Commuters form their own queues to beat long cab lines

People forming their own queue for cabs in front of International Building on Orchard Road at midnight on a Friday. Some commuters say that the lines at official taxi stands are too long and the unofficial queues move faster, while some cabbies say i
People forming their own queue for cabs in front of International Building on Orchard Road at midnight on a Friday. Some commuters say that the lines at official taxi stands are too long and the unofficial queues move faster, while some cabbies say it is more convenient to pick up passengers in front of the malls - even though some of these spots are in no-stopping zones. -- ST PHOTO: YEO SAM JO

Commuters form their own queues at no-stopping zones

Forget about waiting at designated taxi stands along Orchard Road. Tired of the long waits, frustrated commuters have taken to forming unofficial queues, where they can often get a taxi within minutes.

At least three such queues could be seen on a recent Friday night: in front of Cathay Cineleisure Orchard and Mandarin Gallery on Grange Road, and in front of Plaza Singapura as well as International Building on Orchard Road.

Even though cars are not allowed to stop at some of these spots, The Straits Times spotted cabs picking up curb-side commuters there.

At Mandarin Gallery, the cabs also caused a traffic snarl, as they were blocking cars from entering the carpark there.

Mr Max Lim, 27, was one of about 15 people who were queuing for a cab between Cathay Cineleisure Orchard and Mandarin Gallery at 10pm.

"Taxi stand lines are super long. But I've never had a problem getting cabs here," said the legal associate, who had walked over from the nearby 313@Somerset mall. He got a cab in three minutes.

Others like financial analyst Kenneth Poh, 27, said: "I just happened to see a line here. It seemed to be moving quite fast so I thought, 'Why not?'"

A Mandarin Gallery spokesman said its security guards have tried to prevent cabs from stopping there, as they make it difficult for cars to turn into its carpark along Grange Road.

A spokesman for Cathay Organisation, which owns Cineleisure, said its security guards "actively prevent" taxis from stopping along the road there.

Cathay Cineleisure Orchard security guard Vijaya Velam, 25, said queues usually start in the evenings, and get worse on weekends.

"There'll be a jam and it's hard for cars to come in. Cars behind will be honking but the taxis won't move," she said.

Cabbies who pick up passengers along the double- yellow zig-zag lines in front of Cathay Cineleisure Orchard and Mandarin Gallery are flouting traffic rules, as these lines indicate that the stretch is a no-stopping zone.

A Land Transport Authority spokesman said that "curb-side pick-ups along CBD areas of Orchard Road are discouraged to minimise disruptions to the flow of traffic".

Taxi drivers who pick up or drop off passengers along bus lanes on Central Business District roads during the bus lane operating hours can be fined $130.

But some still take the risk, like Mr Ngo Chong Kut, 50, even though he was issued a ticket a month ago for a pick-up in front of Cathay Cineleisure Orchard. "There are so many passengers here, and there is no need to wait to pick them up," he said.

Fellow cabby Francis Goh, 60, agreed: "It's better for business and more convenient for people."

Over at Plaza Singapura, the official cab stand behind the mall had 10 people queuing at 11pm on a Friday night, with an average wait of 10 minutes. Meanwhile, more than five cabs were lined up in the bus lane in front of the mall.

Cabby C. S. Lee, 57, said some drivers prefer to wait in front of the mall instead of the stand.

"It's more troublesome because you have to go one big round to turn into the stand," he said.

yeosamjo@sph.com.sg