Taxi drivers are preparing a new wave of demonstrations in favor of the ban.

Taxi drivers are preparing a new wave of demonstrations in favor of the ban.

Taxi drivers are preparing a new wave of demonstrations in favor of the ban.

Taxi protest against the increase of the VTC in Malaga.

The countdown begins for the disappearance of our cities, in October 2022, of the urban services of rental vehicles with driver (VTC). Its popular routes will be banned in just one year due to the imposition of what is known as “Abalos Decree” (Royal Decree-Law 13/2018).

This has turned out to be a provision that is as controversial as it is restrictive of some public services that totally liberalized another Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Curious paradox, when the penultimate PSOE government liberalized the VTCs and the current one eliminates them in the cities, where 80% of the population lives, despite being endorsed by the constitutional Courtas discretionary passenger transport that they are.

As long as they did not proliferate, they were tolerated by the neighboring taxi union, but when the multiplication of their vehicles constituted a real economic threat, the taxi drivers took to the streets in the media “taxi war”which culminated in the collapse of Paseo de la Castellana for several days in the summer of 2018.

The unblocking of that event was presented by the then Minister Ábalos, as a social advance towards harmony and balance of the modes of transport that are VTC and taxis. But, in light of events, it was revealed only as a maneuver of political pressure to the regions where urban VTC services are offered (mainly Madrid, Andalusia and Catalonia). Curiously, none of them is governed by the PSOE-UP coalition.

Madrid was the first affected during the celebration of FITURat the beginning of 2019, when the taxi drivers demonstrated precisely to request “the regulation of the VTC”, demanding that the then president of the Community, Angel Garrido, which would grant the VTCs a local authorization (similar to the municipal license for taxis) to provide urban services. Garrido finally settled the conflict and opted for uberize the taxi instead of taxify the VTCswhich supposes a patch or partial solution, given that both modalities are two sides of the same coin and must be regulated in a harmonized way.

Garrido finally settled the conflict and opted for uberize the taxi instead of taxify the VTC, which supposes a patch or partial solution, given that both modalities are two sides of the same coin

However, the same leaders of taxi drivers who demonstrated asking for regulation of the VTC only a couple of years ago seem to have woken up from their erratic strategy and are now announcing new conflicts and maneuvering so that no one (especially the Community of Madrid, where taxi drivers now they don’t want it to be regulated by Ayuso and Martinez-Almeida what they did ask for and wanted to be regulated in 2019 by the City Council of Manuela Carmena) hinders the application of the so-called “regulatory cliff” of the “Ábalos Decree” and the urban services of the VTC are not regulated and thus are restricted to interurban traffic, being definitively expelled from the cities, where only the traditional taxi service will remain available.

This looks like a kind of “doomsday” for 95% of the services operated by Uber, Cabify or Bolt, and it should concern the million or so users of these digital platforms in the capital.

Citizens, in general, are usually delighted to have freedom of choice and variety in means of transport and that prices tend to be cheaper as a result of competition. But be careful because the idea here is not that there is an orderly coexistence between taxi drivers and VTC services, nor that unfair competition between sectors is pursued. Rather, behind this prohibition, far from looking out for the general interests of citizens, the Government has sought to strengthen the political clientelism of taxi drivers in order to control “the street” in their favor (or, at least, not lose it), going through on top of the damage caused by the suppression of mobility services to citizens.

In the Community of Madrid, taxi drivers now do not want Ayuso and Martínez-Almeida to regulate what they did ask for and they wanted it to be regulated in 2019 by the Manuela Carmena City Council

Instead of offering taxi drivers investment, digitization and regulation that allows them to compete and improve their services to users. The Government of Spain chooses and reaffirms itself to prohibit competition and expel the competitor, without measuring economic losses or damage to the right to mobility of citizens.

Also, it will weigh down Spain’s tourism competition compared to other countries where these urban mobility services do exist through digital applications and the dismissal of more than 25,000 VTC drivers is forced, sinking companies and social contributions while public revenues are lost for more than 1,500 million euros per year between direct and indirect taxes, vehicle purchases, fleet electrification, worse management of the mobility etc

Meanwhile, paradoxically, taxi drivers will see how their business, far from growing, goes into losses, loses investment and their customers and competitiveness decrease. Faced with this situation, the recipe will surely be the increase in taxi fares in the midst of the economic crisis and they will wonder why they will enter into a deep demand crisis, only attenuated by the policy of excessive harassment of private cars. Every trip that is not made in a VTC is not a new trip for a taxi. Neither is the economy a zero-sum game, nor is mobility rigid. Rather, experience indicates thata The entry of vehicles into the system generates greater fluidity and an increase in the use of both modalities.

The Government’s step back in providing the entire sector (taxis and VTC) with efficient regulation, compensating economic agents, leveling the playing field and putting operators to compete with the rules “same market, same rules”, to improve the quality of life of the citizen, generate wealth, jobs and economic activity, will have serious consequences for everyone. A new shot in the foot to the Spanish economy.

It is not the end of the world, but it is the second act of a sterile “taxi war”. Arm yourself… with patience.

**Emilio Domínguez del Valle is an expert lawyer in mobility and transport.

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