Taxi drivers across the country will stage a national protest next Tuesday, Aug. 9 against what they said is a lack of action from the government to stop the ride-hailing service Uber, which they say is illegal.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story listed specific points where taxis are planning to gather to protest. However, we have since learned that the list is unofficial and could change.
Since last year, taxi drivers have staged public demonstrations claiming that neither the Traffic Police nor any other government agency is doing anything to stop the operation of Uber and unlicensed taxi drivers, or piratas, as they are known in Costa Rica, as well as private chauffeurs, or porteadores.
Gilberth Ureña, leader of the National Taxi Drivers Forum, said next week’s protest aims at pressuring government officials to enforce laws banning unlicensed transport services.
“We will demand that the government stop these crooks from stealing our jobs,” he said in a video posted on the group’s Facebook page.
Taxi unions have also filed complaints against Uber before an Administrative Court in San José and before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court.
Taxis plan to gather at strategic sites to block major highways and routes across the country. However, President Luis Guillermo Solís said Friday that blocking traffic will not be tolerated. “If there are people who try to block [roads] we will use whatever means necessary within the law to remove them and assure that they don’t impact traffic flow,” he said.
Uber gaining preference
Uber officially launched operations in Costa Rica on Aug. 21, 2015. Almost a year later, some 7,000 drivers currently are using the mobile app to provide transportation — equivalent to just over half of all taxis registered in the country.
The company also reported having 225,000 registered users, with most of them requesting transportation between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Consulting firm CID Gallup last week disclosed the results of a survey conducted in May showing that 52 percent of people here still prefer taxis. The survey found that after nine months of operations, just over one-third of the population prefers Uber over a taxi.
Uber beats taxis on a ratio of three to one among people who claimed to have used the service at least once, the study noted.
Another 9 percent prefer piratas or porteadores while 5 percent said none of the above.
Those who prefer Uber, among other reasons, cited the service’s ease of use, cheaper rates and better quality of Uber’s vehicles. They also said Uber drivers are more trustworthy.
On the flip side, those who prefer taxis said Uber drivers are not always available and said they don’t like the company having their credit card info.
The competition for taxi drivers could keep growing as Cabify, a Spanish ride-hailing company, confirmed in May that it will soon start offering service in Costa Rica.