convince the passengers. Then, they text a driver waiting at a nearby spot, and they take the passengers imitating a tourism company. It’s a huge scam,” said the head of the transportation cooperative at Sabiha Gökçen Airport.

On the other hand, pirate taxi drivers want a new regulation regarding taxi services in the metropolis.

“The taxi services in Istanbul don’t meet the demand. We also want to operate under registration and supervision. Taxi number plates should be given to drivers under a new system. It is the right way to solve the problem of pirate taxis,” a pirate taxi driver told daily Hürriyet.

There are 17,395 licensed taxis operating in Istanbul, the country’s largest metropolis with a population of over 15 million. A plate for a yellow taxi is priced around 1.9 million Turkish Liras (nearly $318,000).

On Oct. 16, 2019, a court in Istanbul decided that Uber services amount to unfair competition, thus should be banned totally.

The ride-hailing company had decided to stop its minivan services in Istanbul to ease tensions with taxi drivers in the months-long dispute.

The Uber is a “closed debate” for Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said on May 24, 2019.