Taxi drivers seem to be selectively picking up passengers

Taxis in line at a taxi stand in Singapore on May 15, 2019.
Taxis in line at a taxi stand in Singapore on May 15, 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

Dr Yik Keng Yeong's letter (Taxi drivers can fight back with good service, attitude, Aug 1) struck a chord with me.

It used to be the norm that taxi drivers would pick and choose their customers, pretending to use the "changing shift" excuse after midnight right when customers needed them the most.

After the entry of ride-hailing apps, many consumers switched over as their drivers were often friendlier and consumers did not have to bargain with taxi drivers to take them to their destinations.

I recall how it used to be extremely difficult to take a taxi to Singapore Armed Forces camps as their locations were considered too "ulu" (remote). An acquaintance also told me how, upon seeing his mother who uses a wheelchair, many taxi drivers simply pretended not to see him frantically waving his hand.

However, things seem to have reverted, with atrocious service standards once again forced upon consumers.

Even ride-hailing drivers appear to be habitually declining rides to artificially create an imbalance between supply of drivers and demand of passengers, causing a surge in pricing.

Similar to how taxi drivers used to ignore passengers when it was raining or near midnight, ride-hailing drivers have little incentive to accept jobs after midnight, preferring to wait for surge pricing. Just by opening the app, consumers can see for themselves how many private-hire vehicles are in the vicinity, yet the message "many riders like you, but drivers are few" appears, and surge pricing kicks in.

To make matters worse, taxi drivers appear to be following suit. It used to be the case that hailing a taxi could be cheaper after midnight, allowing taxi drivers to have an edge over their private-hire competitors. However, many taxi drivers now appear to switch over to ride-hailing apps after midnight, and look the other way when passengers wave at them.

This is an unethical and possibly illegal practice, as I believe taxi drivers are not supposed to choose passengers.

This completely erodes the point of having taxi drivers offer street hailing, if they are just going to pretend to be changing shift so as to choose passengers.

Perhaps the Land Transport Authority and industry leaders could look into this issue, so that consumers will have a more streamlined experience, and be better informed of their choices.

Tan Choong Oon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2019, with the headline 'Taxi drivers seem to be selectively picking up passengers'. Print Edition | Subscribe