By JOYCE INGIPA
IT is hard to find taxis in Lae.
In fact there is only one taxi service operating in the country’s second biggest city.
The Lae Taxi Service is owned by a Morobe businesswoman Fiona Veisame. There are 10 cars in the fleet.
There used to be a thriving taxi business in the city in the 70s but it slowly died away because of the high operation costs and the equally high crime rate.
Now the taxi service is being revived. One of its drivers is John Francis, 40, from Labu on the southern coast of Salamaua in Morobe.
He was between jobs when offered the chance to become one of the drivers.
“There is a very high demand for a taxi service in Lae city because the area is huge and people find it hard to move around easily. We have a bus service but sometimes people are tired and in a hurry and can’t (afford the time) to wait for a bus.”
John completed Grade 10 at the Bugandi Secondary School in Lae in 1992. He was devastated when he did not get an offer to continue to Grade 11.
But that did not stop him from looking for other opportunities to support himself.
His three siblings are working for companies in Lae. Their parents are back home in Labu village.
In 1997, he secured a job working as an electrical sales rep. He spent 10 years there before joining Mainland Holdings and worked for the Niugini Table Birds until 2016.
“I was not really matured and didn’t take life seriously. But when I got married and started to have children, it totally changed me to take my job seriously because that’s the only way I was going to support my family.”
His wife Polin is also from Salamau. She runs her small business of selling cooked food to supplement the family income.
Their children are in grades eight, seven and six. The eldest daughter Gemaimah is attending the International Training Institute in Port Moresby.
“I have been at home for the last couple of years before the Lae Taxi Service called me to start work this year which I am grateful for.”
He loves to drive people around the city which gives him the satisfaction of providing a much-needed service in the city. People in a hurry cannot depend on buses. If they do not own cars, they need taxis.
The taxis have meters. There is a flag-fall plus a rate of K2.60 per kilometer.
“Our taxi service is more affordable to city residents because we operate by meter. At the end of the journey, a bill is printed out which the customer pays. I feel satisfied when customers expressed gratitude about the cheap fare printed from the meter.”
He collects between K250 and K350 a day.
Most of the people who hire his taxi are city residents. Occasionally, a visitor to Lae will hire his taxi.
He also loves working and living in Lae because goods and services are affordable to people such as him.
“I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather be than Lae. Food in the shop and markets are plentiful and affordable. With the little I earn as a taxi driver and from my wife’s marketing, we have enough to put a nutritious meal on the table for our children each day.”
Life in Lae is pretty cool right now for John.