New government measures aimed at improving Beijing's notorious taxi industry will most likely prove ineffective, drivers, transport experts and residents agreed.
The new regulations, issued by Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport, stipulate taxi companies could face closure if it is discovered they have received too many complaints, such as drivers refusing to pick up passengers at peak times.
Drivers who severely violate rules such as refusing passengers, taking detours, and bargaining will be barred from cab driving for three years.
This comes amid recent media reports that over 10,000 of the city's 66,000 licensed cabs stay idle during rush hours, as cabbies effectively lose money.
An employee from the administrative office of Beijing Commission of Transport, surnamed Zhang, said that this new regulation was issued to bolster the image of the taxi industry as a service industry.
"The cab company could be closed or forced to reduce the amount of taxis they operate if they receive too many complaints," he said.
"People can call the 96123 hotline to complain, giving information like when and where they were refused by a taxi driver," he said.
Wang Yan, a taxi driver from Beijing Shouqi Taxi Company, said these new regulations would not change the basic situation.
"Drivers won't make money if they are stuck on the road for too long," she said. The meter counts 10 yuan ($1.6) per five minutes while driving but only counts two yuan while waiting.
"These low earnings during peak hours might not even cover the cost of our gasoline," she said.
Liu Xin, a taxi driver from Beijing Tianma Taxi Company, said that this regulation will not improve the rush hour lack of cabs.
"We can't even get the extra money [2 yuan] if the journey is under 3 kilometers. This often happens during the peak hours, we then have to pay for it from our own pocket," he said.
"The best solution is to raise the basic fare, especially during the peak hours, so that drivers are more likely go out during peak hours and the public would also have more chance to find an available cab," he said.
Resident Lao Weike, an art curator, said he does not have faith in these new regulations working, although he understands why drivers park up at peak times.
"Instead of issuing regulations that might not work, I'd rather pay more money to increase the chance of getting a taxi," said Wei. He is prepared to pay up to double the current basic fare if he could be guaranteed a cab at once, he said, as you need to factor in the cost of your business while you are waiting.
Flagfall has been 10 yuan for a 3-kilometer trip since 1998. The fare was last raised to 2 yuan per kilometer for all standard cabs in May, 2006. In downtown Shanghai, flagfall was raised to 14 yuan in 2011, the highest in China.
Beijing government gives taxi drivers a subsidy of 1,305 yuan a month, and passengers pay an extra two yuan on top of the fare as a fuel subsidy for longer journeys.
According to data from the China Youth Daily on January 8, in order to pay all his expenses, including fuel, maintenance and rent to the cab company, a driver needs to earn a minimum of 30 yuan per hour over a 10-hour day. During rush hours, they often cannot cover this basic expense.
At present, taxi drivers have to pay rent of 5,175 yuan per month to their company.
Meng Bin, professor of urban planning at Beijing Union University, said just introducing tougher measures will not solve the problem, but he rejected the notion that the basic fare should be increased.
The government should offer subsidies to taxi drivers to cover their costs, instead of shifting the cost over to the passengers, said Meng.
"Taxi drivers don't earn enough money, and operating their cabs at peak time is too expensive for them," he said.
"But increasing the price shouldn't be an option," he said, noting that since taxis are a necessity, any changes to the price should be done with caution.