How to Get an Honest Fare From a Cab Driver


There is an international conspiracy. I’ve said it before. They get all the people who want to be taxi drivers, to a secret location, indoctrinate them in how to milk a fare and then send them to countries they haven’t been to before and where hey don’t speak the local language. 

This morning I read a blog on Freakonomics, entitled Why Don’t More Professional Drivers Use Traffic-Enabled GPS?. It’s obvious isn’t it? They want to get the biggest fare out of you that they can.

One way to get an honest fare out of a cab driver is to agree on it in advance. That’s easy if you know what it is worth.

Airports

Airports

Airports are a prime opportunity and I’ve been ripped off in more countries than I can remember at airports. In New Zealand there is a great service called Air New Zealand Taxis. You can select from 14 airports, enter details like your start or end address, what flights you are taking and then select from a variety of taxi types. I note they even offer helicopter now, but I don’t think that’s an option for the budget conscious.

So you choose which mode of taxi you want and they guarantee to get you to the airport on time. You pay in advance and they even monitor the flight arrivals and departures so if your flight arrives a couple of hours late, your taxi driver will still be waiting for you holding up one of those cool board with your name on it.

If they make a mistake, as one did with me last year and overshoot your freeway exit and have to take a 15 km detour, it’s their problem, and doesn’t decrease the thickness of the lump in your back pocket (if you still carry folding).

Back to traffic. I have been a TomTom Go Live product user since they launched in New Zealand and Australia and it is awesome! It is good because they have good data derived from a combination of fleet managed vehicles (large numbers of them) and data from TomTom users. The GPS Car Nav PND’s have a SIM Card in them and get their data in real time (within seconds despite coming via Berlin). What makes it really powerful is the algorithms in the background that know how to interpret data.

I have been involved in car nav and the development of real time traffic in NZ and Australia and have worked with several brands of car nav. I have seen good systems and not so good systems. Now I must admit that my current TomTom is a little dated, but it has the latest map data. It’s probably time for me to do some testing of the latest devices and apps from various brands, but if you are wanting to know what the best device is for you, this blog is still worth a read.

Like a lot of guys, I believe I have a great sense of direction. However, I have learned that the GPS car nav is better at it than I am. It looks at all the possible ways I can go and pretty much every time I thought it was wrong, it was me that was wrong. It also keeps evaluating, when it has real time traffic. Often while I am driving, my TomTom tells me that I am still on the fastest route, or that there has been an incident and there is now an alternative route which will save me (x) minutes. I now trust it.

That doesn’t mean I trust all real time traffic apps. I have tested other apps in the past which interpreted normal rush hour traffic as an incident and led me to take a longer route which was unnecessary. There have also been times when I knew where I was going and didn’t bother using my TomTom with real time traffic to disastrous results,

So back to keeping the cabbie honest. The easiest answer is to take your trusted car nav application with you and tell the driver where you want him to go. Remember, you are the customer. If he isn’t happy with that, grab his taxi number, get out and find another one who is more trustworthy.

So, how about it? Tell me your taxi stories. I’m keen on the good, the bad and the ugly. Please share a comment. What real time traffic navigation  products have you used? How did you find them?

Red Light Cameras in Auckland


Just a quick comment. I get so angry at the many people who run the red lights. We see and read so many stories about accidents involving innocent people who have the misfortune to be in the right place at the wrong time with people who seem to be in a real hurry to get to the hospital.

Auckland City who previously said that red light cameras were too expensive, have decided to install them after doing some surveys with safety cameras finding that the numbers of people doing this are in the thousands each day. I hope other cities including North Shore follow suit especially at busy intersections like Tristram Ave.

Offenders will pay a $150 instant fine and there are suggestions of giving them demerit points as well, which I would be fine with. Something needs to be done to stop them and there is no good reason for anyone to risk their and others safety in this way. So often I sit behind someone who runs the red and then when all the lights have cycled, I drive through and end up sitting behind them at the next set of lights.

TV3 did a good job of producing a news video and obviously didn’t have to wait long to prove the point.

I’d like them to introduce a program like the old dob in a smokey, reporting cars spewing smoke from their exhausts, so we can all police this problem. They tried this for a short time last year and it worked well, wish they would do it again.

It’s almost Easter – Does anyone even remember who Brian was?


On Sunday I was driving home from Whangarei on a nice sunny afternoon when all of a sudden about 2 km before Puhoi, the traffic just stopped. There didn’t seem to be any reason, we just suddenly ended up in a line of cars that turned out to stretch for about 7 or 8km. I suspect that many of them were people returning from their holiday home where they had been preparing for the Easter weekend which is coming at the end of this week of course. On the way North on Saturday I had been driving behind a steady stream of cars towing boats and caravans, although ironically the traffic flowed pretty well.

It made me think about Easter, because the long weekends heading out of Auckland are diabolical for traffic. Pretty much every Easter half a million Aucklanders try to escape the hustle and bustle and head North and South. A third go north and create chaos, another third head for the famous Coromandel where they stop in a huge line at the notorious one way bridge in Kopu and if they are lucky, might get a free Red Bull for their trouble. The others head further South along State Highway One which is less of a problem until they meet the Coromandel people coming back on Easter Monday.

One thing I really like about Kiwi’s is that they are polite and know how to queue and are strong supporters of fair play. Just about anywhere in NZ, people will find the end of a queue and stand in line and wait their turn, unlike many other countries I have been where it is survival of the fittest. Unfortunately their are exceptions and heading south that exception always happens just south of Waiwera, famous for its hot pools. You see, there is a passing lane. Everyone knows when the traffic is travelling at 5km per hour, that there realyl isn’t any point in using the passing lane, because it just unfairly pushes people backwards who have waited patiently in the line of pollution spewing diesels and other assorted vehicles. But there is always someone who has to be different. On Sunday it was a SUV with the number plate TMAG who decided, “Here’s an opportunity, I’m going to race past those suckers and move ahead a good 40 car lengths”. So he did and now it wasn’t just the car radiators that were boiling, but also the people who had been sitting in their cars in the end of summer heat. Hey how about yet another sin, thau shalt not begat your fellow motorist’s position in the traffic jam.

And I got to thinking (I know you don’t start a sentance with a conjunction, but this is my blog ok? lol), that guy must be a pretty miserable person. Easter’s coming, doesn’t he remember Brian? Brian Cohen was put on the cross at Christmas in Judea in 33AD when he was mistaken for the Messiah and really, for many of us life hasn’t been the same since. Even though he wasn’t the Messiah, he really tought us something about good spirit and making the most of your lot. He brought us that famous hymn ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life‘, known by some as The Song Jesus Whistles.

Now I don’t know if Jesus ever whistled, I don’t recall ever reading about him doing such a thing, but I’m sure there is relevance in the attitude that no matter how bad things get, there are aways better times ahead. I took that in as Trag, sorry TMAG raced up the empty passing lane on Sunday and other than flipping him the bird, I resisted the impulse to race after him and tell him what I thought. He got the message anyway when further up the road noone wanted to let him back in the line.

I won’t be joining the mass exodus on Good Friday. I’ll sleep in and do some chores around the house and relax while I’m looking on the bright side of life and on Saturday I’ll check out the Herald and read about and see photos of the 20km line of frazzled drivers waiting to cross the Kopu Bridge on their way to a relaxing long weekend.

Judder bars slow down traffic


The road I live on is fairly narrow and is often used as a shortcut from one suburb to the next. Boy racers like to race up the road to the intersection where my house is situated on a corner site, testing out their turbo’s. A few years ago I joined fellow residents in the street and called for a council meeting to do something about it. We asked for a couple of chicanes with side barriers, basically barriers that run at an angle to the road and force people to slow down to navigate around them. But no, North Shore City council decided to put in fairly long judder bars, that is they go up and the road rises for a bit over a car width and then they go down again.

Now 2 things happen, the first is that people coming from the intersection go reasonably slowly over the judder and then plant it going down the hill. The main casualties are pets, although there are accidents from time to time as they get to the first corner and meet someone coming the other way.

The other thing is people come racing up the road and either don’t notice the judder bar or forget it is there until they have hit it at speed, which is pretty silly because it is right before a T junction. Every night we hear the scrapes of car underbellies as their cars get gravel rash and houses on both sides of the road are showing cracks from the impact, although council denies that this is possible.

Last night at 4:30 AM I heard one of these crashes followed by some clattering. It was pretty loud and I jumped out of bed and raced to the windows to see if there had in fact been an accident. I didn’t see anything and went back to bed. This morning, I got a call to say come and have a look on the corner and you can see on the photo what I found. A rubbish truck had managed to fkip itself and land between 2 trees after knocking down a couple of signs. I hope the driver was ok.

It’s pretty obvious what happened. He must have been coming up the road way too fast, didn’t see the judder bar which would have been like a ramp for motor stunts. He would have been airborn on an angle as he realised there was a corner coming, started to turn just before he hit the air, landed on 2 or 3 wheels , overcorrected and flipped.

If we had the chicane we asked for, there may have been some damage to the truck, although only a fraction of what there was as you can see from the photo and the main damage would have been to the driver’s pride. But then I’m not a traffic engineer, I’m just using a little common sense.judderbar.jpgjudderbar.jpgjudderbar.jpg