The Straits Times
Published on Dec 03, 2012

More ways for cabs to be commuter-friendly


LIKE Mr Ramesh Ramchand ("Ways to improve taxi utilisation"; last Thursday), I believe that the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) new rules will not improve taxi availability in the heartlands or the central business district (CBD).

Clocking 250km a day does not mean that taxis are carrying passengers during the entire stretch.

The main grouse among customers is that they see many empty taxis with signs showing that they are busy or changing shifts.

A more effective benchmark is to require a minimum daily duration or distance for cabs to ferry passengers.

Tracking the use of the "Busy" sign can also be used as a performance indicator for operators.

Making taxi booking hassle-free and cheaper will help match the passengers with taxis. The present booking charge of $2.30 deters commuters whose destinations are closer because it makes the ride costlier than peak hour fares.

Another workable solution is to have a minimum fare for booking, which is a bit higher than the flagdown fare, but is valid for a longer distance. For example, for a taxi which usually charges $3.20 as the flagdown fare, there can be a $5 minimum fare for bookings valid for 3km instead of the usual 1km. This ensures that the driver is compensated fairly and booking a taxi is not so costly. It will also reduce the number of people who do not show up for bookings as the difference in fare is not much.

I also agree that we should have designated taxi points in all estates where the drivers can wait, instead of driving empty cabs all over the city. This will make getting a taxi less of a lottery in the day time, especially in the heartlands, as well as be good for the environment as there is less pollution.

To improve taxi availability in the CBD area during evening hours, perhaps the LTA can help by exempting empty taxis from paying the ERP charge when they are entering. Currently, cabbies are reluctant to do so as they may pay the ERP charge but not get a fare.

Kunwar Bir Singh