Italy’s Government Takes Aim at Taxi Shortages

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During the summer season in Italy, both tourists and residents in popular destinations faced great difficulty in finding taxis. Ride-sharing services like Uber, Lyft, and Bolt are heavily restricted in Italy, resulting in long taxi lines at train stations and airports. Taxi dispatch numbers had customers waiting on hold for extended periods, and regular taxi apps were unable to find available cars. This situation led to frustration and complaints from customers, who were left waiting under the scorching sun for hours.

The shortage of taxis in Italy has been described as a disgrace by Furio Truzzi, the president of the consumer rights group Assoutenti. The government has recently stepped in to address this issue by implementing measures to simplify procedures for issuing new taxi licenses. These measures include the possibility of issuing temporary licenses to cover peak periods such as the summer season or major events like the Catholic Church’s Jubilee in 2025 and the Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in 2026. Major cities and those with international airports, such as Rome, Milan, and Naples, will also be able to increase the number of licenses by 20%, with the requirement that the new permits be used for electric or hybrid cars.

However, transportation experts argue that this decree falls short of the necessary industry overhaul. The taxi lobby holds significant influence over local and national politics, resulting in minimal competition and limited opportunities for liberalization. Andrea Giuricin, a transportation economist at the University of Milan Bicocca, suggests that increasing the number of licenses for Italy’s chauffeur services, which work with Uber, would be the most effective solution to meet consumer demands. He highlights the challenges faced in Italy due to the lack of a liberalization culture and the power of the taxi lobby.

Attempts to open up the taxi market in previous governments have been thwarted by the taxi lobby, as municipal governments are often influenced by their preferences. The taxi lobby holds strike tools that can paralyze entire cities, such as wildcat strikes or traffic blockages. Andrea Laguardia, the director of Legacoop Produzione e Servizi, an association of taxi cooperatives, dismisses the new decree as insufficient, claiming that city governments already have the authority to issue more licenses if necessary. Italy has fewer taxis per capita compared to other European countries such as France and Spain.

Representatives of chauffeur services, who stand to benefit from market liberalization, feel trapped by the powerful taxi lobby. They are unable to increase the number of cars on the road to meet the growing demand. Luigi Pacilli, the president of Federnoleggio, a group representing some N.C.C. drivers, criticizes the new measures as a bluff, as they merely allow but do not mandate the issuance of new licenses. He questions whether Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni will have the determination to challenge one of the most influential lobbies in Europe.

Taxi drivers attribute the shortage to various factors, including traffic congestion, an influx of tourists, and inefficient public transportation. They argue that critical shortages only occur for a few months each year and that demand drastically declines during winter. Moreover, obtaining a taxi license is seen as a valuable retirement asset, as existing licenses can be sold for substantial sums of money. Introducing new licenses could decrease the value of existing licenses, leading to resistance from cabbies who may choose to strike. City administrators are wary of potential protests and traffic blockages if they decide to issue new licenses.

In conclusion, the shortage of taxis in Italy has created significant challenges for both tourists and residents. While the government has intervened by introducing measures to simplify license procedures and increase their number, experts suggest that a more comprehensive industry overhaul is necessary. The influence of the taxi lobby has hindered competition and liberalization, making it difficult for ride-sharing services to operate in Italy. City governments fear potential backlash and strikes from taxi drivers if changes to the status quo are implemented.

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