Taxi, private-hire car firms offer ideas for masterplan

Operators propose integrated app for users to choose from chauffeured rides, buses and trains

An integrated transport app to help commuters choose travel options and allowing the use of bus stops and bus lanes for all public transport were among the proposals submitted. PHOTO: ST FILE

Imagine this: an integrated transport app that gives a choice of buses, trains, taxis and private-hire cars, with commuters paying a package price to use a combination of modes for their journeys.

Also, seamless transfers, with taxis and private-hire cars making pickups or drop-offs at bus stops.

These were among the recommendations put forth by the National Taxi Association (NTA) and National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA) for Singapore's next land transport masterplan.

The Government is currently seeking views on how to make mass public transport - what the Land Transport Authority calls "Walk Cycle Ride" - the preferred commuting choice for Singaporeans. Mass public transport includes cabs and private-hire cars.

The NTA and NPHVA said yesterday their proposals "focus on the need to involve chauffeured ride services as part of a seamless and well-connected public transport network for commuters". "MRT trains and buses are important to developing a well-connected network, but it still needs to be supplemented by chauffeured ride services... This is a better trade-off than having more private vehicles," the associations said.

The NTA and NPHVA said their recommendations for the Land Transport Master Plan (LTMP) 2040 also seek to improve the livelihoods for cabbies and private-hire drivers. The NTA has 18,000 members and the NPHVA has 7,700.

Both said commuters will need more flexible or short-distance transport options in the future. This is due to factors that include an ageing population, the decentralisation of workplaces, and more freelancers in the workforce, who have to commute multiple times a day.

  • Highlights of associations' proposals

  • The National Taxi Association and National Private Hire Vehicles Association yesterday gave a list of recommendations for the Land Transport Master Plan 2040. Here are the highlights:

    Integrated transport app: To help commuters work out the best travel option for each trip, covering all modes of public transport, including taxis and private-hire services. Commuters can buy packages allowing them to use the different transport options.

    Smoother transfers: Transform current bus lanes or bus stops into mobility lanes and mobility stops for cabbies or private-hire drivers to pick up or drop off passengers.

    Driver training: Ensure that consumers are served by drivers who are updated with the latest technological changes.

    Review regulations: The Land Transport Authority should review regulations that are obsolete, such as Taxi Availability or Call Booking Standards. Commuters can already provide feedback via user reviews and have better matching with ride-hailing apps.

    Freedom to choose: Cabbies and private-hire drivers should not be restricted to any specific operator or ride-hailing to get bookings. They can instead subscribe to just one single app allowing them to get jobs from any operator.

    Courier services: Taxi drivers and private-hire drivers should be allowed to perform delivery services.

An integrated transport app can help commuters work out the best travel option for each journey, covering all public transport modes. Bundled packages could be offered for rides across the different modes, regardless of the provider, the associations said.

For this to work, however, the NTA and NPHVA said the Government may need to review the current distance-based fare calculation, to support such an app service.

Also, existing bus lanes and bus stops can be converted into "mobility lanes and mobility stops" which are open to taxis and private-hire vehicles, they suggested.

Integrated transport hubs, which are bus interchanges that are linked seamlessly to MRT stations, can also be expanded to have more transport options, such as shared bicycles, and the likes of taxis and private-hire vehicles, they said. Cabbies and private-hire drivers should also not be "tied" to any one operator or service. Rather, there can be one app allowing them to get bookings from any operator, they added.

Nanyang Technological University senior research fellow Gopinath Menon said allowing taxis to use bus lanes may not be feasible. "There is already a fairly large number of buses in the lanes during the peak hours. Allowing more vehicles in will impede the buses."

But in the future, bus lanes can become "virtual" or dynamic, and signs will tell motorists when a lane is dedicated for buses only or open to their use as well, said Mr Menon.

The LTMP advisory panel will discuss feedback from the public, industry players and other stakeholders before making its recommendations early next year.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2018, with the headline Taxi, private-hire car firms offer ideas for masterplan. Subscribe