I frequently catch taxi’s to and from Sydney airport and pay a small surcharge for the priveledge.
On my last trip, my driver told me that the money goes to Macquarie Bank (the owners of the airport) to help them administer taxi queues.
But when I talk to taxi drivers they often tell me that they have been waiting at the airport, in a queue, for 45 minutes.
I tell them that I have also been waiting in a queue at the same airport for half an hour. The only difference being that I am waiting for a taxi and the driver is waiting for a passenger.
My driver told me that this was actually something that quite upset some of the drivers. “But”, he said, he had a radical idea.
He suggested it would be really good if there was a way to combine the two queues so that the people waiting for a taxi could be in the same queue as the taxis waiting for people.
That way the taxi might wait 15 minutes and the passenger no time. I thought this was a great idea.
I told him that I studied this kind of thing at university and that the academics said this was actually the point of the queue in the first place.
I guess its harder in practice though, because Macquarie have been running airports for years and they can’t find a way to make a queue actually work like a queue does in theory.
Maybe, I thought, this is what the $3 surcharge was for – funding advanced research into queueing theory to see if there is a way for the queue of taxis to integrate into the queue of people so that people can catch taxis rather than waiting for half an hour.
It turn out that I shouldn’t have mentioned my theory, because it upset the taxi driver.
If you catch a lot of taxis, you know the trip seems to go quicker with a relaxed driver than an upset one and my comments really got him upset.
His beef though, was not just with waiting around, it was with hygiene.
Apparently the taxi drivers sometimes spend over an hour in the queue, losing money the whole time while getting upset (and complaining to each other) about the horrible people at Macquarie and what they would do to them if they got hold of them.
I kept to myself the obvious point that a lot of Macquarie people probably catch taxis and the taxi drivers probabaly get hold of them quite often – I didn’t want to give the driver any dangerous ideas.
But then the driver got more excited and told me that there are toilets there for the drivers – but that they are a health hazard because they are never cleaned.
So after a day of taxi drivers being stuck at the airport and using the uncleaned bathrooms, he claims, there is a real risk of some kind of disease outbreak.
This would be bad since taxi drivers move all around the city and would quickly come into contact with a lot of local people, as well as half the people going to the airport. It would be a real ground zero for the next outbreak of what might become known as the taxi flu or the Macquarie Virus.
I told him that the people at Macquarie are highly paid (which didn’t seem to help to calm him down) and highly educated and that I am sure they were smart enough to know that you can’t have unhygenic bathrooms being used by such a large number of people who rely on them so heavilly.
But he reminded me that they still don’t know what a queue is – so maybe we should be worried.
Anyway, I suggested that Macquarie could use the surcharge hire a cleaner and he said he could hire some cleaners for them for a lot less than $3 for every taxi that ever goes through the airport.
So I suggested that, in the spirit of health and safety, he and the other taxi drivers should invent their own surcharge.
They should charge each “Macquarie” passenger an additional $3. (A Macquarie passenger would be anyonge going to visit Macquarie Bank, anyone being picked up at a Macquarie Bank building and anyone who works for Macquarie if you could spot them).
The surcharge would allow the taxi drivers to hire someone to clean the bathrooms they are forced to use at the airport (and thus protect the rest of us from virus outbreaks) and maybe even set up a fun park for them to use when they are stuck at the airport for an hour.
The driver said that he would talk to the other guys about it. Apparently it is hard to do officially but maybe, he said, they can all agree that any Macquarie passenger will incur an additional fee unofficially and then the taxis can buy a porta-loo.
At least its a start I guess.
Of course they could also use the money to research queues and see if there is a way to have a queue of taxis merge with a queue of passengers to that we don’t have both of them wating for over half an hour.
This would also take the pressure off the plumbing at the airport.
I wonder if Macquarie Bank has access to any experts in infrastructure or logistics who could help?