No booking, no use. LTA cab app draws flak

Not getting a taxi when they need one, even when they attempt to book one through taxi operators, has been a common bugbear among commuters. Several apps have sprung up to help commuters, but the latest one by the LTA (below) does not allow them to b
Not getting a taxi when they need one, even when they attempt to book one through taxi operators, has been a common bugbear among commuters. Several apps have sprung up to help commuters, but the latest one by the LTA (below) does not allow them to book a cab.PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN, LIM YAO HUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Commuters say merely displaying the locations of taxis is not helpful

The new taxi mobile app by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is off to a shaky start, with commuters here questioning its usefulness.

Their main gripe is that it tells people where cabs are without allowing them to book one.

Called Taxi-Taxi@SG, the free app shows the location of available cabs from Singapore's entire fleet of 28,000, through location data provided by the six taxi operators. The drivers do not have to download the app to be detected by it, but they have to download it to see where commuters are.

The lack of a booking facility makes it unlike the handful of apps which have sprung up in the past year to help people book cabs, such as Uber, GrabTaxi, Easy Taxi and Hailo.

The LTA says its new app is meant to help commuters who want to hail taxis along the road, and not pay more to book a cab, and it is, therefore, not fair to compare it against other apps.

This has not stopped commuters from mocking it.

When the app was launched on Wednesday, local blogger Lee Kin Mun, better known as Mr Brown, described it as the "most useless taxi app in the world".

Commuters have similar criticisms. Ms Han Jiamin, 26, who works in marketing, said: "The point is to get a cab, I do not really care where they are because I am not going to run there in the hope that they will pick me up - by the time I do that, they might be booked already."

Despite the negative feedback, there are also people who think that the app might be helpful.

Said Mr Lim Meng Lee, 45, who works in construction: "It gives commuters the benefit of planning ahead and deciding whether to cross over to the other side of the road or not, to hail a cab... There is also a lot of potential for the app to be developed for other uses beyond taxis."

An online poll of hundreds of people by The Straits Times asking for their go-to taxi app out of eight found that Taxi-Taxi@SG ranked fifth, above Hailo, SMRT Book a Taxi and Transcab. GrabTaxi ranked first.

As of yesterday afternoon, the LTA app, which is available for both Android and iOS phones, had been downloaded 16,000 times. It had also been used 70,000 times.

Commuters can use it without revealing their own locations. The app also showed there were around 4,000 to 5,000 available taxis throughout the day yesterday.

In response to the negative feedback, an LTA spokesman said the app helps commuters decide whether to continue waiting for a cab, move to another place that has more taxis or make alternative arrangements, such as booking one or taking public transport.

He added: "It is not designed for the booking of taxis... We will monitor users' feedback and enhance the app based on feedback received. One possible enhancement is to link it to third-party apps."

cherylw@sph.com.sg