12 signs S'pore's taxi system is broken in a dozen places

The Singapore government needs to drop its policies of convenience and decide if taxis are public or private transportation.

Mothership| October 27, 04:33 AM

#01 Too many types of taxis

There are seven taxi companies in Singapore with about 30 types of cabs in total, in at least eight different colours.

Talk about uniformity and homogeneity -- not.


#02 Too many fare structures

There are close to 10 different flagdown fares, three different metered fare structures, more than 10 different types of surcharges, and eight types of phone booking charges.

You still following?

Seng Han Thong



#03 Inconsistent categorisation

In 1998, when taxi fares were deregulated, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said then that the move was to allow taxi companies “to set fare structures based on their assessments of prevailing market conditions”.

But bus and train operators are not allowed to set fare structures.

So that means...


#04 Relying on a policy of convenience

LTA Taxi

The government is inconsistent on whether taxis should be considered public transport or not.

Taxis are considered public transport only when tallying public transport ridership numbers.

If not, there are two different policies for taxis and other forms of public transport such as buses and trains.


#05 Flexibility that leads to exploitation

During Certificate of Entitlement (COE) bidding, taxi operators are given special dispensation and granted bigger tax rebates than private car buyers if they choose environmentally friendlier models.

But they are also deemed to be private transport with taxi operators given free reign to set whatever rates they choose in a laissez-faire environment like car rental companies.


#06 A better system already exists elsewhere



In comparison, Hong Kong's cab fares are government-regulated, with tight controls ensuring no new taxi licence issued since 1994. Taxis are instantly recognisable, with three basic colour schemes, red being the most common.


#07 Failures of a liberalised taxi market



In 2002, the Singapore government liberalised the taxi industry, resulting in an almost 50 per cent surge in cab population from 2002 to last year.

With about 28,000 taxis on the road, Singapore has a higher cab-to-resident ratio than most developed cities.


#08 Where is the motivation to drive cabs in Singapore?



But Hong Kong’s 18,000 taxis make about one million trips per day. Singapore’s 28,000 cabs do slightly under a million trips.

Even a British expatriate knows that one cannot get a taxi when it is raining in Singapore.


#09 Proof that simple can be better

In Hong Kong, the fare structure is a lot less complex.

The flagdown rate is a uniform HK$20 (S$3.20), with every 200m or one minute of waiting time charged at HK$1.50. Surcharges are few and low. Phone bookings of HK$5 (S$0.80) normally gets waived by many taxi operators.


#10 Add-on costs are the killer

Lee Li Lian

Source: Workers' Party website

When tallied, a 10km cab ride in Singapore costs more than in Hong Kong -- due to surcharges or booking.


#11 Free market forces lead to absurdities



To deter people from dialing for its cabs and be better able to meet the LTA's requirement for taxi operators to dispatch cabs to at least 92 per cent of the people who call in, Premier -- one of the smaller taxi operators in Singapore -- jacked up its peak-hour booking charge to $4.50, compared with $3.30 charged by most others.

Premier's Assistant Vice-President Melvin Ng said the move to increase peak-hour booking fees was to encourage taxi drivers to take up call-booking jobs. But Dr Park Byung Joon from SIM University felt that unless other taxi companies follow suit and raise their surcharges, the S$1 increase may actually decrease demand for taxi booking for Premier Taxis.

This is what happens when taxi companies are free to set whatever prices they want just to meet the arbitrary benchmarks of policy wonks.


#12 Patches don't work when it's salvaging that is required

Premier Taxi


The LTA has said that companies are required to publish fare changes.

Ain't nobody's got time for that, ya?


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