Queueing for cab in city? Wait likely to be shorter now

Among the 28 taxi stands which the LTA surveys on a monthly basis, 12 registered drops in waiting times of between 1 and 5 minutes last year. The average waiting times at 11 stands remained constant, while the situation has worsened at the remaining
Among the 28 taxi stands which the LTA surveys on a monthly basis, 12 registered drops in waiting times of between 1 and 5 minutes last year. The average waiting times at 11 stands remained constant, while the situation has worsened at the remaining five.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Waiting times have fallen at 12 major downtown stands, LTA survey reveals

If that wait for a taxi in the city seems more bearable, it's probably because it is shorter.

The average waiting times at a dozen major cab stands in the city fell between 2013 and last year, according to data shared by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

The LTA said this could be due to more taxis plying the roads and ride-hailing apps helping to ease customer demand.

  • Queue-tracking trial will not be extended, says LTA

  • A year-long trial using heat sensors and cameras to track passenger queues at taxi stands will not be extended. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) found that at taxi stands which were either exposed to direct sunlight or near footpaths with constant pedestrian flow, the sensors could not effectively monitor crowd levels. The Taxi Information System pilot, launched in November 2014, cost about $300,000 and involved seven taxi stands, including those at HarbourFront Centre, Lucky Plaza, Ngee Ann City and VivoCity.

    As part of the trial, commuters could access real-time footage of taxi queues at the seven locations to help them decide whether to join the queue or make alternative travel arrangements.

    Using camera technology and heat sensors, the average waiting times at the taxi stands in this trial were calculated and sent to the taxi companies' call centres. In turn, they were to broadcast the information to their drivers to encourage unhired taxis to call at those stands with high demand.

    While the current trial has ended, the LTA said it will "explore using other detection technologies" in another project, but did not elaborate further.

    Adrian Lim

Out of the 28 taxi stands which the LTA surveys on a monthly basis, 12 registered drops in waiting times of between 1 and 5 minutes last year. Meanwhile, average waiting times at 11 of the cab stands stayed constant, while the situation has worsened at the remaining five.

The taxi stand at Far East Plaza, notorious for long waiting times, recorded the biggest dip. Commuters waited an average of 7 minutes to get into a cab last year, compared with 12 minutes in 2013.

At Ngee Ann City - also a hot spot - the average waiting time has dipped from 12 minutes to 8. The LTA survey is conducted every month, on selected days and at hourly intervals between 5pm and midnight.

An LTA spokesman said that the stricter taxi availability standards could have helped shorten the wait. Under this framework, which started in 2013, taxi operators are required to have the bulk of their fleets on the road during the peak hours, and for their taxis to clock a minimum mileage daily. Otherwise, they face financial penalties.

The availability of chauffeur services such as Uber and GrabCar has also "provided commuters with more options", the spokesman said.

Ms Clarissa Felicia, 40, a housewife, said it takes about 10 minutes to get a taxi in the city area. "I use GrabCar and Uber when I see that lines at the taxi stands are long. These apps tend to be faster than waiting for a taxi," she said.

While it is easier to get a cab at a dozen taxi stands in the city, commuters are waiting around one to two minutes longer at five places: Tanglin Shopping Centre, Suntec Tower 3 and 4, Funan DigitaLife Mall, Havelock Square and Parklane Shopping Mall.

Also, while waiting times on average have fallen, they still remain relatively long during peak periods. According to January's survey results, the longest waiting times for a cab are at Paragon Shopping Centre, at 18 minutes between 6pm and 7pm, and at Ngee Ann City, at 15 minutes from 5pm to 6pm.

Dr Park Byung Joon, adjunct associate professor at SIM University, said it may not be so much a lack of taxis, but that the roads leading into both malls tend to be congested during peak hours. "When they know it's crowded, taxi drivers may not want to go in," Dr Park added.

• Additional reporting by Veena Vinod and Benjamin Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2016, with the headline 'Queueing for cab in city? Wait likely to be shorter now'. Print Edition | Subscribe