In 2005, the estimated population in Jersey was 91,000. Today, more than 106,700 people live here. With population up over 17% since 2005, you'd expect the number of taxis to have increased at a similar rate to accommodate demand.

In fact, today there are 9% less taxis than in 2005.

Driving and Vehicle Standard (DVS) are in charge of regulating the local taxi industry. One aspect of this is controlling the number of taxi plates currently in circulation.

Limits on the number of taxi plates originated with the introduction of taxi ranks. To prevent congestion, and ensure there was enough work to make a living, a limited number of plates were issued. Unlike PSV licences, which are attached to an individual, plates are attached to a vehicle. Both a PSV licence and a vehicle with a taxi plate are required to carry passengers for hire, but the latter is much more difficult to get hold of.

In 2005, across every taxi rank and private hire company, there were a total of 319 taxis for the entire island. With a population of 91,000, this means 285 people per taxi.

At the end of 2018, there were 291 taxi plates in circulation – 28 fewer than 2005. While this might seem like a small difference, todays population stands at around 106,700. For every taxi on the island, there are 367 people competing for a ride. That's 82 more people per taxi.

Created with Highstock 7.0.3People per TaxiPeople per TaxiSource: Government FOI

Compared to 2005, there are 29% more people competing for same taxi as you. In other words, the demand/supply gap today is comparable to what you'd have seen if 93 taxis disappeared into thin air on 1st Jan 2006.

This effect is shown clearly if you track percentage change in population with percentage change in the number of taxis.

Created with Highstock 7.0.3% ChangeChange since 2005Source: Government FOI

For reference, below are the latest numbers for population per taxi in a few other places. This data has been collected from the most recent government surveys available, or by FOI where not already public (less is better):

  • Jersey: 367 people per taxi (2018)
  • London: 79 people per taxi – 78% less (2017)
  • Portsmouth: 186 people per taxi – 49% less (2017)
  • Plymouth: 197 people per taxi – 46% less (2017)
  • NYC: 117 people per taxi – 68% less (2017)
  • LA: 141 people per taxi – 62% less (2015)

Even back in 2005, the supply was significantly lower than other cities. Today, it is even worse.

However, raw plate numbers don't tell the full story. Hypothetically, there could have been 250 plates in daily use back in 2005, and 270 plates in daily use today. The overall numbers would have decreased, but your effective capacity would have increased. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case.

If you've taken taxis regularly, it'll come as no surprise to hear that the general taxi driver population is an ageing one. It might come as a surprise to learn just how ageing the driver population is.

  • 73% (~212 taxis) are over the age of 55
  • 24.7% (~72 taxis) are between 35 and 55
  • 2.3% (~7 taxis) are under the age of 35

As drivers get older, the hours they work tend towards off-peak hours. Naturally, there will be some exceptions, but from surveys we've conducted with drivers and our data from Goto, the older a driver gets, the less likely they are to drive at peak times.

It's difficult to quantify exactly how age affects the shifts worked as there is very little public data on taxis. Our data from Goto is not statistically significant (due to the sample size and noise), so I can't quantify it as every x years, a driver is y% less likely to work at peak times, but the general trend is evident. This by no means a controversial opinion, and is shared by drivers and regulators alike.

An ageing driver population resulting in less vehicles active during peak times only exaggerates the effects of the massive demand/supply gap, unsurprisingly leading to a 2+ hour wait on Saturday nights (if you can get one at all).

We first raised these statistics with DVS in a meeting last year. We showed them the graph, tracking population change against total taxi numbers, but it became apparent that population wasn't a factor they previously considered. Population is your market, and tracking supply against potential demand is critical. The failure to do so indicates a massive lack of data-driven policy.

Unless DVS works to immediately increase the number of plates, while actively encouraging younger individuals to join the industry, Jersey faces a crisis. In less than 10 years, 73% of current drivers will have reached retirement age. If attempts are not made to introduce younger drivers the industry now, it will be too late. The only way to do this, is by introducing more plates.

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Images are included for illustrative purposes. Number plates and other identifying marks have been changed.