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Costa Rica’s Taxis Scramble to Update Meters to Include Speech Function

Costa Rica’s red taxis have more than competing transportation services to worry about these days.

All official taxis under new regulations were supposed to have new “talking” taxi meters up and running by July 1, said the Ministry of Transportation and Public Works (MOPT).

According to the Public Transportation Council, only 8 percent of official taxis have the correct type of meter, but they hope by the end of the year all will get up to code, said the MOPT in a statement.

The meters are intended to give equal access to users by allowing for the visually impaired to be informed through the meters’ speech function of the details of their trip including cost and distance. In addition, the meters must be able to print out a receipt with those details so that travelers have a record of their trip and cost.

Transportation officials said that 38 percent of taxis in operation require a complete overhaul of their meter to comply with new regulations. This involves an cost of between ¢250,000 and ¢440,000 (roughly $440 – 700), said MOPT officials.

The majority, 54 percent, require a modification of an existing device, which is less expensive, but still requires at least a $200 investment.

The changes are a result of a ruling by the Costa Rican Constitutional Court (Sala IV) in November 2014 which was filed by a taxi rider who demanded greater transparency and equal rights for all users regardless of physical capacity.

Taxis without the required meter will not be able to pass inspection, and can also be fined by police. Officials are counting on the December inspections to aid in enforcing the use of the new meters in the country’s some 13,000 official taxis.

“This public transportation service continues to be strengthened, and … offers greater guarantees to all users … with the implementation of this equipment that also adds greater transparency,” said Mario Zárate Sánchez, the transportation council’s executive director.