Muscat: With the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, the number of taxis plying on the city streets has fallen drastically, leaving daily commuters frustrated and feeling the pinch in absence of an efficient proper public transport system in the city.
People waiting for taxis under the sun in residential and office areas, while going for work or returning, has become a common sight almost everywhere in city since Ramadan began, except for market and commercial areas.
Humaid Al Balushi, a taxi driver, told the Times of Oman that he continues to remain available in Ruwi area since he lives nearby but due to Ramadan, fasting taxi drivers have difficulty in driving all through the day. "They find areas which are convenient for them in terms of proximity to their homes and avoid driving on longer routes as returning for iftar can become a big hassle," he said.
Driving beyond a limit
Abdul Kareem, a taxi driver who lives in Al Wadi Al Kabir, said: "Fasting and driving beyond a limit was not possible during Ramadan. We do not get too many customers everywhere as most people prefer to stay indoors or in their offices. We do not have any well maintained stands to park our cars and have to wait for the customers. This is why it is difficult for us to be always available by the road side and wait for people," he explained.
Mohammad, a taxi driver in Al Ghubra area, agreed that lesser number of taxis are plying on the streets during Ramadan. "For most of the day, we are fasting and after iftar, when we can come out, there are only two to four hours of commercial and amusement activities left in the city. Therefore, it becomes difficult for us also to make as much money as we normally make by driving taxi," he noted.
Meanwhile, the number of new taxis registered in Oman has come down drastically this year. According to the latest data which the National Centre for Statistics and Information made available to the Times of Oman, only 1,636 taxis were registered in the country last year.
Commuters suffer taxi crunch
This year, by the end of April, only 400 new taxis were registered in the country against 566 during in the same period in 2013, accounting for 29.3 per cent decline.
It was noticed that among the areas from Muttrah to Seeb Souq on the Sultan Qaboos Road which experience an acute shortage of taxis are Darsait roundabout, Watayya, Al Sarooj, Madinah Sultan Qaboos, Bousher and airport heights. Many people who live in the residential-cum-commercial areas of Qurum have also complained of very few taxis being available during the day when the sun is harsher.
Zahid Ahmad, who works at a construction site near Mawaleh, said that ever since Ramadan began, he has to wait for 15 to 30 minutes for a taxi in Al Khoud area to go to his work.
"These are just initial days of Ramadan, and I feel that I will have to face the same problem all through the month. We do not even have city buses or other public transport system to ferry us from one place to another.
The taxis are privately owned and they are on the road only at the whims of the owner, unlike a proper public transport system that other countries have," he said.
Kavitha, a paramedical employee in one of the private hospitals, said that she now has to leave her home well in advance and at times it takes as much as 30 minutes extra to make it to the place of work in time.
"During Ramadan, employers of emergency or essential services providers should arrange for transportation of their staff, particularly in a place where there is no concept of a public transport system," she said.
Mathew, a salesman in a jewellery shop who lives in Watayya and works in Qurum, said. "It is difficult for me to come home with my family ever since Ramadan began. On the first day of Ramadan, I waited for more than 20 minutes for a taxi on the main road.
"I work the first shift, but prefer to skip going home for lunch. I finish my duty at 5pm and then reach home and have lunch. But I will prefer to work in the second shift so that I can go to work after lunch. My Muslim colleagues have agreed for this arrangement as I am not fasting."
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