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Press luck to catch cab from bay, beat refusal

A dozen taxi bays were set up along roads at prominent places in the city last week to spare commuters the harassment of refusal. The step follows transport minister Madan Mitra’s assertion that taxi refusal would not be tolerated.

Calcutta police had promised to keep a close watch on the bays. “The response for the taxi bays has been very positive. We have managed to bring down the number of refusals and harassment. We are looking to increase the number of bays to 20. The demand is higher than the availability of taxis in commercial areas. We will address the problem,” said deputy commissioner (traffic) V. Solomon Nesakumar.

Metro hits the road to check if these taxi terminals have made any difference.

Location: New Market-Lindsay Street crossing

Bay timings: 10am-10pm

When visited: Noon and 6.30pm (Thursday)

What happened: A couple stood at the designated but empty bay and watched taxis on the road drive off around 6.30pm. After 20 minutes, they walk about 50m towards The Oberoi Grand and hail a cab. It stops and they get in. No policeman was in sight at or near the bay. The scenario was different around noon. There were enough taxis at the bay. But none could be found after sunset.

What worked: Police supervision and a terminal full of taxis during the afternoon.

What failed: No taxi and no policeman during evening rush hour. An officer on watch near Esplanade blamed manpower crunch.

Location: South City Mall

Bay timings: 5pm-10pm

When visited: 7pm (Friday)

What happened: All taxis dropping people at the mall proceeded straight to the bay under strict police supervision. An orderly queue of people waited for their turn to get into a cab. Taxi numbers and passenger names were jotted down on a logbook.

What worked: The bay was right outside the main entrance and easy to locate. Policemen spreading out along the length of the mall ensured no empty cabs or ones dropping passengers off got away.

What failed: The opposite flank leading to Jadavpur police station was neglected. Several empty cabs sped off, refusing passengers.

Location: Jeevandeep

Bay timings: 5pm-8pm

When visited: 7pm (Thursday)

What happened: An empty bay and a solitary traffic policeman trying hard to help people get cabs. Barely 20m away at the Russell Street crossing, taxis refused passengers with impunity. “I have been waiting here for 15 minutes and got refused by two taxis already,” said a man outside the ITC office on Russell Street

What worked: Police stopping vacant taxis on the road.

What failed: No effort to push taxis into the bay as most of them were trying to steer clear of it.

Location: Park Street

Bay timings: 6pm-10pm

When visited: 7.45pm (Thursday)

What happened: A policeman near the bay opposite The Park directed taxis into the bay. He and another officer stopped a number of taxis that were trying to drive away.

What worked: Many taxis were at the bay because of active police work.

What failed: Several people were refused near McDonald’s, Bar-B-Q and the post office because they were not aware of the presence of a taxi bay down the road.

Location: Rashbehari crossing (Kalighat Metro station)

Bay timings: 9am-noon and 6pm-10pm

When visited: 8.40pm (Thursday) and 9.30am (Friday)

What happened: Perhaps the only taxi bay that comes close to what the authorities had in mind. A team of policemen ensured about three taxis at the bay all the time. An officer maintained a logbook. A loudspeaker kept announcing the bay facility. “We recorded in our diary about 60 taxis between 6pm and 9pm at the bay,” said an officer.

What worked: Waiting time was minimised because of the number of taxis at the bay. Publicity through the loudspeaker helped too.

What failed: Some empty taxis skirted the bay despite the bandobast.

Location: Tollygunge crossing

Bay timings: 7.30am-11am and 6pm-10pm

When visited: 10am (Friday)

What happened: Three policemen stood with their backs to the taxi bay behind a row of guardrails next to an auto stand. The office-hour traffic meant they had little time to attend to the bay, which lay bare and empty cabs gave it the slip. They did stop a few, though. A woman with her elderly mother waited for 15 minutes for a cab after which she crossed to the other side of NSC Bose Road and caught a cab from the middle of the road amid heavy traffic. “The police were caught up with pedestrians and traffic,” the Tollygunge resident said.

What worked: The attempt to stop cabs when passengers turned up.

What failed: No effort to keep taxis at the bay or have a dedicated team to maintain it.

Location: Hazra crossing

Bay timings: 9am-noon and 6pm-10pm

When visited: 1pm and 8.15pm (Thursday)

What happened: Taxis had a free run minutes after noon at the crossing hardly 200m from Mamata Banerjee’s residence. Around 12.30pm, an elderly man was refused a trip to Jadavpur by a cab (WB-04E-6875). A policeman at a kiosk 30m away said: “The police did their job till noon.”

What worked: The police managed to keep taxis on standby during the morning and evening bay timings.

What failed: Brazen refusal in the non-bay hours despite police presence.

Location: Behala Chowrasta

Bay timings: 9am-noon and 6pm-10pm

When visited: 11am (Friday)

What happened: A bay next to a broken brick road. A traffic policeman stood under a shed a few feet away. He didn’t step out even once. Workers from a Citu-run taxi union office near the bay randomly stopped a few cabs. Most passengers were at cabbies’ mercy.

What worked: The fact that a taxi bay board was put up.

What failed: No police presence and Citu men handling the bay. Taxis avoided the dilapidated stretch.