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Seoul increases nighttime taxi services amid 'living with COVID-19'-driven growth in demand

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)
The Seoul city government will temporarily lift operating day restrictions on privately-owned taxis in an effort to increase nighttime taxi services, as eased anti-virus restrictions are jacking up demand for nocturnal transportation, officials said Monday.

The city will temporarily remove the restrictions under which privately-owned cabs were required to take every third day off, allowing them to run services in the nighttime period from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. on the otherwise off day, the city government said.

The policy will be in effect from Tuesday through Jan. 1.

The decision came as the capital has seen a sharp increase in nighttime cab users following the introduction of the "living with COVID-19" scheme, which abolished nighttime curfews on cafes, restaurants and other multi-use business establishments.

Driven by such relaxation, the average daily cab usage during the nighttime period from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. shot up 75.5 percent to 28,972 rides in the first week of this month, compared with 16,510 in October, according to the city.

In the meantime, the city has also seen a drop in the number of cabs available for nighttime services in the aftermath of the nearly two years of tough social distancing restrictions.

As of this month, a total of 16,519 cabs are running nighttime services, 5,551 less than in 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.

The city predicts about 2,000 more cabs will become available for nighttime services thanks to the latest measure.

In a move to meet the growing need for nighttime transportation services, the city will also operate "night owl" bus services for one month in December, adding 13 more buses to the city's eight busy bus routes and temporarily introducing three new bus routes.

Toward the year-end, the city will also run a special 70-member team to crack down on taxi drivers who illegally refuse passengers to pick up more lucrative long-distance taxi users. (Yonhap)

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