Protesting Taxi Drivers Snarl Airport Traffic

Hundreds of taxi drivers protest against the change in meter prices, near the Ministry of Transportation in Yerushalayim, Dec. 15. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Hundreds of taxi drivers jammed roads around Ben Gurion Airport and Eilat’s Ramon Airport Thursday protesting new meters they are being required to install. Drivers conducted a “slow drive,” causing a major traffic jam and a lot of honking from drivers on their way to catch flights. Protesting taxi drivers are expected to move their protests later in the afternoon to highways in Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim – guaranteeing major traffic jams for commuters on their way home for the weekend.

The problem, according to drivers, is a change in the meter prices for rides. Beginning in 2020, drivers are required to buy and install new meters that will include different fare rates for local and inter-city trips. According to the Transportation Ministry, the new fare structure will reduce the cost of the latter by 6.7%, while increasing the price of local rides by 13%.

Based on those figures, the income of drivers will not be negatively affected, as most of their rides are local. But drivers claim that the ministry’s figures are incorrect, and that they will end up earning less money on both kinds of rides – especially inter-city rides, which drivers claim will cost 30% less under the new scheme. As far as local rides are concerned, drivers claim that the cost estimate is based on drivers traveling at least 50 kilometers per hour – a near-impossible feat in the Tel Aviv area.

Drivers were to be required to install the new meters by January 1st, but due to demonstrations, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered that it be delayed until March. On Wednesday, drivers received a letter from regulators saying that they had until March 6 to install the meters – four days after the Knesset elections. At a meeting of drivers earlier this week, drivers decided to increase their protests between now and the election, aiming to force Netanyahu to cancel the new requirement altogether.

In a letter to drivers, the Transportation Ministry said that it was correct that inter-city rides would become cheaper – but that drivers would make more money on rides in town. “Most of your rides are within cities or metropolitan areas, and you will find that the money you earn will increase with the new meters. There is nothing to fear from the new meters,” the letter said.

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