Robots. No, I speak not of the technologically advanced machinery designed for leisure or pleasure. I speak not of the complex combination of metals controlled by a computer software. I speak of the men who risk their freedom, their lives, their everything to take the stranded home. Okay, so again I make have exaggerated just a bit. But we all know the ‘Robots’ – the illegal taxi (public passenger vehicle) operators, the men trying to ‘eat a food‘ while playing hide and seek with the police officers.
Legal taxis have a red license plate, government vehicles have yellow plates, demonstration vehicles have blue plates, commercial vehicles have green plates and white for private passenger vehicles. Where there are white plated vehicles operating as taxis, we refer to them as robots and this is an illegal activity. Robot taxis are very common in Jamaica, I see them everywhere I go. While I do not support illegal activities, I have found that the activities of these robots have become quite necessary. The community where I lived most of my life has a ‘transport system’ run completely by robots. So much so, that if a red plated vehicle drives by in hopes of getting a few passengers, the passengers would be reluctant to enter that strange machine.
I also realized that in the corporate areas, at nights the legal taxi operators are not present in numbers significant enough facilitate the transport of passengers, the robots are usually present to rescue.
The big problem exists when they are caught by the police. Whenever police men are around, numerous persons are unable to travel.
The observer reported back in May, 2004 that taxi drivers were switching from red plates to white plates to avoid harassment by the police. It was reported that 70 persons made the switch. It appears the police are more vigilant of the red plated cars, which puts them in the spotlight.
Drivers may also be refusing to get a ppv license plate because of the difficulty associated with the application process. It is very time consuming and frustrating. Given that the transport system is not optimized, there are often not enough taxis to ensure the timely flow of passengers, couldn’t they speed up the process of the application? Those who actually are successful often times use unconventional methods. Thorough checks are quite necessary, car fitness is definitely an integral part of the process. But the entire system is corrupted. Did you know that you can purchase a certificate of fitness? A lot of work needs to be done to fix this messed up system.
The approach the government has taken to eradicate the robot operators makes no sense. Passengers can now be charged as much as 100,000 JMD for using the services of a robot taxi! Do you have any idea how much fish-back that could buy? Where there are no legal taxis available, what choice do you have?
I personally believe every passenger vehicle should be legal. For the safety of the passengers, and for accountability. However, the law enforcers should be a little more lenient in cases where no legal taxis are available. At least until the transport system is better regulated.