Notes from a pilot's kid

Taxi Ride Sharing in Guiyang

Night shot of Guiyang Streets

Throughout downtown Guiyang there seem to be people standing everywhere on the edge of the sidewalk or in the curb lane trying to get a ride somewhere. Guiyang does not (yet) have a subway system, and for some reason there’s a severe shortage of available taxis even at non-peak hours. This is not uncommon in China (available taxis can be hard to find in central Chengdu, though in my experience not as hard as Guiyang), but I have not been to another place that handles taxi shortages like Guiyang.

In reality, those people standing on the edge of the sidewalk in Guiyang have put themselves on the unofficial taxi ride-sharing market. Taxis that already have passengers will keep their windows down and roll past people on the street to wait for them to shout a destination. If the destination is in the same direction as the original taxi rider’s destination, the person will jump into the taxi and share part of the ride with a stranger. This works simultaneously for official taxis and unofficial taxis, so in reality all sorts of vehicles will roll slowly past passengers on the side of the street to see if they have a chance to pick up a passenger and make some extra money.

One of the reasons why I think this system seems to work in Guiyang is becuase traffic in the city center is often congested and taxis do not need to slow down and inconvenience their first passenger to pick up a second.

I was told that it’s possible to tell the driver of an official taxi to go straight to the destination and not pick up additional passengers, but in the few times that I rode a taxi in Guiyang I did not say anything, and the driver proceeded to shop around with me in the passenger’s seat.

In terms of price, I did not get the chance to negotiate a shared ride fare; the one time that my taxi driver found a second passenger, I was only 300 meters from my destination and paid in full. If the ride is shared over a longer distance, I suspect that a price is negotiated so that both pay at least the flag fare of 8RMB and additional metered fare is divided based on the circumstances.

Additionally, if even a shared taxi is hard to find, I did once have a friend call a cab for me using a smartphone app. It looked like a bidding system where the user can submit a location and bid a value above the base fare to entice a taxi to pick up a specific person in a specific spot. My friend bidded 20RMB, within two minutes a taxi stopped to pick me up, and the entire fare was handled through the app rather than the taxi meter.