OPINION

Forget tolls, taxis are the real problem

A toll may may have an impact on people driving («Traffic prompts toll thoughts,» March 19), but it will not encourage taking public transportation, in my humble opinion. It will only mean that tourists and residents spend less money within Athens in shops, restaurants and tourist attractions. The solution to the driving congestion in Athens is not to enact a toll, but to expand public transportation and, more importantly, to crack down on taxi drivers who have managed to take the city hostage by interviewing people before actually taking them as a fare. This practice of «Where are you going?» «Oh, I am not going there…» attitude is a major contributing factor to the car congestion problem in Athens. My worst experience occurred this past September 2007. I was about to take a ferry when I realized that I had accidentally left a personal item at a location that was exactly a three-minute car ride away. Because I had luggage, I could not easily walk back to the location, so I mistakenly believed that I could easily hire a taxi to take me to the location, retrieve my article, and return to the ferry pier. Unbelievably, I had to solicit four taxis; each of whom refused. Of course, I expected to pay for this service and told each taxi driver this. My attitude was polite, courteous and at some points downright pleading and begging. Interestingly, each taxi driver took more time to argue with me than the time it would have taken to actually make the drive. Finally, on a fifth try, a taxi driver agreed, but he wanted double the fare and he never actually turned on his meter. I have been told by Greek lawyers and judges, that it is against the law for taxi drivers to do this, but it is obviously a law that has no teeth and is not taken seriously. Having traveled to several countries in the world, and several cities within Greece, I prefer to rent a car and drive in Athens than take a taxi. In every other city in the world, taxi drivers are very courteous and are willing to drive people to their destinations, but not in Athens. It is more convenient and pleasurable to drive in Athens than take a taxi. As long as Athens allows itself to be held hostage by the taxi drivers, car congestion will be a problem, and overall the image of Athens being a backward city in Europe will prevail. If Athens wants to seriously fix the problem of car congestion and pollution, it can start with enforcing existing taxi regulations and laws, and introduce new laws to eliminate this despicable selective service practice by Athenian taxi cab drivers.
JACK FROST, Via e-mail.