Amsterdam, Aug. 26, 2009 — The Taxi rank at Amsterdam Central Station has become a battlefield in which unscrupulous taxi drivers terrorize City-appointed official ‘peace keepers,’ illegally reject rides they consider unprofitable, and charge exorbitant rates — literally taking their customers on a ride.
That’s what we wrote in June 2008, and could since then have repeated many times over.
At the time Amsterdammers referred to the location — one of several taxi trouble spots in town — as the ‘Gaza Strip,’ a barely-veiled reference both to the ethnic and/or perceived religious background of the majority of cab drivers in town, and to the frequent fights between drivers at the rank.
Currently other terms are used, most of which should not be printed in a family-friendly publication.
Aware of the fact that the Central Station taxi rank ‘serves’ lots of tourists, the City of Amsterdam has tried to address the problem in various ways: introducing ‘peace keepers,’ posting guards and traffic supervisors, making sure police keeps an eye on the place, and allowing only specially licensed ‘elite’ taxis to use the rank.
The most recently introduced approach has worked for a few weeks, but observers believe that is due largely to the fact that many of the problem drivers were on vacation.
An article in Amsterdam daily Het Parool shows that, vacation over, the problems are back: short rides are rejected, rates are jacked up, and drivers are rude to customers.
The newspaper refers to the situation as ‘a big mess.’
In an often-repeated scene, two German ladies were first ignored while a newly arrived taxi driver enthusiastically greets three friends standing at the front of the row. Greetings over, they start to exchange stories. When it looked like the ladies were about to leave, one driver hoisted their suitcases into his cab, says, “Museumplein? Twenty Euro” and gets into his car.
Instead of charging a flat fee, the driver should have used his meter.
Another customer says when she arrived three drivers were talking with each other. Two were angry at the third. “You should have asked thirty, not 25,” she quotes one driver as saying. “You are ruining the market for us,” they told him.
She herself wanted a ride to the Czaar Peterstraat — a short trip that should cost less than ten Euro. However, none of the three drivers wanted to take her there at the normal tariff. “The first asked twenty, the second fifteen,” she says.
When she asked the driver to use the meter she was told to get out of the car. “Nobody is forcing you to ride with me,” she was told.
A spokesman for alderman Hans Gerson (traffic) told the newspaper that overseers are still posted every day between 4 pm and 2 am. “But you’ll see that things go wrong when they are not there, such as during early afternoon,” he said.
Yet the increasing number of complaints will not result in extra measures. “We are there at the busiest moments. Supervision costs a lot of money, and we can not post at the station all day.”
But, the spokesman assures the paper, drivers freshly back from vacation should not think they can continue in the old vein. “We are absolutely serious about this. We must now show we no longer want this type of behavior,” he says. “However, extra supervision is expensive and at the moment we do not think it is necessary.”
Amsterdam taxi tips
You can avoid having to deal with taxis by checking — before you arrive — whether your hotel provides a shuttle service. In that case, the service can probably pick you up at Schiphol airport instead.
If you do not have much lugguge, using the public transport system is also a good option.
Customers should note that legally they are allowed to pick and choose any taxi of their liking. In other words, you are not forced to take the first one in line.
Ask your hotel — before you arrive — to give you an indication of the cost of a taxi trip from Central Station. Tell the driver to use the meter, and let him know you expect the trip to cost somethign close to the amount quoted to you by the hotel.
If at all possible, avoid the Taxi Rank at Amsterdam Central Station. If you do go there, look for a TCA taxi.
You can also order a TCA taxi. In this case it may be best to have the taxi pick you up in front of the St. Nicholas Church — directly across from Central Station. To order a TCA taxi, call 020 – 777 7777 (7×7)
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