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Hawthorne, J P
Sinclair Knight Merz (Europe)


1.1 Background

This paper sets out to consider a wide range of issues concerned with the
ambiguous status of taxis and PHVs on the private-public transport spectrum.

This is a very broad area, and research has identified more material than can
be included in a paper of this length. However, the role of taxis in airport
surface access illustrates many of the themes common to taxi operation in
other situations; the paper concentrates on this.

1.2 Structure of this paper

This paper initially considers taxis in relation to private car use, and draws out
possible definitions of taxis as public or private transport. It then sets in
context the value of modal shift from private cars to taxis at a national and
local level.

Using survey data from London, some inferences are drawn regarding taxi
activity when not engaged. Practical policy regarding taxi use is then
illustrated by examining the surface access strategies of a number of UK

Finally, the paper draws conclusions, and suggests further areas for

1.3 Definitions

Within the UK there are two main types of licensed vehicle which may
commonly be referred to as taxis:

• Hackney carriages
o Can be hired anywhere within the licensing area without pre
booking, e.g. from ranks or hailed on street. Can also be pre-
booked if required.
• Private Hire Vehicles
o Can only be pre-booked, by telephone/internet or at the
operator’s office. Cannot ply for hire on the street or use ranks.

In strict terms, only hackney carriages should be referred to as taxis.
However, at many locations where “taxi” services are advertised, in practice
this is through a PHV office with vehicles available for immediate hire. This
includes a number of airports.

© Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 1

Let us therefore consider how taxis fit into this analysis. whereas the use of other forms of transport implies some surrender of control to the service provider. Thus taxis can offer many (or even most) of the benefits of using a private car with the advantage that the taxi driver also assumes responsibility for route selection through to the passenger’s ultimate destination. parking Indeed. SETTING TAXIS IN CONTEXT 2.1 How do taxis compare with private cars? Some of the commonly accepted benefits of using a private car to make a journey include: • Demand responsive – can travel at any time • Door to door transport • Privacy during journey – choice of travelling companions • Capacity for luggage. taxis can offer broadly similar benefits: Yet using taxis transfers many of the responsibilities using a car to the taxi operator and/or taxi driver. However.Where this paper makes general reference to taxis. it can also be argued that remaining in control of the journey also brings responsibilities: • Must be vehicle available • Vehicle must be fit to make journey • Driver must be licensed • Driver must be in a fit state to drive • Driver must make choice of route • Driver must decide what to do with car when not being used – e. Indeed.. shopping etc. and non drivers can only enjoy the benefits of car use as passengers. Thus the benefits of using a private car are balanced with a set of responsibilities. Compared with the benefits of car travel. for some users. traffic. However in later sections distinctions are drawn where necessary between taxis and PHVs. these responsibilities can be regarded as barriers to entry. in situations where the traveller is unfamiliar with the local roads. or the © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 2 . for example a non-car owning driver may only enjoy the benefits of car use if they hire or borrow a vehicle. A common factor running through many of these benefits is that the car driver is in control of the journey. this usually includes PHVs. 2.g. and the trade off between these benefits and responsibilities can affect the choice between car and public transport.

taxis can offer significant advantages to the use of private car. Given this combination of benefits without responsibilities. In practice there are three main non-commercial categories as follows: • Car as driver • Car as passenger – same journey as driver • “Kiss and ride” (Car as passenger – driver as chauffeur) In all cases below we will consider the journey as a means to an end. even if the traveller is not themselves a car owner or driver. As far as the person making the journey is concerned. • And if as argued above. 2. • For car as driver. then taxis can be defined as public transport. we regards taxis primarily as a means of externalising the responsibilities which would otherwise fall on private car users then they should surely be defined as private transport. then non shared taxis could be defined as private transport. 2. • But if we define public transport on the basis of potentially shared use of the means of transport by more than one individual user (or group travelling together). And as Transport Planners. rather than an end in itself.Someone Else’s Problem. it is hardly surprising that taxis are a widely understood concept throughout the world.exact location of their intended destination. they become SEPs . within a wider set of time and cost © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 3 . which can transcend linguistic and cultural boundaries. It can therefore be argued that much the attractiveness of taxis as a mode of transport is achieved by externalising the responsibilities which are associated with the use of private cars. the main objective is to get from the origin to the destination as effectively as possible. we are often the Someone Else.3 What characteristics do taxi journeys share with private car journeys? Let us start by considering the differences between car use as driver and passenger.2 Different perspectives on taxis as private or public transport The concept of transfer of responsibilities inherent in using taxis also gives an interesting insight into the question of whether taxis are private or public transport. • If we chose to define public transport by potential availability to a wide range of possible users without the need for prior ownership or direct control of the vehicle used.

such as the avoidance of parking costs at the destination. In broader terms. It could also be argued that it has most in common with taxi operation. etc. However. there may be some additional distance travelled by the driver to pick up (or set down) the additional passengers. 2. even if it is in the form of goodwill. Thus. it could be argued that there must be some form of benefit to the driver. • For a passenger making the same.5 How do taxis compare with kiss and ride? It can be argued that the kiss and ride category above generates the most vehicle km per journey km and is therefore the least efficient form of private car use. the taxi driver may have to wait some time for another hiring. If the journey is metered the driver will seek to minimise the actual cost incurred against what can be recovered in meter charges. the objectives will be as above if the passengers are part of a group. because the “unproductive” distance for the driver will always exceed (and may even be double) the “productive” distance for the passenger. when hired the specific journey objective is the same as for car as driver. For a taxi driver. respect. nearest rank. for non- metered journeys the driver (or the PHV booking office) will seek to agree a fare which gives an acceptable margin above the anticipated costs.g. • But for kiss and ride. there are other factors which affect the overall efficiency of taxi operation. for example in availability of the vehicle for subsequent journey. or a similar. In the worst case. considerations. but the overall journey is also for the benefit of the driver. and/or incur empty running to the next pick-up. the driver (or the PHV booking office) will seek to agree a fare which will include suitable recompense for these factors. Depending on the destination of the journey. there may be scope where fares are negotiated for drivers to seek to recover a share of the “savings” made by the © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 4 . For negotiated fares. the tariff will thus include some recompense for empty running and/or waiting time between hires. Or there may be benefits to the passenger which can be transferred to or shared with the driver. the driver may have no option but to make an empty journey at least as far as the boundary. in situations where the use of a taxi offers an opportunity for the passenger(s) to avoid additional costs at the destination (e. However. if the drop off is beyond the boundaries within which a taxi driver is permitted to ply for hire (or within which a PHV may reasonably expect a booking). the specific journey is purely for the benefit of the passenger(s) and not the driver. or as an element of trip chaining. or in cruising. tolls. In a “car pool” situation. friendship. Indeed. journey as the driver. parking costs and congestion charges. parking charges). For metered journeys. there may still be benefits to the driver. the overall aim will be to minimise “unproductive” distance travelled. although the route and even the end points of the car journey may be varied according to the impact of congestion.

These are: • Reduction in vehicle numbers • Reduction in vehicle kms At national level. But at a local level.) In broad terms this implies that: © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 5 . Thus although there remains an overall incentive for taxi drivers to minimise empty running and/or waiting time. as there is an incentive for drivers/operators to maximise their return. but these have a different emphasis at national and local levels. the objective is an absolute: an overall reduction in vehicle numbers and/or kms (or at least restriction on rates of growth). THE VALUE OF MODAL SHIFT FROM CARS TO TAXIS 3. modal shift from private to public transport is regarded as a “good thing”. under what circumstances is it sensible to encourage modal shift from private cars to taxis? There are two key objectives where modal shift may potentially offer benefits. 3. the actual levels tolerated may be higher if there is scope to pass on the costs to passengers. (However this will be skewed by the relative proportions of local and longer distance journeys. and thus allow a margin to cover higher levels of empty running or waiting time than they might otherwise tolerate. with the vehicle numbers and/or kms shifted to somewhere else (ideally where they will have less impact!) Objective National emphasis Local emphasis Reduction in vehicle numbers • “Whole life costs” • Congestion • Road capacity • Parking • Road space • Kerbspace Reduction in vehicle kms • Emissions • Emissions • Fuel supplies • Road capacity • Road capacity In comparing taxis to private cars on a journey by journey we can make two general observations: • Taxi journeys have a higher proportion of empty running to loaded journeys than private cars (though there is generally an incentive for drivers/operators to keep this to a minimum) • Taxis have a higher proportion of loaded journeys per vehicle than private cars. But as the status of taxis as public transport is unclear.passenger(s). the objective may be achieved through displacement.1 What can modal shift achieve? In general terms.

We have already identified that kiss and ride journeys share many characteristics with taxi journeys. this can also reduce the pressure on kerb space which might otherwise be required for parking of private cars or ranking of taxis. for example in road vehicle kms.3 Local effects At a local level. Avoidance of the “standing costs” (depreciation. However. 3. If the availability of taxis for part of the journey influences the decision to switch the mode used for the majority of the journey to another form of public transport. Particularly within the urban context. In practice. could be much greater. but that taxi drivers will generally have a greater incentive to minimise the empty running associated with these journeys than car drivers. This implication is also based on the assumption that the taxi journey is a direct replacement of the equivalent car journey. the higher proportion of loaded journeys per vehicle which can be achieved by taxis can offer significant advantages in requirements for parking spaces. insurance. Where on-street hailing is common. there are already financial incentives which can be recognised by car owners (or potential owners) who are primarily seeking convenience. as with the London Congestion Charge. but may do so in local situations However this implication is primarily based on “car as driver” journeys. © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 6 . licensing. the primary focus of local reduction may simply be a desire to reduce the number of cars entering an urban area from elsewhere. then the overall saving. for example in the context of parking provision for new residential development. 3. maintenance. • Taxis can offer potential benefits in reducing vehicle numbers • Taxis are less likely to offer benefits in reducing overall vehicle km. there may also be a desire to achieve absolute reduction in vehicle numbers. etc) on a low usage vehicle can cover the cost of a lot of taxi journeys (and short-term hire when necessary)! This logic can also be applied when considering the incremental costs and benefits of additional cars in an existing car-owning household. Thus the benefits or disbenefits of mode shift from private car to taxi are by no means clear cut.2 National effects Taken at a national level the main emphasis on mode shift from private cars to taxis would have to be based on reduction in vehicle numbers.

However. 4. Drivers and operators are free to arrange patterns of working to their own benefit and requirements. TAXI SURVEY DATA Where taxis are fitted with meters. • On average. these are regularly inspected by the local licensing authorities. a lower proportion compared with 2003 (50% v 57%). it can be argues that there are further factors which should be taken into account when comparing taxis with private cars.e. carrying a fare) for around half their shift.4 Wider benefits Looking wider still. However. but not in the earlier 2003 survey. the most recent of which was in 2006. • The proportion of engaged time was much higher for Green (all London) taxi badge holders (52%) than Yellow (suburban. for example. © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 7 . PHV drivers are engaged for less than half (44%) of their shift. Three types of taxi/PHV are considered: • Green taxi badge – permitted to ply for hire across the whole of Greater London • Yellow taxi badge – permitted to ply for hire in one of nine suburban sectors around London • PHV badge – permitted pick up pre-booked passengers across the whole of Greater London Only Green taxi badge holders can ply for hire in central London or at Heathrow. 35%). a significant decrease compared with 2003 (57% engaged time). with separate data for PHVs. this inspection is solely to ensure that fares are calculated accurately and in accordance with the current tariff – no data is collected regarding the pattern of use or details of the fares actually charged.3. Key findings from the 2006 survey are: Proportion of engaged time • Taxi drivers are engaged (i. • The overall value to the national economy of employment (including the opportunities for self employment) within the taxi sector • The potential value in accident savings in persuading unfit drivers to use taxis These are beyond the scope of this paper. This provides a useful insight into the pattern of taxi operation in London. In the following summary “taxi” refers specifically to hackney carriages. However disengaged time prior to first fare was collected in the 2006 survey. the Public Carriage Office (PCO) in London now conducts regular Diary Surveys.

Again. TAXIS AND AIRPORT SURFACE ACCESS 5. as follows: • Although Green taxi badge holders have more engaged time than Yellow badge holders. but spend more of their disengaged time on ranks. it is more difficult to gauge the relationship between loaded and empty km. this probably reflects the fact that the calculation of the 2006 shift hours includes time spent before the first fare. • Because PHV drivers cannot ply for hire. Number of passengers carried • Two in three taxi and PHV journeys carry just one passenger. we can make some inferences by cross reference with the activity during disengaged time. the remainder of periods of disengaged time is typically spent waiting (in the office or elsewhere) 5. • Just under two in three of all taxi drivers (64%) work regularly from taxi ranks although the proportion is much higher amongst Yellow (suburban) badge holders (87% v 61%) • For PHV drivers. the main activity during the disengaged time was empty running (34%) followed by waiting elsewhere (27%) and waiting in the office (25%). In this context cruising for fares should also count as empty km. Activity during disengaged time • Looking at taxi activity during the remaining disengaged time – when the driver is not earning a fare – nearly half of the disengaged time (47%) is spent cruising (looking for a fare). © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 8 . Because there is no scope for cruising. Because the engaged/disengaged split is based on time. particularly if passengers arrive or depart at times when they are less well served by other forms of transport. Multi- occupancy journeys are more evident amongst journeys made for leisure and during the weekend night time bands. They therefore provide a good opportunity to examine many of the issues relating to the role of taxis in a relatively well defined environment. By comparison. However. more of their disengaged time is spent cruising. • Yellow (suburban) taxi badge holders have less engaged time. most loaded journeys have a matching empty journey. time spent waiting at rank (25%) or empty running (14%) account for a much smaller proportion of disengaged time.1 The relevance of airport surface access Airports are a natural focus of taxi operation.

2 Strategies and Targets Paper A Working Paper on “UK Airport Surface Access Strategies and Targets” published in 2004 examined the Surface Access Strategies of 15 of the 27 UK airports charged with producing a strategy. Passengers park and catch a courtesy bus into the terminal area and these are counted as public transport trips” They suggest that a metric of percentage using public transport may be selected because it is relatively easy to measure. The aim of the paper was to critically assess the targets for modal shift used by UK airports in order to address their surface access problems. However they note that “A target based on such a measure would expose the problem of empty taxis circulating. these provide a useful insight both on the perception of the role of taxis as private transport. The following airports are considered in this paper: Airport Approximate taxi/PHV share of surface access Heathrow 27% Gatwick 13% Stansted 11% Luton 12% London City 39% Birmingham 15% Manchester 27% 5.Where airports are required to publish Surface Access Strategies. and that a metric based on the ration between vehicle movements and number of passenger delivered may be better. The paper includes some relevant comments on the role of taxis and the definition of public transport. the full implications of kiss and fly. and the relative importance of key issues between airports. “This might incentivise airport management to promote long stay parking for which two vehicle trips are made. and the issue of courtesy buses from remote car parks carrying few people per load. as opposed to the practice of taxi or Kiss and ride access where four vehicle trips are made to deliver a passenger to/from the airport” © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 9 . The authors note that at one airport: “Targets to achieve a certain percentage of surface access trips by public transport modes had led to the relocation of car parks to a site outside the airport boundary.

Source: Manchester Airport Ground Transport Plan © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 10 . and on commercial premises such as the petrol stations while drivers wait for the passengers. and the Manchester Ground Transport Plan has a particularly well-developed policy towards taxis. taxis may carry more passengers than a private car. most taxi journeys are made on a one-way basis. which places parking on site above taxi. • The high level of private hire taxi use puts added pressure.” The plan sets out a hierarchy of preferred travel choices. Taxis and private car pick up and drop off generate four vehicle trips per return air trip. with the taxi either leaving or entering the Airport empty.5. there are issues that follow from such a high level of use • As private hire taxis have to be pre-booked. In 2005. is increasing.3 Manchester Of the airports considered. this has one of the highest levels of private hire and taxi use at any UK Airport (27%). This is in contrast to two trips when passengers park at the Airport. This inevitably generates twice the number of vehicle trips than if the same journey was made in a car that was parked on the site.” The high level of taxi use brings a number of problems: “Despite the obvious benefits that taxis bring to users. and increases congestion on our forecourts. The Plan notes that “Passenger access is still dominated by private car drop off and taxi. • Fly parking on local residential roads around the Airport. Conversely. these modes accounted for 60% of passenger movements.

Manchester Airport is keen to reduce empty running: “In order to reduce the environmental impact and improve efficiency of our taxi operations.Each mode of transport serving the airport is subject to a SWOT analysis. Source: Manchester Airport Ground Transport Plan In particular.” © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 11 . our strategy addresses ways to reduce the number of ‘empty’ journeys to or from the Airport and to encourage multiple- occupancy of vehicles through the use of taxi bus services. which is then used to draw out a series of policy objectives.

4 Birmingham With only some 15% of passengers using taxis. for both passengers and employees. As these modes © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 12 . but “In terms of passengers.” But here again. the approach in the Surface Access Strategy encompasses some of the some of the thinking set out in the “Strategies and Targets” paper noted in section 5. private hire vehicles and executive limousines) will need to be maintained as a matter of good customer service. however there is a concession that “these trips will continue to be identified separately in the more detailed figures”. so that the targets effectively relate to reducing the percentage of people arriving by car and taxi.the total number of vehicles entering and leaving the Airport site. private hire vehicles and set-down and pick-up at airports. The focus on vehicle movements is further emphasised: “However. compared to other land uses.” In common with the other airports with broadly similar taxi shares. it is the overall level of surface access movements that is very important.5. However. in order to reflect the fact that these passengers arrive in a bus.2. regardless of the Public Transport Modal Share.” So far so good. improved as the Airport continues to develop and grow.” This indicates a narrow focus on activity within the airport perimeter. thus reducing local congestion. and. “In terms of defining the targets. generate ‘double’ vehicle trips per passenger movements and contribute significantly to set-down and pick-up traffic. where possible. Therefore. off-site car parks are now included as public transport. Birmingham Airport is keen to emphasis that it remains committed to developing taxi facilities: “Appropriate and convenient facilities for taxi services (including hackney carriages. This leads to above average use of taxis. the value of parking as a tool is emphasised: “The biggest deterrent to car use is the cost of car parking. a new measure has been introduced based on its key visible impact . it is recognised that “such taxi services. “public transport” is now defined as everything except car and taxi. Birmingham Airport’s profile is somewhat different to that of Manchester or Heathrow.” However. particularly private hire vehicles and executive limousines.

This presumably includes journeys to Paddington to catch the Heathrow Express. and takes a similar approach to Birmingham. it should be noted that one potential route is to increase the amount of long-term parking available to air passengers. and 4% by taxis. with four road trips being made by car or taxi rather than two. a similar proportion to that at Manchester.” 5. it identifies that: “Airport surface access strategies (ASAS) have largely focused upon improving the sustainable access to airports by seeking to increase the public transport mode share of passengers travelling to and from the airport. The Heathrow Surface Access Strategy is more specifically focussed on emissions than at Gatwick. a greater focus on the individual surface transport activities should allow the more carbon intensive activities to be identified and targeted. 5. such an approach does also bring about a reduction in the carbon impact of surface access. Failure to do so would result in an increase in kiss and fly. which recognises the need to provide parking spaces for passengers wishing to park and fly. However. generate twice as much traffic as passengers who park. In general terms. PHV or limousine London City Airport is unusual among the airports in regarding taxis as public transport – though this © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 13 .6 Heathrow At Heathrow. The strategy notes that the development of Crossrail to provide a link to Canary Wharf could reduce demand for cross- London taxi journeys.7 London City With 39% of surface access by taxi. Thus one of the stated ‘New targets and objectives’ is to: “Develop a scheme to reduce vehicle miles driven on the airport landside roads. We aim to reduce the present level of kiss and fly. some 27% of non-transfer passengers use taxis (2007 data). visiting friends and relatives and kiss and fly activities. Indeed.” It goes on to estimate that 70% of CO2 emission from surface access modes are generated by “Kiss and fly”. the balance between them is important in terms of the overall level of traffic generation.” As with Birmingham. this objective is carried through into the car parking strategy. where: “The overall objective … is to ensure that the parking facilities are used as efficiently as possible. there is some recognition of the value in reducing road journey kms outside the airport boundaries. concentrating on taxi.” However. This objective is consistent with our approach to sustainable development.

5 Gatwick The Gatwick Surface Access Strategy 2000 – 2008 was the subject of a paper presented to the European Transport Conference in 2004 by Roger Jones of West Sussex County Council entitled “An innovative surface access strategy for a major UK Airport”. The current strategy was published in 2007 and one of the three main objectives is to: “Reduce the rate of growth of trips by private car and taxi to and from the airport by encouraging greater use of public transport” However the strategy goes on to note that: “Although [taxis are] not traditionally regarded as public transport. thus • there are more opportunities for taxis to seek hires both to and from the airport • supply can be managed using a “beacon” arrangement to indicate to passing taxis on the adjacent main road that there is a demand for taxis. local taxis are not permitted to ply for hire at the airport. The airport is close to central London.applies only to hackney carriages (22%) with PHVs regarded as private transport. We intend to do this by encouraging operators to proactively market taxi-sharing and to seek bookings for in-bound journeys to the airport.” © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 14 . and arriving air passengers (except those who have pre- booked with off-airport operators) are directed to contracted PHV operators with booking offices on site. meaning driving or getting a taxi are the only practical ways to get to the airport. particularly to the financial centre at Canary Wharf. With a taxi/PHV share of 13%. and is in an area where taxis regularly ply for hire. thereby reducing the number of empty return taxi movements.” And that in the context of the increasing number of early morning departures by low-cost operators “At those hours there aren’t many public transport options. Whilst that paper was primarily concerned with innovations in partnership and delivery. Gatwick is in a similar situation to Manchester. 5. there is evidence that other airports have sought to match the standards set by the original Gatwick Surface Access Strategy. however unlike Manchester and Heathrow. we are keen to improve the sustainability of this highly flexible mode of transport.

there appears to be a general consensus.8 Stansted At Stansted. would have a greater environmental impact.9 Luton At Luton. the proportion of passenger drop-offs at LLA have decreased from 31% to 25%. As at Gatwick local taxis cannot ply for hire. the proportion of passengers using taxis and PHVs is relatively low at 11%. the taxi share of 12% is similar to Stansted. this is counted as private transport. However. though there are difference policy approaches. The Strategy makes no specific mention of kiss and fly. against a growing passenger base. at least in the context of airport access. 6. “An important consideration is the reduction in drop-off activity. There is an increasing recognition of the problems of empty running. there is not space to consider issues including permits and charges. the Strategy notes that Luton Airport is considering the potential for taxi sharing. and the restriction of operators allowed to pick up. Interestingly. the strategy also notes that Kiss and fly at Luton is declining. and a new emphasis on the development of shared minibus services as a better alternative to car and taxi. Since 2002. “Taxi remains a convenient and cost effective mode of transport for many airport users. and as such. Drop-off typically requires vehicle trips for a returning passenger group. Thus the main objective of the Surface Access Strategy is to increase the public transport share of surface access from a current level of 33% to 35%. CONCLUSIONS Within the confines of this paper. and arriving air passengers are directed to a contracted PHV operator. The Luton Surface Access Strategy is positive about the role of taxis.5. there are many areas which it has not been possible to cover. 5. that mode shift from car to taxis may not always be beneficial. Even within the specific context of airport access.” However. © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 15 . As with Heathrow and Gatwick.

References Taxi/PHV Diary Survey 2006 Report prepared for Public Carriage Office By GfK Consumer June 2007 (with thanks to the PCO for permission to use in the preparation of this paper) An innovative surface access strategy for a major UK Airport Roger Jones. West Sussex County Council Association for European Transport 2004 UK airport surface access targets and targets Ian Humphreys. and Kelly Aldridge Transport Studies Group. Waikato University 2004 © Association for European Transport and contributors 2009 16 . Stephen Ison. Loughborough University Graham Francis Department of Accounting.