At least in Lima, Peru. It’s easy enough though, there are tens of thousands of them. They’re everywhere. They are also a contributing factor to Lima’s terrible traffic. So terrible that many people limit travel (translate to limit spending) within the city because of the downtime.
Most large cities around the world have traffic problems. But a few can’t seem to get it together to find tolerable solutions. Cairo and Nairobi are two in African that could be runners-up for the worst traffic city award on that continent. But in South America, that medal would go to Lima.
Part of the problem is the corrupt government. I don’t know this first-hand, but it is what any Peruvian will tell you. From an outsider’s perspective, the fact that nothing is being done to control the out-of-control traffic shows that there is no stomach for investing in the future of their city.
GV’s son runs the administration of a car dealership in Lima. Their monthly quota is 120 new cars per month. Most months they are over 100 (new cars sold). They also have two other locations and among the three, they sell about 500 new cars per month. There are upwards of 100 new car dealers in Lima. If they all sell anywhere near 100 new cars a month, then by conservative estimates, net new cars on Lima’s roads increase by several thousand cars each month. Most of those cars end up as taxis, bought and leased as an investment. Why? Because there are no taxi regulations in Lima. Anyone can own and drive a taxi. Just go to the local market and purchase a magnetic “taxi” sticker for your door. Making it even easier, there are no taxi meters. Every ride is negotiated prior to hopping into the car.
The non-taxi regulation brings with it several problems. First, there are far too many taxis chasing too few customers. Hence, most of the taxis roaming the roads are empty of fare. Lima’s roads don’t need that overload. Secondly, the pollution is already chocking with vehicles that need to be there. Third, because anyone can run a taxi, there are no standards. There are stories abound about taxi drivers taking their fares for a ride, from gun point to tranquilizing spray.
Last night we were coming home from dinner talking to the taxi driver and we asked him if it was “safe taking a taxi in Lima.” He thought for two seconds before saying, “truthfully, it is somewhat dangerous hailing a taxi in Lima.” An honest answer, but it obviously didn’t instill much confidence. Perhaps that’s why there are precious few middle-class looking folks walking on the streets.
Economists can easily estimate the lost revenue for a city with severe traffic congestion. Annually, for a capital the size of Lima, it’s billions of dollars, essentially flushed down the toilet. Coupled with the high crime rate and the chocking traffic, when in Lima, it’s a lot less stressful not going anywhere you can’t safely walk. So choose well if you need to hail a cab.