Ways to improve taxi utilisation
THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) has said that from January, taxi companies have to ensure that 70 per cent of their taxis ply the roads at peak hours and reach a minimum daily mileage of 250km per cab ("Benchmarks set for taxis to meet demand"; last Saturday).
If the intent is to ensure the availability of taxis, this is the wrong way to do it. Running empty taxis on the roads only adds to congestion, road pollution and cost to taxi operators in diesel consumption and increased maintenance, and driver fatigue.
What we should do is to implement the following:
- Have an efficient and cost-effective system for taxi booking and dispatch. In many countries, taxi booking is free. We should do the same. Charge a $2 deposit for a booking that can be redeemed against the actual fare.
- Taxis can wait for a pick-up at designated carparks. In Singapore, there are many vacant carpark spaces during the day. For instance, many HDB carpark spaces are available during office hours, office carparks after office hours, and carpark spaces at public venues like stadiums in the morning. Fees for their use can be waived or negotiated at lower rates.
- Drivers can wait at nearby food courts for a call on their mobile phones and use the time to rest, enjoy a conversation with friends and family, and have a meal.
- Drivers and taxi companies can be given key performance indicators based on the timeliness of dispatch, number of dispatches and waiting time.
Taxi drivers will also benefit from the money saved in fuel and maintenance.
I am sure that with a bit of thought, the taxi companies and the LTA can come up with more creative strategies to improve taxi utilisation and customer service.