Just so you know: Amsterdam locals — never known for their subtlety — refer to the Taxi Rank in front of Amsterdam Central Station as the ‘Gaza Strip.’
The term is a reference to the ethnic and/or religious background of what many believe to be the majority of Amsterdam’s taxi drivers. More importantly, it is an indication of how most Amsterdammers view the end result of the long-running ‘taxi wars.’
The Taxi Rank at 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.
More about that below, but first some good news:
The situation is about to change on March 1, 2008, as the City has worked with long-standing Taxi provider TCA to come up with an ‘elite taxi’ of sorts. From that day on, the Taxi Rank at Central Station (as well as at the Hilton Hotel) will be open only to taxis that carry an official seal of approval. The taxi drivers
- must have a special permit
- must have successfully completed a first-aid course
- will have to dress smart
- and must demonstrate a working knowledge of Amsterdam’s street plan
The taxi wars started in the year 2000, when the federal government adopted the Taxi Law. This law was intended to break the monopoly position of TCA (Taxi Center Amsterdam) had in the city. Before the adoptation of the Taxi Law, some 1300 drivers took part in a lottery for 635 TCA taxi licenses. This system had its problems, but the cure was worse than the disease.
The Taxi Law liberalized thr taxi business. Suddenly, anyone with a driver license could operate a taxi. As so often is the case when the government gets involved, the immediate result was chaos — especially in Amsterdam and other large cities. There was an influx of largely unqualified –and not infrequently, unsavory — taxi drivers. Regular taxi customers who had gotten used to impeccable taxis were alarmed at the sorry state of some of the new taxis.
The government then adjusted the law, allowing customers to pick their own taxi from the rank rather than be forced to take the first one in line. That wasn’t always easy, as competing drivers tried to make sure others could not leave their spot. Normal traffic are Taxi Ranks often was impeded as well, as — particularly during the weekend — hundreds of taxis crowded popular ranks designed for 10 to 20 taxis at the most.
The current situation is one of more or less ‘organized’ chaos.
The purpose of the Taxi Law was to provide the customer with more choice — and the competition was supposed to result in lower taxi rates.
The result was different. “Instead of customers selecting a taxi, taxi drivers selected customers,” says TCA director Bas Vos. “Drivers started to determine whom they would serve, and naturally they picked customers with far-away destinations.” This was — and currently still is — particularly the case at the Central Station Taxi Rank, where ‘Traffic Directors’ appointed by the City are supposed to make sure taxi drivers obey the rules. Instead, there have been reports of taxi drivers attacking these ‘peace keepers.’
A number of local officials agree with Vos. They lament that the current Taxi Law does not allow them to sanction taxi drivers who behave badly.
For the time being, most TCA drivers avoid the Central Station Taxi Rank. For one thing, they do not want to be associated with the nasty drivers often found there. Too, if they do show up, they face abusive behavior on the part of other drivers.
So, now you know — in part — why many Amsterdammers refer to the Amsterdam Central Station Taxi Rank as the ‘Gaza Strip.’
If at all possible, avoid the Taxi Rank at Amsterdam Central Station. If you do go there, look for a TCA taxi. Soon they will be extra recognizable by a special, orange skylight. (Salient detail: these skylight will include a chip in order to prevent theft and use by unauthorized drivers).
It is also possible to 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)
Stay tuned to DutchAmsterdam.nl for more details soon.
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