Multiple hire

On Friday to the SSO. My neighbour, Z, told me an interesting story.

Recently, Z shared a taxi from the airport with Matthew Wilkie, the orchestra’s principal bassoon. MW was ahead of her in the queue and was going to Paddington, as was she, and he agreed to let her go with him. Cabs, as you may gather, were in short supply.

When the taxi arrived at her place in Cook Road (strictly, Centennial Park) the fare was $17. Z asked the driver how much he was going to charge MW. The driver indicated that he would charge him whatever was on the meter. (MW was a little further on in Paddington, though basically Cook Road was pretty directly in the way and hadn’t involved much of a detour.)

Z didn’t think this was right. Shouldn’t the driver knock something off for the fact that MW had shared the cab? She was sure that drivers used always to do this. She said to MW, “That’s my car over there. I’ll give you a lift home.”

And she did. So the driver only got the one fare after all.

We lawyers would characterise this as a tussle over a windfall gain. Should the gain go to the passengers, who are headed in the same direction, or to the driver, who has found (and possibly organized, Z’s account was vague about this) the multiple hire?

Z affects a slightly ditzy girlie manner (especially for one who is I suppose about 70) but she is certainly not short of a quid (she also has a house down the South Coast somewhere). In my experience, the wealthy often have a sharp eye for questions of pence as well as of pounds.

Doubtless the cabbie thought that he was more than entitled to charge both passengers the full fare, especially given that he had drawn the short straw in getting a fare to Paddington ($17 must be about the minimum possible fare from the airport). The one thing he didn’t bank on was that, because of the orchestral connection, Z actually knew MW from afar already, and was prepared to give him the windfall monetary gain (a free trip home) when she had already received her windfall gain (a taxi earlier than otherwise would have been available). As a result the hapless cabbie was totally frozen out. I feel a bit sorry for him.

And to the music?

The program was:

Paul Daniel conductor
Ralph Kirshbaum cello

DVOŘÁK The Noon Witch
BLOCH Schelomo
BRAHMS Piano Quartet in G minor (orchestrated Schoenberg)

This was a program of rarities. It was the first performance ever by the SSO of the Dvořák, which is a kind of orchestral ballade (in the sense of Brahms’s Edward) or “orchestral tone poem” about a witch who comes at noon to take away the soul of a naughty child (cf Erlkönig). It was picturesque, though the narrative detail seemed to stop any particular part of the music from really taking flight in its own terms. It was good to hear it, though I can understand why this may not be the most frequently heard of these pieces by Dvořák.

Schelomo is a concertante work for cello and orchestra ostensibly about the mighty Solomon. Apparently, it draws on a lot of traditional Jewish music. Not really being so familiar with that music, I couldn’t respond to it in a really informed sense. It was only the most obvious bits (because of their familiarity through other pastiches) towards the end which really plucked (actually they were arco, but let that pass) at my heartstrings.

The Brahms/Schoenberg was the oddest piece. I heard the original quartet at a concert by the Australia Ensemble on 15 March. In the program note to that concert, Roger Covell mentioned the impending orchestral outing, but argued for the superiority of the original, and I have to agree with him.

One giveaway is that Schoenberg, having played the cello and the viola in the quartet, apparently claimed that in normal performances, the pianist was always too loud, and the better the pianist, the louder the pianist tended to play. I am surprised at this statement: in my experience, the better the pianist, the quieter the pianist is able to play. But beyond the empirical truth of the statement, there is a historical grievance in such music between the strings and the piano, and Schoenberg came to that grievance from one side, whereas probably, as a pianist, I come from the other. It is inevitable our perspectives will differ. To my mind, Schoenberg’s resolution of this in an orchestral version basically overlooks the interplay between the piano on one hand and the three strings on the other which is a hallmark of the original quartet and of its conception. That is the first problem.

The second, for me, was Schoenberg’s “updating” of Brahms’s orchestral style. Mostly this was fine, though I was nonplussed by his enthusiasm for whoopingly high horns well above the stave in big moments. Where this moved beyond mere orchestral style to musical substance was in the sheer scale of these big moments. They were twentieth-century loud – post Wagner rather than echt or even ersatz Brahms, and this changed the music. The most telling moment for me about that was the rather pompous march section which, in the original, seems to be a bizarre impersonation of triumphalist music but which, at the same time, because it is only being played by a quartet, still has a lightness of touch (actually I think it still has almost a fairy quality). This is entirely lacking when reorchestrated to be the “real” thing.

My favourite movement of the quartet is the Intermezzo: Allegro ma non troppo — Trio: Animato . It is my favourite in the orchestrated version also, though I felt either Schoenberg or Paul Daniels over-subjugated the persistent triplet rhythm. The final presto, a “Gypsy Rondo,” seemed less tidy than a truly virtuosic rendition required, though everybody else seemed to enjoy it well enough.

10 Responses to “Multiple hire”

  1. DanT Says:

    A letter in Mx yesterday was also complaining about multiple hires: a group of three were charged $42 each to go to the same destination, because they were strangers at the time of the hiring.

    According to Taxi Training Council material:

    You are only allowed to charge multiple hire when a NSW Taxi Council Officer has organised for separate passengers to share a cab. Always explain the payment arrangements before starting the fare.

  2. marcellous Says:

    I don’t know where the Taxi Training Council gets that from, or even who they are. Perhaps you mean the Taxi Council, or the Taxi Training Centre (as far as I can make out, a private institution)? Anyway, see below [emphases added].

    Multiple hiring of taxi-cabs
    160 Multiple hiring of taxi-cabs

    (1) The driver of a taxi-cab may accept separate hirings from 2 or more persons concurrently if:
    (a) all of the hirers commence the hiring of the taxi-cab at the same time, and
    (b) each of the hirers agrees that the driver may accept the other hirings, and
    (c) all of the hirers are travelling to destinations in the same general locality or the same general direction.
    (2) A driver of a taxi-cab must not accept separate hirings from 2 or more persons concurrently otherwise than in accordance with subclause (1).
    Maximum penalty: 5 penalty units.

    Regulations 158 and 159 are also relevant. To start at 160, go to

    You will note that the regulations say nothing about the fare. That suggests to me that it is really up to the individual passengers to insist that there be a reduction before they agree to the multiple hire, or that at the least the fare be adjusted to allow for detours. The regulations DO deal with the time when the taxi is stopped to let off earlier multiple hirers.

    161 Operation of meter by taxi-cab driver

    (1) The driver of a taxi-cab to which a taxi-meter is fitted:
    (a) must not set the taxi-meter in motion before the taxi-cab is hired, and
    (b) as soon as the taxi-cab is hired, must set the taxi-meter in motion, and
    (c) during any hiring, must keep the taxi-meter in motion,
    (d) during any hiring, must stop the taxi-meter for as long as may be necessary to prevent it from registering a charge during any period during which:
    (i) a hirer in a multiple hire is paying the authorised fare for his or her hire and getting out of the taxi-cab, or
    (ii) the taxi-cab is delayed for a reason mentioned in clause 163 (5), and
    (e) on the termination of any hiring (other than a hiring that is not the last hiring in a multiple hiring), must operate the taxi-meter so that the fare indicators return to zero.
    Maximum penalty: 5 penalty units.

    What is a bit unfair to the driver is that the driver is prohibited under regulation 161 from negotiating a fare higher than the metered fare, which could cause problems if the passengers agree on a fare which is in fact greater than the metered fare (and the driver is obliged to have the meter on: see above).

    So what this actually means is that if MW and Z agreed to the multiple hire (and this is a little bit tricky: how do you distinguish them agreeing with the driver from their simply agreeing with each other?), then MW still owed the driver the fair and he and Z ripped the poor driver off.

    So that’s probably where the “Taxi Training Council” gets the idea that it is safest just to multiple hire if the taxi council officer has arranged it.

  3. Victor Says:

    I’m intrigued that the taxi fare from the airport to Paddington only amounted to $17. What route was taken? I cannot seem to travel by taxi betweeen the airport and Edgecliff (nearby Paddington) for less than $32 nowadays and often it’s a lot more.

  4. marcellous Says:

    Well, that’s what she told me, and she possibly didn’t include the fee from the airport. And it was only to Cook Rd, so just behind Fox Studios. I agree it seems low, and possibly I have misremembered it or she has. Perhaps it was really $27?

  5. O Says:

    A peripheral point, but in circumstances where fares are plentiful, cab drivers are better off with short trips than long. Given that the flagfall is the same regardless of the length of the trip, the longer the trip the smaller the earnings per unit of time and/or distance. In addition, the chances of getting a return fare are higher the closer one is to civilisation.

    I don’t understand the issue generally though. Why can’t the passengers just agree that the person at the last stop will pay the fare and the others will just give him or her an appropriate contribution? Rich white people are strange sometimes.

  6. marcellous Says:


    As to your first, peripheral, point. Theoretically it seems attractive, but times of plenty for fares are often short-lived and unpredictably distributed. Your hypothesis only holds true if fares are plentiful each time the driver seeks the successive short fare. Who knows if fares will still be plentiful then? Bird in the hand v bird in the bush. Further, long fares typically offer more opportunity to travel fast and so earn the fare quickly. (OK: there is a separate point there about going to places where fares are not plentiful at all because settlement is too thin. In my experience, airport drivers are the punters who yearn to strike it lucky with the big fare. That’s why they go there rather than going point to point in the Eastern Suburbs, for example.)

    As to the issue generally. Passengers can always agree to share a fare, but that depends on their having searched each other out and found each other in time to strike this agreement. If they haven’t, then the taxi driver is free to secure another agreement, though you might wonder why the first passenger would ever agree to other passengers joining without some quid pro quo being offered. Bear in mind that the time when the agreement is struck is when or just before the passengers get in, so that it will be too late to make an agreement with your fellow passenger once you are in the cab and have a chance to get to know each other (which is akin to what Z did, albeit she knew of MW before she got in).

    What’s being white got to do with it?

  7. fxh Says:

    you’ll be pleased to know that taxi from Beiing new airport to downtown beijing is around au$13 for 40+ ks and clean fast cabs with polite clean drivers and printed out receipt and charge

  8. marcellous Says:

    Ah yes, those cheap Chinese taxis! I took them everywhere and all the time with gay abandon when in Beijing, except, of course, for the bloody traffic. But their cheapness is really more an illusion or a trick of perspective if you come from a different country and currency, unless you at the top of the Chinese wage differential. Taxis aren’t really any cheaper for normal Chinese than they are in Australia for normal Australians.

    Is the new airport actually at a different spot from the old? I thought it was just a new terminal and possibly additional runways.

  9. Club Troppo » Missing Link Daily Says:

    […] passes on a tale of a taxi and reviews a SSO […]

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    […] the concert I received some sad news from my neighbours, Jy and Z. As I have mentioned before, Jy had come for many years with Doug, who died at the beginning of […]

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