The sadness of the taxi situation

The taxi situation is highly ironic right now. A few days ago, The Straits Times featured an article about certain taxi drivers resorting to having put up signboards to attract passengers. The signboards mostly says that the drivers will not be imposing the 35% surcharge during peak hours.

Comfort has also said that if their drivers choose to do so, they have no control over them. In short, comfort allows their taxi drivers to decide whether to impose the surcharge.

Today, LTA has said that it is illegal to give such discounts (for more information, read Simply Jean’s post), because it would mean soliciting and soliciting is illegal.

I say the situation is ironic because the increase in price is supposed to help offset the increase cost of diesel , and solve the taxi shortage problem. Not only is the taxi shortage problem not solved, taxi drivers are hoping that they can give discounts to get more passengers!

I do not understand why you have to increase the peak hour surcharge. It is currently at 35% of metered fare. I have always thought that the problem is taxi drivers refusing to pick passengers without a call booking? And that there is no actual shortage during the peak hour? Then why increase the surcharge for peak hour?

What the taxi company should do to combat the many problems is to take some effort in educating their taxi drivers. Perhaps they should change their company policy to discourage taxi drivers for waiting for call bookings only.

I have an idea. Why don’t they make the cost of flagging a taxi down and for call booking the same? What I mean is this:

The current price for flag down is 2.80 for the 1st km.
Call booking is 3.50 for prime time and 2.50 for non prime time. (What the hell is the difference between prime time and peak hour?)

Change it to this:
Flag down: $2.80 for 1st km
Call booking: $2.80 for the cabbie + $1.00 admin surcharge payable to Comfort by cabbie

To the cabbie, both are the same. They only earn $2.80. Thus there is no incentive to wait for call bookings anymore. Furthermore, since call booking is a premium service, Comfort will earn the $1.00 for every call booking they have. Passengers who opt for call booking also pays $1.00 more.

It makes no sense for cabbies to earn more for a call booking. Call booking actually makes their life easier and increase chances of earning money. It takes no more effort to attend to a call booking than to a flag down passenger. Perhaps it is only the waiting time if the call booking passenger is late? Then impose a late surcharge.

After all, Comfort boasts of its location tracking system. I am sure that Comfort can check if a taxi has been waiting stationary for more than 5 or 10 minutes.

The solution to many things is not money. Money doesn’t solve everything. Perhaps we as a country should change our mentality towards money. So policy makers out there, do not keep thinking about money when you want to solve demand supply issues. There are other methods. Study economics.

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4 thoughts on “The sadness of the taxi situation

  1. Why are you suggesting ways for Comfort to leech more money from our poor taxi drivers?

    Call booking should be free and it will share the same benefits.

    I remembered when SMRT Taxis had a promotion where call bookings were of no charge.

    I kept taking SMRT Taxis during that period of time and each of the SMRT Taxis drivers I asked were in favour of the promotion.

    Free booking gave them more customers and thus more $$$.

  2. Unfortunately, most cabbie drivers are not versed in economics, and most passengers ain’t either. So they blame everyone and everything else. The sad truth is, the company need to do something to offset their own threats no doubt, but there is a need to find a delicate balance. As it stands, exploitation can occur because there is imperfect knowledge on the side of the drivers and passengers on the company’s policies and operation costs.

  3. themediaslut: Well if call booking is free, then you are essentially providing a premium service for free. Who is going to pay the salaries of the operators doing the linking between consumer and driver?

    I do agree with you that free booking can give more customers and thus more money. However, we have to take into account that SMRT Taxis are a small fleet. Comfort taxis are a much larger fleet. Even with paid call bookings, sometimes it takes 20-30 minutes to even get a taxi. What will happen when it becomes free for comfort? More calls yes, but not enough people to take calls and thus customer becomes frustrated. If then we say hire more operators, then how are their salaries paid?

    By the way, may I know why you feel Comfort is leeching our taxi drivers? The drivers can jump ship anytime and go into other taxi companies. Besides my suggestion was to make drivers feel that both call booking and flag down are the same in monetary terms.

    We can’t deny that the black sheep are the drivers themselves thus we have to use measures that target drivers to change the situation.

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