Bus touting cases down in wake of new law

The number of bus touting cases - in which private bus drivers approach tourists for business - has dropped slightly since a law was introduced to clamp down on the practice.

Since Jan 1, those caught touting their services have been liable to a fine of up to $1,000 or up to three months' jail.

That month, there were seven such cases, and the number dropped to one or two cases in subsequent months, according to the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

LTA told The Straits Times that actions have been taken against 19 cases of bus touting from January to October.

Regular checks are conducted at tourist hot spots such as Mustafa Centre, Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Clarke Quay and Resorts World Sentosa, as well as ferry terminals like the Singapore Cruise Centre at HarbourFront and the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.

The LTA added that these checks are to deter bus drivers from soliciting for passengers, as well as to take errant ones to task.

For more than a decade, bus touts have hung around tourist spots and arrival halls of ferry terminals in the evenings, when taxis are scarce.

They approach tourists with the offer of helping them skip long queues at the taxi stands for a fee.

These touts, most of whom are former MaxiCab drivers and taxi drivers who now drive private excursion buses, told The Straits Times that the business can be lucrative.

A minibus costs $70 a day to rent, less than half the rental cost of a seven-seater MaxiCab. On a good day, the touts can make up to seven trips, earning $30 to $70 each time.

When The Straits Times visited HarbourFront Centre last Wednesday evening, three middle-aged men were seen openly touting near a taxi stand.

One was overheard asking tourists to take his "express taxi" for $60. A group of five tourists, upon agreeing on the fee, were then asked to wait at a spot 30m in front of the taxi stand. A vehicle pulled up by the kerb three minutes later, picking up the tourists and their luggage.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said the drop in bus touting cases could be due to touts finding it harder to do business, with the authorities carrying out regular checks.

However, he noted that such illegal transport services, while discouraged, occur when there is not enough regulated transport services for an area.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2015, with the headline 'Bus touting cases down in wake of new law'. Print Edition | Subscribe