Motorists using their vehicles as unauthorised taxis are still a common sight in many key Doha locations especially in the afternoons.
Though the number of authorised Karwa taxis has increased considerably with the introduction of 300 taxis by Al Million Taxi in July, some passengers, especially those with low income, prefer to use the services of unauthorised private taxis even when legal taxis are available nearby.
It has become common knowledge that such motorists park their vehicles beside popular shopping malls and key public service facilities. Typically, one of them would be seen holding a car key in his hand and going around the entry and exits of such places, looking for possible customers.
“Need a taxi or a drive,” is the question posed as they approach possible customers, even as Karwa drivers are clearly available in the vicinity. In case, a customer is ready to take the offer, negotiations on the fare begins, depending on the destination and timing of the trip. Further, some passengers usually strike good business relations with such drivers and call them whenever in need for a taxi at special rates.
The quality of the cars used for such purposes are normally much below that of the official ones. They are often old vehicles in moderate working condition and the quality of the car affects the fares too.
Despite this, some cars in poor condition and even lacking adequate air-conditioning systems operate in the Industrial Area charging fares as low as QR5 for a short trip, particularly from those in need of a quick lift, while repairing their vehicles or looking for some auto spare parts.
The number of these unauthorised taxis multiply in the afternoons and evenings as a majority of their owners are involved in the practice on a part-time basis to augment their income or to help in the payment of loans.
“I just take a tour around the country after I finish my work. A few trips help me collect the necessary amount to pay for the car loan,” said a Syrian expatriate. Other unauthorised taxi drivers do not prefer to waste their time waiting for customers at key locations. They go around the main roads of the city looking for people waiting for a taxi. The passengers waiting by the roadside reluctantly wave to passing vehicles in general, until one stops, with a few becoming lucky as some motorists offer free lifts.
Passengers, who prefer to use this service, often justify it, mentioning the comparatively low and flexible fares and instant availability. Most of these customers are usually males and families, as a considerable number of females expressed their reservations over using taxis which are not official carriers.
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