Commuting is a challenge for non-car users among women in Muscat, especially in emergency situations where they have to depend on friends and taxis. In Muscat, taxis are not regulated and fares are not fixed, which means a lot depends on the negotiating skills and the convincing power of the riders. There is no fixed fare structure even for shared-taxis and it is also difficult to hail a cab if one stays away from main roads, mainly in the afternoon and late night hours.
“Worldwide taxi services on-demand Uber have become popular with the customers as even elderly and women commuters can access them at any time at a short notice,” said Maryam al Balushi who frequently travels abroad for work.
“I never feel lost because taxis are available at my doorstep by using mobile applications. We know the estimated fares and the approximate distance from my hotel to destination. You also have the profile of the chauffeurs and the emergency contact numbers,” she said.
“In Muscat, we just started having a system like that now. It is difficult here because fares are not uniform and we do not know whom to contact if in distress,” she said.
A source at one of the taxi companies told the Observer that their on-demand services, which began in May this year, have been appreciated by women, both Omani and expatriate, in large numbers.
“I cannot tell the figures, but we have good number of women commuters and most of them are regulars,” he said.
Lubna, a government employee, said that she is not fond of driving, but not much option at the moment in Muscat. “Taxi fares in Oman are highly exorbitant. I am just waiting for the day where I would hail a cab from the doorstep through a mobile application.”
She added that the current taxi services do not have hotline number where women or anyone can contact in the event of adverse experiences.
Karen Tomas says taxis are essential services and there should be different types of services that cater to different categories of people.
“We need cab services for the masses operated by the local authorities and luxury services catering to the business class travelers from across the world.
Many woman students that the Observer spoke also called for affordable taxi services. “Most of us are forced to have private cars as we would prefer to travel in group with friends in public transport, than in private cars. We would prefer taxis driven by women,” said Fatma, a student at College of Applied Sciences.
Mwasalat recently said the taxi services would start by the year-end but the company has not mentioned about the women-specific services.
According to user-based reports, London, New York, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore and even Dubai have some of the best taxi services in the world.