Taxi trips turn into cool rides

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You may have noticed a new breed of taxis augmenting the commuter combis - modern sedans that are innovatively branded: Zebra Cabs which are covered in zebra stripes and Cabs for Women, distinctively pink all over. And they’re being used for much more than work rides. Shopping trips, picking up kids from school, pensioners’ outings, girls’ nights out, bachelor parties…

And has anyone noticed the Mini Cooper and VW Beetle limousines, the only such cabs in South Africa, that hit the highways a couple of years ago?

These new rides around town are largely thanks to the huge presence of Metro police on our roads. Many of us now think twice about driving our own cars to an event where drinks are being served. This new consciousness has spawned a thriving industry in private taxis and shuttle services.

CABBING CULTURE

“The cabbing culture – where people use cabs to go clubbing, shopping, to pick up kids, or get to a work meeting – is growing at an immense rate in Johannesburg,” says Wikus van Stade, the owner Zebra cabs, which has expanded from an initial fleet of four to 27 vehicles in one year. “Some people are totally hooked on it and won’t go anywhere without a cab.”

Three of his vehicles are based in Soweto and hardly ever emerge from the townships, they are so busy. “They’re mostly doing school runs, taking people to and from parties or picking people up from work.”

In the case of Cabs for Women, whose fleet of 10 are only driven by women, one of their most popular services is picking up kids from school. It is also a popular service for girls’ nights out. It operates around the clock, so staying out until the wee hours is no problem.

Competing for the same cabbing clientele is Rainbow Cabs, Quick Cab and SA Cab, all of which report that they are “very busy”. The average fee is R10 to R12/km.

THE RESPONSIBLE CHOICE

Some of the most avid users of taxi or shuttle services are people who’ve been tragically affected in some way by drunk driving. Corporate governance consultant Clive Lotter says that since his sister was killed by a drunk driver a few years ago, he and his wife always take a cab when they’re going out to an occasion that may involve a tipple.

“We generally use Zebra Cabs or Quick Cab. By now we have the cell numbers of our favourite drivers, so we call them first. The peace of mind and being able to let your hair down is well worth it,” he says.

Another excellent option is GoodFellas, a personal-chauffeur service that started in Port Elizabeth in 2004 and has since expanded to Joburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and East London, and more recently, to Bloemfontein.

Membership of GoodFellas entitles you to a chauffeur who is dropped off, then drives your car to and from your destination.

Candice Botha says her husband, who was hit by a drunk driver while out walking 10 years ago, and nearly died from his injuries, is a member of GoodFellas. “He won’t drive even if he has had two beers after golf. I think it’s great, because I don’t have to drop everything to fetch him after a Saturday afternoon golf game. He gets home safely and his car is neatly parked in our garage,” she says.

With about 30 000 members countrywide, 15 000 of them in Gauteng, GoodFellas is clearly booming, even though the subscription fees equal a small insurance policy. A basic package is R91.90 a month, then R12 per km, with a minimum billing of 15km. It is ideal for people who make regular trips.

Road Trip offers a similar service (in Joburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban) with subscriptions starting at R79 a month and R9.69 per km.

GROUP TRIPS

For occasional one-off group trips, among the options are Gauteng Shuttles, which is a three-year-old company with a fleet of five combis that can seat 10-or-more people.

Though airport trips are its core business, corporate functions, weddings and nights out on the town are also part of its repertoire.

For an average trip in or around Johannesburg, a typical fare is about R250, with an overtime rate of R150 an hour (if the driver is waiting to pick you up in the wee hours). The saving kicks in if there are groups going to a function. “I took 10 people to a function in Hartebeespoort recently. I charged a flat fee of R1 200,” says proprietor Riedwaan Marshman.

LIMOS FOR YUPPIES

Youngsters and yuppies with more to spend are reportedly clamouring for Limo King’s Mini Cooper and VW Beetle limos, which owner Johnny Carreira says will be madly busy over the upcoming matric dance season, despite the fee of R600-an-hour for a minimum of four consecutive hours (R650 in Tshwane).

“During peak season – like this matric-dance month – people start fighting over them, offering to pay more,” laughs Carreira, who had the Mini Cooper built two years ago, and the VW Beetle built a year ago. The limos are also typically hired for hen’s parties, bachelor’s events, weddings, anniversaries and taking groups to parties.

Corporates are a big part of the taxi-cum-shuttle industry, and The Limo King’s core business is in fact corporate events like MTN’s recent convoy of 24 limos to Sun City. Another successful operator in corporate circles is Corporate Shuttle. “About 80 percent of our business is corporate clients, and their accounts range from as little as one trip a month to well over 100,” says owner Eloff Hoffman.

Even alcohol-serving venues are getting in on the act. Giles restaurant in Craighall Park, has just bought a new Toyota Avanza and is busy getting it branded, the idea being to offer patrons a lift if they’ve had one too many.

“We recognised the need, so when we offer the service, from October, we’ll be able to pick up patrons and take them back home,” says manager Wellington Nkomo.

It’s a win-win, which is why the cabbing culture is gaining critical mass in Joeys.

- Zebra Cabs: 0861 105 105. Rate: R12 per km (September special is R10 per km)

- Cabs for Women: 0861 777 778. Rate: R66 for the first 4km, R138 for 10km

- SA Cab: 0861 172 222. R20 callout, then R12 per km.

- Quick Cab: 0861 665 566. Rate: R60 for first 5km, then R12 per km thereafter.

- Rainbow Cabs: 0860 606 161. Rate: R10 per km, minimum R50.

- Limo King: 011 555 0924/0909: Rate: R600 per hour, four hours minimum.

- GoodFellas: 0861 178 227. Rate: R91.90 per month, then R12 per km.

-Road Trip: 0860 762 387. Rate: R79 per month, then R9.69 per km.

-The Star


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