There is a special smell associated with taxi ranks. It is part petrol and oil, dirty toilets and urine, sweaty armpits and takkies.
The ranks can operate in this noisome atmosphere but the drivers and passengers are fed up. It does not smell nice and is a threat to people's health. There are rumours of strange diseases doing the rounds in Gauteng. These rumours are steadily feeding the paranoia of all who use these ranks.
Spurred by this, a shop steward from a drivers' union at the Bree Street rank went to the department of transport to beg a buildings inspector to see where the drivers spend a large part of their day.
The inspector was horrified. He gave the managing company a strong warning to fix the toilets. Instead, the toilets have now been closed as they are hopelessly out of order. The stench is unbearable. Some of the cubicles have no doors, the taps leak and there is always water on the floor. It could be that the doors are removed by hawkers who use them in their makeshift stalls in the street.
I suspect people would not buy from them if they knew the origin of the stalls.
There is a large skip next to the entrance. Those who work at the rank say the managing company has an arrangement with a waste disposal company to remove the rubbish that accumulates daily.
But the drivers and the vendors say the skip is only emptied every three weeks. As a result, the rubbish piles up and overflows onto the pavement just next to the only exit or entrance to the rank.
The pile ferments quickly in the summer heat and is a health hazard. A reddish slime oozes from the rubbish bags.
As is the norm at Gauteng taxi ranks, there are not enough exit points. At peak time taxis spend 20 minutes trying to inch their way out of the rank. They are trapped for that length of time next to this vile smelling tip.
The cleaners are the only ones who were praised for their regular sweeping of the rank. There is very little litter but it eventually ends at the entrance after the cleaners have emptied it into the skip.
I have so far not heard of a commuters' association. If there is one, it is surprising that it has not lobbied the mayor to improve cleanliness and hygiene at the ranks.
The ranks are rapidly filling up and many taxis have been forced out into the surrounding streets. I suppose new routes have sprung up because there are more RDP townships and extensions.
This is especially true at the MTN rank in Noord Street. The drivers block pedestrian crossings and park dangerously. They are arrogant and delight in driving into the crowds of people waiting to cross the street. They do this even if the robots are against them. Commuters are speculating that the new routes will lead to more taxi violence.