New taxi-sharing app Pair Taxi launches on Thursday in Singapore

Pair Taxi founder Andy Zheng says the app is different as it is focused on increasing efficiency, instead of supply.
Pair Taxi founder Andy Zheng says the app is different as it is focused on increasing efficiency, instead of supply.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

SINGAPORE - A new transport app promises to book you a taxi in the Central Business District (CBD) during the evening rush hours in a shorter time and for a lower fare, if you share your ride with others.

The Pair Taxi app, which launches on Thursday (Nov 5), matches up to three passengers at a taxi stand to one cab, and whose destinations are within 2km of one another.

The service will start in the evening at two taxi stands in the Tanjong Pagar area - at International Plaza and Capitol Tower.

The plan is to extend it to up to 20 CBD locations later.

Over 100 taxi drivers have signed up with Pair Taxi so far. Commuters can download the app on Thursday. With it, they input their booking requests and destination. They are then matched up with other passengers at the two initial taxi stands.

  • Other apps

  • Hailo, MoobiTaxi: Using location-based technology, bookings are made by matching passengers and taxi drivers.

    GrabTaxi, Uber: Besides booking taxis, commuters can also request private chauffeur cars that range from saloon cars to limousines.

    ComfortDelGro, SMRT, and Trans-Cab apps: Developed by the firms to help people book cabs from their fleet.

    Taxi-Taxi@SG: Created by the Land Transport Authority, the app allows commuters to see if there are available cabs nearby and to broadcast their locations to taxi drivers.

    Karhoo (to be launched next year): An app enabling commuters to pick a cab or private-hire car across firms, based on criteria such as cost, arrival time and vehicle type.

While Pair Taxi joins the likes of GrabTaxi, Hailo, MoobiTaxi and Uber Taxi, its founder Andy Zheng says there is a difference.

The 30-year-old managing director of Aspiring Citizens Cleantech, the start-up behind the app, said: "The other apps are focused on increasing the supply; we are focused on increasing the efficiency.

"We want to transport more commuters with the same numbers in the existing taxi fleet, and are also targeting the peak hour problem."

He believes sending more taxis into the city during the peak hour will only create a gridlock, and is also an inefficient use of resources if each cab takes only one passenger.

Pair Taxi has incentives for both drivers and passengers, he said.

In the app's fare-splitting system, a trip shared among two passengers can be up to 50 per cent cheaper, and up to 66 per cent, if shared between three parties, depending on the trip distance and time. Cabbies stand to make between $2 and $5 more for the ride.

Payments are made in the app via credit card, so passengers can be dropped off in quick succession. If a passenger cannot be matched with others, a taxi will still be sent to him, and the fare will charged as a normal ride with booking fees.

Mr Henry Wee, 53, who has been a cabby for 10 years, said: "It's more efficient to pick up two to three passengers in a go and do a longer trip. Once I go out of the CBD during the peak hour, I won't come back because I have to pay the ERP."

Asked about Pair Taxi, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it has advised the company to register with the authority and to comply with the Third-Party Taxi Booking Service Providers Act, a regulatory framework to protect consumers' interest in terms of pricing and service standards. The laws were passed in May and will take effect later this year.

The LTA had launched a Share-a-Cab initiative in 1997 but it was discontinued as "most commuters were reluctant to share a taxi with strangers", said a spokesman.

However, Dr Zheng believes taxi sharing deserves a second try. "Now we have better map technology, cashless payments, and smooth smartphone-based user interface."

"With a new tool, commuters may re-examine their choices. On the one hand, you have to wait at the taxi stand for a long time, or you cannot book a taxi. On the other hand, you share a taxi, you get it faster and maybe make new friends," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2015, with the headline 'Taxi-sharing app launches tomorrow'. Print Edition | Subscribe