Tensions over bus service

Night Bus Dunedin operator Andrew Rutherford with the rock he says was thrown through the window of his bus while passengers were on board. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Night Bus Dunedin operator Andrew Rutherford with the rock he says was thrown through the window of his bus while passengers were on board. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
A rock hurled through the window of a Dunedin night bus - while passengers were on board - is the latest sign of escalating tension between the operator and some city taxi drivers, it has been claimed.

Andrew Rutherford, of Dunedin, said he had faced ''threats, intimidation and violence'' since he launch his Night Bus Dunedin service from the Octagon last month.

One taxi driver had made a throat-slitting gesture, while another had warned him: ''There's 200 of us and one of you,'' he said.

In the most serious incident, a rock smashed through the back window of Mr Rutherford's bus in High St about 5am last Sunday.

Some passengers reported seeing the offender ride off on a scooter, and Mr Rutherford said police had told him the scooter had been traced to the home of a Dunedin-based taxi driver.

''It could have been manslaughter. It was a rock sailing past a passenger's head,'' Mr Rutherford said.

Dunedin road policing manager Senior Sergeant Phil McDouall could not confirm the scooter owner was a taxi driver, but said an investigation was under way, and cautioned both sides to operate within the law.

''I know some taxi drivers are a bit annoyed with him, but he's ... operating a legal service.''

Mr Rutherford, a former Kiwi Shuttle driver, said the Land Transport Management Amendment Act - introduced last year - allowed him to operate the ''unscheduled'' service without registering a route with the Otago Regional Council.

New Zealand Transport Agency staff confirmed Mr Rutherford held the transport service licence and passenger endorsement he required to operate his service legally.

Mr Rutherford's service operated from a P5 park in the upper Octagon - right next to a night-time taxi rank - ferrying paying passengers from the Octagon to their homes in his 20-seater bus.

However, he operated only from about midnight to 5am on Sundays, when queues of people waiting for taxis were longest.

He charged about $3 a km but declined to say how much he earned each night.

''It's not a large amount of money.''

However, some taxi drivers were upset Mr Rutherford was also using their upper Octagon taxi rank, next to the P5 space, without authorisation.

Tensions have been escalating. Taxi drivers had put road cones out to block access to the P5 space, and used their taxis to block his bus, Mr Rutherford said.

City United Taxis manager Nicola Darling declined to comment, saying she was still ''getting to the bottom'' of the situation.

Dunedin Taxis manager Simone Green said her drivers were annoyed by Mr Rutherford's use of the taxi rank, and she had referred their concerns to NZTA.

''The fact is it's a massive investment for taxi drivers to be in the industry ... To have anybody that cuts into that without any proper jurisdiction just isn't appropriate.''

Complaints from both sides have also prompted Dunedin City Council senior traffic engineer Ron Minnema to clarify the rules.

The P5 was available for any vehicle but Mr Rutherford's bus could not use the taxi rank, and he had bus stops available elsewhere in the Octagon, Mr Minnema said.

Mr Rutherford said he had used the taxi rank when vehicles parked in the P5 space for ''hours'' at night, without enforcement action by the council.

Mr Minnema said enforcement occurred on weekends ''from time to time'' .

Despite that, Mr Rutherford said use of the taxi stand was a ''parking issue'' comparable to a member of the public overstaying on a timed meter.

''They [taxi drivers] see that area as their territory, and they're going to want to defend it by whatever means possible.''

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz

 

Taxi drivers

It will be good to see more competition, especially if it challenges the attitudes towards it being shown from within the taxi industry. It's high time the sense of entitlement was shown the door. 

Taxi drivers ain't seen nothing yet

Just wait until they see the surge in popular phone apps like "Uber" and "Lyft" hit NZ (these apps put passengers in touch with (non-taxi) drivers).  The apps haven't really hit NZ yet but are already causing protests in the UK by their taxi drivers.  Basically you need a ride, you tap your phone, a driver in your vicinity is alerted and offers you a ride for a couple of bucks (vs. $20-$30).  Passengers and drivers that use the app have feedback/ratings etc.  This is the future of community transportation and once it takes off further taxi drivers will practically be obsolete.  Millions of people are using these apps already.

Night buses

Andrew, get a franchise/co-op going on these night buses. There needs to be competition in this industry. You're onto a winner there cobber, best wishes and keep the good work/service up.

Night bus

It is all a bit wild west guys, pull your heads in.

Taxi drivers

I'm an experienced traveler (23 countries on 6 continents) and Dunedin taxi drivers are the worst that I've encountered. They need to be put in their place and learn that they don't have the monopoly or right to parks. One of them (an old guy in a white cab) parked in my registered car park on George St, then when I pulled in to park behind him, he just sat there. I ended up tooting at him and he had the nerve to get out & come back to my vehicle and ask what gave me the right to park there over him (obvisouly the registered parking permit on my window!). All I can say is best of luck to Andrew for providing a service that is needed in Dunedin and I give him all my support. 

What appalling behaviour.

What appalling behaviour.  Really nasty, small-minded stuff. That rock could easily have killed someone in the bus. A criminal act that is extremely disturbing. I hope they catch the person responsible. Shameful. [Abridged]

Competition

The taxi companies had a monopoly, and now there is competition. This is a good thing.

Understandable

I'm not surprised this driver has annoyed a few people. Nevertheless, no need for people in glass houses to start throwing stones. [Abridged]

Dunedin's taxi drivers

It doesn't surprise me to hear that allegedly a Dunedin taxi driver has done this. I would estimate at least 90% of them never wear seat belts (and yes, they are required to by law - unless waiting for customers, many of them do not indicate, do not Give Way,  do not wait for pedestrians to complete crossing, follow speed limits, etc.

More worrying is the fact police have been made aware of these things numerous times, yet they continue to let the Dunedin taxi drivers (whose average age I would estimate to be at least 70) to break the law, day after day, month after month.

I challenge the ODT to take a stroll around town one day, note how many of the geriatric taxi driving brigade they see with no seat belts on, breaking basic traffic laws - and report their findings in the ODT, and ask police what they are doing about it.

Awesome

Awesome little innovative small town we live in, eh?

You can hear the banjos twanging already.

Dunedin, grow up. 

Hostile Cabs

If Dunedin taxi drivers are behaving in this way, they are not any kind of service I'd be comfortable using.

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