Taxi bosses in Dubai have said they are recruiting additional drivers and offering bonus schemes to tackle the lack of available cabs during peak hours.
The emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority has urged commuters to take public transport in the meantime.
Transport chiefs said the lack of available taxis was down to “unprecedented growth” in passengers due to a return to offices and schools, as well as Expo 2020, which opened in Dubai at the start of October.
The National canvassed some travellers in Dubai who said they were unable to hail an RTA taxi on the street or find one on the Hala Taxi section of the Careem app in recent weeks.
“In many parts of Dubai, it’s not that customers can no longer hail RTA taxis via Hala, it’s just that we have witnessed unprecedented, enormous growth in the city as people return to offices, schools, social outings, in addition to several events happening in Dubai, including Expo 2020,” said Basil Hovakeemian, chief executive of Hala.
“In simpler terms, this has generated higher demand than supply. With all these reasons to move around the city during peak hours, there aren't always enough taxis to serve everyone.”
Additional drivers will be recruited in the coming weeks, Mr Hovakeemian said, but he urged patience while the changes were being introduced and new recruits were trained.
"The RTA is planning to expand the number of taxis in Dubai in the next few weeks and we are working closely with our franchise partners to make sure that as a next step, those vehicles are part of Hala's platform," he said.
"It's very important to note that change like this doesn't happen overnight. We ask our riders to be patient with us as these measures will take some time to be implemented.
"The city has strongly recovered and the economy has seen unprecedented massive growth, all industries/businesses are working hard to cater to all consumers' needs."
He said Hala was also working on several incentive schemes to ensure as many drivers as possible were on the roads, especially during peak hours.
"We’re expanding captain [driver] incentives/budgets and really looking at different angles to ensure best service quality," said Mr Hovakeemian.
"We’re doing this by providing bonuses and guarantees for being online and accepting bookings during peak hours.
"Our captains have done a massive job and effort by staying online and helping people get around during peak hours, and in order for us to retain that with this influx of people in the city, we’re providing these bonuses."
The RTA issued a statement that said it was aware of the issues surrounding the availability of taxis in Dubai in recent weeks.
“RTA is working with the taxi franchise companies to ensure the on-time availability of taxis to meet the surge in the demand for taxis due to the intensive event calendar around the city,” a representative said.
“In the meantime, we would like to request commuters plan their journeys, use various means of public transport and metro, especially during big events, and to book taxis through Dubai Taxi Corporation, Careem and Uber apps to ensure that the reservations required are met.”
The National tried hailing a taxi through the Hala Taxi section of the Careem app during peak hours between 4.30pm and 6.30pm.
Dubai Marina and Town Square had no taxis available, Business Bay had a wait of 37 minutes and Damac Hills had a 15 minute wait.
Dubai commuters expressed frustration at being unable to hail RTA taxis since the beginning of October.
“Usually we would just go out and get one off the street but they haven’t been available recently,” said Aaron Sutton, 32, who works in marketing and lives in JBR, Dubai.
“When I go on the Hala part of the Careem app, we just get a message saying ‘could not find a captain’.
“Now we end up paying for premium Lexus rides, which cost a lot more than it would to use an RTA equivalent.”
Mr Sutton said that in one case he paid more than Dh100 ($27) for a routine one-way trip that usually costs Dh30 with an RTA taxi.
“I've been living in the Marina for about four years now in the same building and if there was not a taxi or two patiently waiting outside, there was usually always one coming around the corner available to jump in,” said Kirsten Rock Keogh, a 29-year-old happiness coach for teenagers.
“Now when I leave the tower I meet other people standing on the kerb waiting for taxis and all seem to be trying to book through Careem or Uber, too.
“There are plenty on the road but they all seem to already be booked showing their red light.”
Another resident said it had become very hard to book an RTA taxi in recent weeks.
“Quite often I cannot find a taxi or else it [the app] finds a taxi that is over 20 minutes away, when normally a taxi would arrive within five minutes,” said engineer Steven Reilly, 36.
“When using Uber, taxis are available but they can be up to twice the rate of an RTA one.
“When I leave work in the Marina in the evening, it is impossible to wave down a taxi or book one.”
Residents living in the suburbs have also been suffering from a lack of available taxis.
“I live in Mudon and we had visitors over the weekend,” said Peter Murphy.
“I tried on Wednesday night, Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon and nothing [was available]."