Recently, it has been reported that a lack of private-hire cars and taxis has led to price surges (Surging cab fares, booking difficulties frustrate many, May 3), and that the surcharge for taxi rides from Changi Airport has been raised in an attempt to alleviate the situation (Surcharge for taxi rides from Changi Airport to go up by $3, May 13).
It is important to note that this situation did not arise simply because more people are travelling as Covid-19 restrictions ease.
It is also a result of fewer vehicles as many drivers left the job during the pandemic when their income took a hit. This supply-side problem will take time to recover. Surcharges and incentives alone are insufficient to address the problem.
With Singapore aiming to transition into a car-lite nation in the long run, we should look at how to harness what is, at present, a vast pool of privately owned cars.
An area to look into is to encourage more carpooling trips. Land Transport Authority (LTA) regulations currently allow up to two paid trips a day. This limit could be revised to supplement the tight supply situation in the point-to-point transport market.
In cooperation with LTA, operators of carpooling platforms could also consider incentivising car owners to take more carpooling trips by, for example, reducing the commission charged if they hit a predetermined number of carpooling trips weekly.
In the longer run, if carpooling proves to be an effective supplement to taxi and private-hire car rides, LTA could also consider incentivising car owners to offer carpooling. This could perhaps be done through a tiered reduction in road tax payable based on the number of completed trips annually.
Ng Jun Xian