Disappearing Act by taxi drivers angered Commuters


It’s been the long time that I had written in the blog as I had concentrate my posting in my facebook. With the recent article in the straits times, It probe me to continue writing here.

The articles: Are taxis doing a “disappearing act” just before peak-hour surcharges kick in? Or is it simply a case of demand outstripping supply? What are the ways to improve taxi availability? 

What the report said have some valid points. Commuters and Taxi Drivers have their own point of views.

On the commuters’ side, It’s a pain in the neck during these hours:
1) 7.30am to 10.30am (Monday to Friday except Public Holidays)
2) 5pm till 7.30pm (Monday to Friday except Public Holidays)
3) 9.30pm till 10.45pm (Everyday)
4) 9am till 6pm (Weekends and Holidays)

Why is it pain in the neck during this hours mention above? The only reason that I can offer is, everyone needs a taxi during these hours. Remember, there are currently only about 28,000 taxi plying the roads daily.

Assuming 5% of the population looking for a taxi at these timing, 250,000 commuters are looking for taxi. How many can the taxi take a one go? There is always a timing that the commuters are expected to wait a longer than usual before boarding a taxi, coupled with traffic conditions that taxi drivers have to navigate through.

Being a taxi driver for the last three years, it taught me lots of things and I learn from the trade. The few problems that are causing the slow turnovers in my own perspective view are the followings:

1) Uneven geographical location for taxis. Higher demand in the Housing estate going to CBD or industrial estate, resulting shortage of taxi in the estate further away from the mentioned locations. In the evening, higher demand is on the opposite, higher demand in the CBD and Industrial estate. The government had in facts trying to distribute out the prime location to different areas like IBP, CBP etc, but the taxi drivers are not benefiting is as yet. And sorry, I had been digging my brains for the past one year and I had failed to offer any solutions on this problem yet.

2) LTA had a rule or law that requires Taxi Drivers to follow the commuters instructions on which route to take or take the shortest possible route.  This rule comes about is to ensure that taxi drivers do not take a longer route in order earn the extra dollars which I fully agrees. But this rules might not be applicable during the peak hours as there are jam along the route which resulted in slower turnover of the taxis or taxi being caught in the jam. Sometime by taking a longer route which will enable the commuters reaching the destination faster and sometime cheaper (based on the commuters that commented on the route I had taken).

Due to this rule, taxi drivers are afraid to make any recommendation to their commuters for afraid that they will complain against him especially the CDG Drivers. They will just follow the instruction given. Being caught in the jam will cost the commuters to pay more while taxi drivers earning less.

To solved this problem, the rules should be amended to the following:  Taxi Drivers to follow the commuters instructions on which route to take or take the shortest possible route, suggest whichever possible route to get to the commuters’ destinations.

3) The third reason which I’m going to give might anger some taxi drivers, but I need to be fair on the commuters side too… Master your trade well and you should know where to find commuters in the shortest possible time even in the middle of the night. Take pride with what you do and offer no regrets. New Drivers, do not over depend on GPS and know your route as fast as possible.

Taxi drivers are self employed, they do want to earn the highest possible return in the shortest possible time. It’s the same in any trade, the boss would want to earn the most with the least cost and wages. Commuters, please put yourself in the taxi drivers’ shoe and you will understand why.

Lastly, public transports infrastructure needed to ramp up as fast as possible. With better public transport infrastructure, people will tend to drive less and less traffic congestion on the road which will offer the best solutions for everyone.

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Is the Taxi Booking Landscape in Singapore going for a major reform?


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Two Apps have appear into Singapore Taxi Booking systems, namely the Easy Taxi and Grab Taxi. They allowed commuters to book the taxi via their apps, taxi drivers to get their booking who have sign up with the company.

These two company comes to Singapore with a big bang! How are they going to affect the taxi booking landscape in Singapore? This is everybody guess… Let me as a Taxi driver as well as commuters (on weekends) see the apps in my view.

Let me starts off with the application as a commuter:

Easy Taxi

Not very user-friendly, give up trying to use the apps after a few attempts. Currently, commuters do no need to pay booking charges to the driver as now they are having promotion.

Grab Taxi

A far more user-friendly apps which allow us to see how many taxi available in the area, see how many taxi bidding for the our job, track the location of the taxi that have successfully bided our job. Two Way communication is made available as driver’s mobile number is shown to the commuters.

As I have limited usage as a commuter, I would leave other users who often use the apps to post the comments in my blog on the apps.

Right now, as a taxi driver, I use the apps every day to get extra jobs for myself. I will touch on each individual apps that I have used.

Easy Taxi – Drivers

Easy to use as almost guarantee that the job will be yours if accept it. It’s currently offer driver SGD $5 per job completed. IT can be used on Andriod Only. Currently it does not charge any fee to drivers to take up their booking.

The downside of the apps are as follows:

1. The job offered can be as far as 8Km away which is not very practical in Singapore. It might be useful in area like Tuas, Jurong Island & Loyang area but not in town area.

2. Nothing to complain about except that their promotion and marketing are lagging behind Grab Taxi, thus we driver concentrate on Grab Taxi then Easy Taxi (will explain in detail later).

Grab Taxi – Drivers

Currently available in Andriod Phone only. With all the happening going on, I’m using Iphone which is not available, make me purchase a cheap Hua Wei Andriod phone to test out how good the Apps is.

To encourage drivers to take up their booking, they are having a promotion now for the drivers till 2nd March 2014, on top of the booking charge payable by commuters :

1. Make twelve booking in a week will receive a bonus of SGD $88.

2. Additional payment of $9 for taking booking during their declared peak hours while non peak entitle the drivers SGD $6.

Due to the promotion they are having now, commuters are able to book a taxi easily as a lot of taxi are going after the extra payment by the Grab Taxi.

In general, their Apps are quite easy to use and they only charge SGD $0.30 per booking completed.

Due to the popular demand from Commuters, there are also some improvement can be enhance on. Based on my two weeks experience using their Apps, the following concern which I hoped that Grab Taxi can improved on:

1. With increase number of booking during peak hours, the refreshing rate can be as fast as less than quarter of a second, this happen to me on the first friday evening (14 Feb 2014). We driver will not able to see where is the booking from.

2. When drivers bid for a job, drivers might need to wait for up to 15 seconds to see if they had successfully bid for the job. This is a potential hazard for taxi drivers as they might not know which direction they should be heading to.

3. Booking usually confirm to the nearest taxi driver (eg 0.1km).

The above mention concern could be improved as follows (in my view):

i. Despatch booking to only certain number (say 5 taxi drivers) and this can increase the number of confirmation booking at a short period.

ii. Instead of using shortest possible distance, use a radius of 1km range  (increasing the range if no taxi drivers are not bidding for the job) to dispatch the booking.

iii. Fastest finger gets rule. This can almost give shortest possible time confirmation to the commuters and taxi drivers.

4. We taxi driver are constantly on the road and booking offer comes, we need to double confirm the booking thus it created a road hazard for the taxi driver. Thus suggesting that confirmation of acceptance of the job should be made once only not twice.

Now having saying the pro and con of the Apps from Easy Taxi and Grab Taxi, how would these two Apps affecting the landscape of the taxi booking system in Singapore?

Well, as of the current system, with no extra incentives to the taxi driver, whichever booking comes first from the company booking or the Apps booking, the taxi driver will take it. That is to say, most of the time, Comfort or SMRT booking system will always comes first before the Apps booking comes. Thus there are chances that the drivers taking Apps booking will be greatly reduced. Unless the driver are so sensitive to the charges the company levied SGD$0.30 from Grab Taxi compared to SGD $0.40 from Comfort or SGD $0.50 from SMRT. But however, those taxi driver from other taxi company apart from Comfort or SMRT will continue to use the Apps as their company taxi booking is very limited.

How the landscape is going to changed is very much depend on the commuters and taxi drivers. How supportive they are towards the Apps. Also, how the Apps going to impact on the revenue of the taxi companies, how much decrease of their revenue, what kind of counter measure are they going to take? Would they be forced to combine forces and create an integrated booking system? All the answer will be known after the taxi start to report their earning or any counter measure they have made.

In conclusion, I would very much support the Apps and in line with what I had previously blogged. It definitely will help to decrease the monopoly of certain taxi company thus resulting better benefit for the taxi drivers as well as the commuters.

Lastly, I would like to see a direct competition from the Apps company by offering direct call centre to engage the commuters who wants to book a taxi through them. Engaged LTA to have the Apps address printed on all the Taxi Stand so that commuters can know how to book the taxi through their Apps and it could gain recognition from the authority as well.

I would write another blog on how the situation after all incentive ends for the two Apps.

Why taxi always not there when we need one?


Why taxi always not there when we need one?

In the recent telecast of Red Dot in channel 5, a scenario of a local taxi drought was covered in the episode. Indeed, it seem to have spoken some sense about the situation of the taxi industry in Singapore.

A summary of what the Red Dot had said in the program:

From 2002 to 2012, the population in Singapore increased by 27%, ridership of taxis increased with 16% while population of taxi increased 48%. But why are taxis still always not enough when we need one?

Accordingly to Terence Fan, Associate Professor of Strategic Management of Singapore Management University (SMU), cited the main reason of uneven geographical demand of taxi across Singapore.

In the program, it highlighted the following points:

  1. Why taxi drivers do not want to take calls
  2. Confusing fare structure
  3. Monopoly of the taxi industry by single company.
  4. Individual Booking System

I would attempt to give some insights to the issues highlighted in the program from the perspective of a taxi driver. 

Associate Professor Terence Fan had correctly pointed out the issue with uneven geographical demand of taxi across the island. The main destinations in the morning peak hours are industrial areas like Tuas, CBD Areas like Shenton Way. When we drop off the customer, we will leave the destinations without passengers and travel to the nearest residential area for another pick up.

As I have shared with a reporter before, the places of the least difficulty to get a taxi in the morning are: Jurong, Tampines, Pasir Ris, River Valley, Tiong Bahru, Redhill area, Geylang, Simei. While passengers in the other residential area will probably have difficulties in getting a taxi. Why?

The reason is very simple, say for example. I stay in Choa Chu Kang, when I start my shift and pick a customer to Shenton Way, would you think I would drive back to Choa Chu Kang to pick another customer? The answer is would likely be a ‘NO’ as we want to use the least amount of time to pick up another customer, thus driving to the nearest residential area is a more viable option to take. This results in the scenario of limited taxis in the other residential areas which are further from industrial and commercial areas.

As for the evening peak hours, majority of the customers are going home from industrial area and Central Business District (CBD). After dropping of the customer, only luck has it for us to pick up a customer from residential area, often than not, we will need to drive an empty taxi back to the area where there are more customers.

1) Why don’t taxi drivers pick up the call booking?

If you call for a booking for a pickup at the busstop/taxi stand or main road, likely they will assume you to hop onto an empty taxi to save the booking fee. Since there is no laws to says that customer must wait for the booked taxi to arrive. This hold true especially when it comes to places within electronic road pricing (ERP) areas.

A lot of times, commuters call us up (SMRT) when they couldn’t get hold of the taxi from comfort/citycabs. A lot of times, I would  relate to them the situation with an analogy:

If 1 million commuters are calling them (comfort/citycabs) at the same time, what would your success rate be even though they have more than 16,000 taxi on the road? You probably know the answer yourself.

2) Confusing Fare Structure

Indeed, the fare structure is very confusing with all the surcharges in different areas! Even myself being a taxi driver, I need to think hard on which taxi model does which fare structure. Let alone a common citizen or tourist as an end consumer. With the latest publications of confusing fare structure in the newspaper and TV program, are the taxi company gearing for a fare revision soon? Keeping my fingers crossed!

3) Monopoly by Single Company

As data have shown, currently Comfort/CityCabs is dominating the taxi industry with more than 60% of the total taxi population. Any fare increase/decrease is determined solely by this single company. This has an unhealthy effect to the competition in the industry. Moreover, LTA had put a cap on how much the taxi companies can increase the taxi fleet (that is 2% per year), which means no other taxi companies can really grow and have a head-on with Comfort Delgro in terms of its taxi fleet.

4) Single Booking System

As the programme have correctly pointed out, the current booking system the Land Transport Authority (LTA) have is just to have the phone booking by individual company, so the customer will have to call each company one by one to book for a taxi. A single booking system on the other hand covers all the taxi companies with a single phone call, every taxi in the surrounding area will be able to bid for the job, be it company A or company B or Company C.

With all the advantages towards solving the taxi booking system, there is one major road block in the way. The taxi companies which have a bigger booking pie will not want to go into the system as this would mean their profit from the call booking might decrease tremendously. Therefore in order to solve this situation, the only way out is through legislation by LTA.

In summary, the program did show a good in-depth look at the taxi industry in Singapore. However apart from the issues discussed, the service standard does need to be improved as well as the waiting time of the taxis. As a small note, I am expecting a fare revision soon as a prediction of mine.

For tips of how to hail a cab when you can’t find one. Read my blogposts

Tips on getting a taxi during peak hours and rainy days – part I

Tips on getting a taxi during peak hours and rainy days – part II

Mislead statement by LTA


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The director of Media Relations from LTA publish an article in the forum today. But sad to say, she had not done her work well.
A mistake shown in the photo said; taxi companies have implemented a city area surcharge that is payable on trips originating from within the CBD, from Monday to Saturday during the peak periods between 5pm and midnight….
The statement is misleading. It’s hold true two years ago but not today. It’s now 7 days a week instead of Monday to Saturday only.
Also imposing a city surcharge is to defray the cost of a taxi entering the CBD which the director did not highlight.