Not so cool cabs

Oct 03, 2012, 07:22 IST | Shashank Rao

The air-conditioned taxis � introduced in the city with much fanfare in 1997 � now find few takers among commuters, cabbies and even the authorities

The city’s affection for Cool Cabs — in evidence at the time of their inception — has seemingly gone cold. And neither the state government nor taxi unions appear inclined to amend the situation. Authorities have been circulating tall claims about making commuting more comfortable and pleasant through Cool Cabs — the blue-and-silver taxis.

The number of Cool Cabs
Bead stop: The number of Cool Cabs in the city is stuck at 4,000 since 2008. FILE PIC

However, it’s been 15 years since these rides first hit the roads, but in all this time there has only been a marginal rise in the numbers. The scheme was introduced to give people a choice instead of forcing them to travel only in the rickety black-and-yellow taxis.

The inaugural Cool Cab — a Fiat — was rolled out in 1997 with the blessings of the state government. At the time earnest taxi unions had gone on an overdrive, even taking out a morcha so the government would expedite the process to start Cool Cabs.

The same unions now seem unconcerned, as there has been no effort on their part to add to the numbers that haven’t moved beyond 4,000 since reaching that mark in 2008.

The state transport department too has remained dormant over this issue, instead concentrating on introducing more and more private cab companies.

As per data available, the first lot of 51 Cool Cabs was introduced in 1997, and in the span of one year or so the number reached 250. For the next three years there was a dry spell as taxi drivers and unions claimed they were struggling to successfully promote the concept among commuters.

“The numbers again began to climb after the year 2000, but have been stuck in a rut since 2008. Currently, there is little demand for Cool Cabs among passengers,” said AL Quadros, leader of Mumbai Taximen’s Union.

The golden period for Cool Cabs was 2000 to 2008, when the fleet rapidly increased in size after the government allowed taxi drivers to convert their black-and-yellow taxis that were four years old or less into Cool Cabs. In this phase 250 Maruti Esteems, 400 Tata Indigos and 500 Tata Indicas were transformed into Cool Cabs by taxi men. The current lot largely comprises Hyundai Santros and Maruti Dzires.

However, the state government claims it has done everything possible. “Any taxi driver who wants to apply and convert his vehicle into a Cool Cab is allowed to do so under the Motor Vehicles Act. It is the job of the taxi unions to promote this initiative with their drivers,” said an RTO official on condition of anonymity.

At present there is no concrete plan from the state government to boost the number of Cool Cabs. On the other hand there are around 42,000 black-and-yellow taxis in the city. 

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