Technology switch off: Taxi dispatchers and drivers are frustrated with the government’s GPS network, saying it is expensive to maintain and often sends them a long way out of their way. Two out of three taxi firms are now refusing to use the latest technology, brought in by the government.
* File photo
Technology switch off: Taxi dispatchers and drivers are frustrated with the government’s GPS network, saying it is expensive to maintain and often sends them a long way out of their way. Two out of three taxi firms are now refusing to use the latest technology, brought in by the government. * File photo
Government's expensive and much hyped GPS network is a "lost system" after being abandoned entirely by two out of three of the island's taxi firms, according to dispatchers.

Even at the third taxi company, where the system is still operational, no more than half of the fleet is running on GPS at any one time, with frustrated drivers routinely switching back to radio.

Government said GPS (Global Positioning System) technology would make public transport more efficient and forced all drivers to install the equipment in 2006. Another law was passed in 2008 making it mandatory for all drivers to have the system switched on.

Abandoned

However, Bermuda Taxi Radio Cabs, which directs around 200 drivers, has abandoned the system entirely because the company and drivers find the technology too expensive and inefficient. Bermuda Industrial Union Taxi Co-op, which has around 40 cars, has also switched back fully to radio, the Bermuda Sun understands.

Edward Darrell, owner of Radio Cabs, said that the GPS technology had tripled the cost of running the company. Many of his drivers are so disgusted with the system that they refuse to pay their GPS fees, which in turn means Mr. Darrell cannot afford to pay his subscription to the service. Mr. Darrell said he had two choices: to turn off GPS or to go out of business.

He said: "The cost of being in the taxi business shot up, and the cost to customers shot up, because of GPS, and all that money is going overseas: to the American companies who sell the equipment and maintain the equipment. Government is very quick to pass legislation, but they weren't so quick to check that it worked, or that it suited our needs or our customers needs. Government is telling us what to do but they don't know what's going on themselves."

Legal dispute

Lawyers acting for Radio Cabs are now locked in a dispute with Government and Mr. Darrell is waiting to see if he will be able to carry on operating as he is or if he will ultimately have to shut down.

BTA (Dispatching) Ltd., which has 350 drivers in its pool, originally fully embraced GPS. However, a dispatcher for the company, who did not wish to be named, said of the new technology: "The usage isn't high, in comparison with the size of the pool. Some drivers love it and would never go back to voice, a few have never switched it on, others use it reluctantly. Most switch it on, but they do get frustrated with it - when it sends them a long way out of their way - then they switch it off and sit and wait for jobs. I wouldn't say we have half the fleet on [GPS] at any one time."

Driver Lee Tucker said that after two years GPS is now a "lost system". He said that the technology was designed for use in the U.S. and too often sent drivers well out of their way because of Bermuda's unique topography. The technology guides drivers within five-mile-square zones, he said, which are far too big for Bermuda's closer quarters. He added that the equipment was difficult and expensive to maintain and repair.

He said: "Government made it mandatory to use the equipment but didn't put the support system in place. It's a failure. But now the Premier, in his headstrong way, is saying 'you have to use it, keep it and use it.' If he was trying to lower the standard of taxi service in this country, he has achieved that."

At the time of going to press Dr. Ewart Brown had not responded to our requests for a comment.