Pros & Cons of Minibus Taxis

CONTEXT: This series of articles are a means to take a holistic view of our current transport system by assessing our various methods of transport. In South Africa, there are numerous modes — but they aren’t all supported as one united platform. You can read some of the background to gain context as to why I am writing this over here. Some modes work efficiently in some areas, and in other areas they bring more harm than help. In the previous articles the pros and cons of Metered Taxis as well as Uber & Taxify has been discussed.

CONS

image source | Minibus Taxi

Minibus taxis are one of the cheapest and fastest ways to get around the city, however, they are also one of the most dangerous

Taxi ranks are a nightmare. Generally, you have to arrive at the rank 1–2 hours prior to your appointment, to ensure you can get there on time. There are also no set routes, maps or timetables to reference. Each area to find a taxi, requires different hand signals. If you haven’t been there before, you generally won’t know of better roads to wait on, in order to be collected.

According to the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), taxis transport approximately 15-million commuters daily; this consists of 60 to 70% of the commuting public and workforce.

Directions

You have to rely on other bystanders for directions, and trust they have shared the correct information with you. Sometimes, there is confusion or miscommunication due to language barriers, and the instructions/advice will be incorrect or you would’ve misunderstood. You have ±50% chance of ending up in the wrong the place.

Generally, when asking drivers for exact route/destination, you will be ignored or simply told yes he’s going that direction, even if he isn’t. I’m not sure if taxi drivers don’t like women asking them questions, or if there are other reasons. But I have not found many of them to be helpful. There are some, but the majority are not.

Queues at taxi ranks

Queues, especially during certain times of the day are impossible. Sometimes your queue converts from a straight line to a “snake-S” shape, as there is lack of space and just too many people queuing to get to work. Some ranks are also dirty, smelly, dangerous with theives, or generally unpleasant with males who try to harass you or intimidate you. So you have to try your best to not stand out, and just look like you know where you’re going. But this depends on which rank you go to. Some ranks are better than others.

image source | Taxi Rank for Minibus Taxis

Noord Street Taxi Rank

Noord street (MTN) taxi rank has been the bane of my existence. It’s one of the worst, and most anxiety causing experiences you’ll ever have. Only the first time. By the 5th time you’ll get cocky and think you’re fine, and then let your guard down only to realise that someone just tried to open your back pack and steal your stuff. Or you’ll be harassed by drunk/doped up looking guys who have pinned you as a target (most likely if you’re female). Many women have told me that if you have dreadlocks, you have to keep it covered when walking around this area, as it will simply be cut off and sold for wigs/extensions. (like seriously, I’m not joking -this really happens)

This place gave me some of the worst travelling experiences I have encountered, I dread going there. If I had an awesome job offer, but had to connect using this rank, I would rather decline the offer (the fear of travelling via that route is just not worth it). Then to exacerbate the problem, finding the right taxi to the correct destination for newcomers is generally difficult. As most taxi marshalls aren’t the most helpful or friendly.

PROS

Once you get used to travelling around Johannesburg, and know where to get which taxi, it becomes a lot easier and less scary. You can literally get anywhere for a very small fee. IF you don’t mind being cramped up next to other passengers, and you don’t mind walking part of the distance, then it’s simply a small price to pay.

The upside about taxi’s is that they will stop anywhere to pick you up (this is generally not legal, but they are eager to pick you up. They also run more frequently and longer than most of the other modes. Generally starting as early as 05:00 and ending as late as 20:00 in some areas. By far, still the cheapest way to travel.

Industry innovations

Cashless fares

Taximap

Taxi app “Afta Robot” is exactly what South Africa needed.

I’ve been planning this for ages in my head. I’m actually relived that someone else has done it. And it addresses most of the commuter frustrations mentioned above. Now it’s just a matter of getting all commuters and drivers to start using it. Think about it. Minibus taxis are the most difficult means of planning your trip. You’ll never know exactly which route will be the fastest or when your estimated time of arrival will be when going to a new location. Now, that’s finally changed.

image source: AftaRobot

Commuters can now book a taxi to predetermined destination. I love this! Do you know how many people this helps? Literally 70% of South African commuters use minibus taxis. That’s a great help to many.

According to the visionary behind the app Obakeng (Obby) Morapeli Matlhoko,

“Imagine, as a daily commuter, you will have the power to buffer your intentions instead of your time. In other words, you will be able to use the app to book the taxi in advance — whereas in the past you would have had to get up bright and early and possibly compromise your safety by waiting for a taxi to pass by due to unreliable taxi schedules. Taxi drivers will also benefit. As a load and route-based service, commuter behaviour and routes will now become clear, resulting in more efficient operations.”

Afta Robot — available on the Google Play store

Taxi hand signs

Taxi hand signs by Susan Woolf, (acquired by Standard Bank Gallery) included with the artists permission.

Payment method: cash & cards

Sources: Online research + Taxi commuters (+ personal experiences)

TIPS FOR PASSENGERS

Try not to go to Noord Taxi rank with a bag. Or if you do, don’t keep your bag/backpack on your back. Keep it in front of you near your chest and hold firmly. Don’t be nervous (or at least try not to look nervous), always walk firmly and look like you know where you’re going- (even if you’re lost). Put on your resting-b*-face, but be cautious. Don’t be a fool and flaunt your belongings, and don’t walk in isolated areas, especially in the taxi ranks, stay close to other passengers in the more public spaces.

Usually best to go with a friend for the first time to a new destination, so they can help you get the right taxi. Ladies of any age group in queues are also generally more helpful, more willing to speak to you to advise on correct routes compared to the men.

Initially when I started writing this article, I didn’t realise that AftaRobot existed. It’s a good method to help us, but I still haven’t tested it, as it’s only available for Android right now. I don’t know if is missing the necessary hand signals you need to make, or if the app will eliminate the need for hand signals all together. Once I test it out fully, I’ll share my learnings with you.

← P R E V I O U S South African Transport: Metered Taxis (Maxi Taxi’s)

South African Transport: Metro Buses N E X T →

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Chesway Theway

Chesway Theway

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Dreamer | Thinker | Thing-maker (Futurist & Sci-Fi reader…Fascinated by perception/process/products/principles)