Jolly yellow taxis to flood the streets of Vilnius

  • 2001-03-15
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - Vilnius municipality officials have stated that the city's taxis should change their image from July 1, 2002. They should be not older than 12 years of age, and be painted yellow. The cars should also be decorated with traditional taxi stripes.

On the front window a taxi should have red and green lights. The red light will show that the cab is occupied, and green would mean that the taxi is available. Only cabs meeting all these technical requirements will get a license.

Taxi companies and taxi drivers alike are dismayed with these changes, which would require additional expense on their part.

Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas supports the new rules. "First of all, it would be nicer from an aesthetic point of view. Secondly, it would stop the activities of illegal taxi drivers," Zuokas said.

"Taxi drivers are not happy with the new rules," Jurate Janusauskiene, head of public transport department of Vilnius municipality, told The Baltic Times. "Of course, nobody wants to make additional investments. Taxi drivers say they would have problems selling cars painted yellow if they decided to change one. Licensed taxi drivers were complaining about pirate drivers without licenses. But now, legal drivers do not understand that we are acting to help to them."

She emphasized that at the moment anybody can put a plastic hat on the car and pretend to be a taxi.

"These pirates can remove the taxi signs from their car roofs in seconds if they see the police coming. It is much more difficult to paint a car yellow. Taxi firms and their drivers also are demanding that Vilnius municipality put a limit of one litas ($0.25) as the minimum rate for one kilometer. But this is not a liberal view and our municipality will not interfere with it. The market should decide about the price," Janusauskiene said.

Taxi drivers are unhappy indeed. Many of them use their own cars, which are often over 12 years old.

"The new regulations would mean the end of my business," said one driver, who did not want his name to be mentioned. On the roof of his obviously dated model was a plastic sign with the inscription "Taxi", and nothing more. No license with his photo was evident on the front window, as it should be in a legal taxi, and no business name or phone number could be seen.

According to the new rules, four out of five Vilnius taxi drivers will be forced to leave their cars in the scrapyard. Only 355 taxis in the city out of a total of 1,708 are newer than 12 years old.

Former Vilnius Mayor Rolandas Paksas, now Lithuania's prime minister, had plans to introduce similar regulations on taxis in 1997, but his concerns about passenger comfort were overruled by the interests of the taxi drivers' trade union.

Now taxi drivers are protesting again against these new regulations. They have already appealed to Parliamentary Chairman Arturas Pau-lauskas to defend their interests.