BUDAPEST: More than 100 taxis blocked traffic in downtown Budapest on Monday as drivers demanded a ban on Uber and other ride-hailing apps.
The yellow vehicles from several taxi companies blocked off a key intersection near St. Stephen’s Basilica in the Hungarian capital, causing significant traffic delays.
The protest began early in the morning, with drivers parking their taxis across several lanes on Bajcsy-Zsilinszky and Andrassy avenues. The protest expanded to a full blockade by mid-afternoon after talks with city and government officials did not yield immediate results.
Taxi drivers, who said only emergency vehicles would be allowed through the blockade, went to the nearby offices of Budapest’s mayor to present a petition with their demands.
Mayor Istvan Tarlos expressed his support for the “tax-paying Hungarian taxi drivers,” saying Uber did not comply with regulations.
“The capital city, however, has no official means … to ban or switch off Uber or exclude the ‘wild taxi drivers’ who do not respect the rules,” Tarlos said in a statement.
Janos Lazar, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, said the Cabinet would discuss the issue on Wednesday.
Driver Zsolt Gelencser said Uber and similar apps were avoiding regulations and licensing issues that taxis had to comply with.
“We demand that Uber, as an app or as an activity, cease to exist,” Gelencser said, standing amid the taxis occupying most of the road. “They are applying a double standard. Nothing applies to them, while everything applies to us.”
Laszlo Pusztai, another taxi driver at the protest, estimated that Uber was taking away 50-60 percent of the rides of traditional taxis. “Unfortunately, it is working very well for them,” Pusztai said.
Uber says it has 1,200 drivers and 80,000 users in Budapest.