Taxi fare hike stirs worry

Dozens of taxi drivers met Tuesday at Delap Park to approve a fare increase. Hilary Hosia.
Dozens of taxi drivers met Tuesday at Delap Park to approve a fare increase. Hilary Hosia.


Taxi drivers in Majuro are driving people crazy — literally — following an increase in taxi fares this week that resulted from a huge meeting of drivers at Delap Park Tuesday. The gathering itself proves the old Marshallese adage true: “koba maron” or strength in numbers.

During the two-hour meet, veteran driver Paulwin Jorkan, who initiated the gathering, suggested forming a club and elect officers before discussing the proposed taxi fare raise.

Paulwin was unanimously voted president. What followed was a lengthy discussion to justify raising taxi fare from 75 cents to a dollar (sedan) and 50 cents to 75 cents (van) within the DUD area (Rita to Delap). Patrons traveling past the bridge will now pay two dollars (sedan), a 50 cent boost from the previous fare and $1.50 for vans, again, a 50 cent jump from the previous dollar fare. The price to commute to airport and Laura in either taxi sedans or vans remains the same.

A decision to exempt elementary, high school, Life Skills Academy and Adult Basic Education (former GED) students from the proposed change was voted after a brief debate. Which leaves College of Marshall Islands and University of South Pacific students to pay like the general public.

Gas price being high, not having social security benefits and not being included in the newly enacted $3 minimum wage were discussed as some factors behind the initiative.

“We really need to work together if we’re going to pull this off,” newly elected President Paulwin said. “We also have to improve how we conduct service on the road,” Paulwin continued. “Please turn in missing items and please, please, pick up elementary students.”

Before concluding the gathering, the newly formed officers pledged to engage with leadership from the local government to voice pressing issues that can’t be solved by the taxi association alone.

Multiple posts on social media expressed anger because of the new taxi rate. Majority of the posts are from college students. Several of the posts had similar suggestions: reduce turn in, not increase the fare.

The average taxi driver is required by taxi owners (mostly Asian-owned companies) to turn in $35 daily from Monday to Saturday. Because owners don’t require turn-ins on Sundays, majority of the drivers rent their cars in the $35-$40 price range or are out servicing the road and at the end of the day, the sale goes to the driver.

Read more about this in the September 7, 2018 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.