Premium taxi new ride downtown

The competitive world of Jakarta taxicabs may need to make way for a newcomer.

Jakartans now can take advantage of another premium taxi van offering sophisticated technology and comfort.

Tiara Express has been exclusively tailored for families, executives and expatriates who want comfortable and safe transportation, said Daniel Podiman, president director of PT Express Transindo Utama, which already runs the white Express cab fleet.

He said the company, which specializes in transportation services, would be putting 45 silver Toyota Alphards on the streets.

"It has a spacious interior with enough room for six people. It is the right choice for those who travel in groups," he said at the launch of Tiara Express on Thursday in Jagakarsa, South Jakarta.

"The taxi is also more environmentally friendly because it runs on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)," he added.

Each car is outfitted with high-tech amenities: a global positioning system unit which will indicate position, kilometers traveled and speed; audio-video player; city maps; Wi-Fi internet access; and laptop or cell phone charger.

Each cab is also equipped with an electronic payment swipe device to allow passengers to pay using credit or debit cards.

The fare for the premium service is Rp 10,000 (US$1) for flag fall and Rp 5,000 per kilometer, about double standard fares.

Operational director Herwan Gozali said Express had yet to set waiting and minimum order charges.

Herwan said in the near future passengers could also pay with a prepaid voucher, Jakcard, issued by city-owned Bank DKI.

Tiara Express has recruited drivers who speak English, said Herwan.

"We also want our drivers to be hospitable and have broad knowledge about Jakarta," he said.

Tiara Express can be found at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, hotels and shopping malls across the city, or ordered by calling 021-30010060.

Herwan said the premium cabs would be available 18 hours a day from 6 a.m. until midnight.

"We, however, are getting ready to serve our customers 24 hours. We have a special shift called the kalong (bat) unit, which works through the night from 3 p.m. to 10 a.m.," he said, adding they hoped to be operating a fleet of 100 taxis by the end of the year.

Several city taxi operators have gotten savvy about offering high-end and custom services for their consumers.

Last year, PT Kharisma Muda launched Maxi Cab whose taxis can accommodate eight passengers and also run on LPG.

Maxi Cab passengers can also pay with vouchers, credit cards or debit cards.

One regular taxi service, Transcab -- owned by PT Andalan Sekawan Transcab -- delights its passengers by providing a 10-inch LCD television and a range of international channels.

Governor Fauzi Bowo welcomed the presence of premium taxis services.

"Big cities like Jakarta require good, proper mass transportation. This kind of taxi, which can accommodate a lot of people and use LPG, can help reduce air pollution and traffic congestion," said Fauzi at the Tiara Express taxi launching.

"Some people do require a premium taxi. I hope the presence of this transportation will encourage people to leave their cars at home and ride with taxis instead," he said.

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