Varying rates mean taxi fare difference can be more than $10 for same ride

The difference in cab fares from Dover to Changi can be as much as $12, thanks to the varying flagdown and metered fare structures of taxis here. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
The difference in cab fares from Dover to Changi can be as much as $12, thanks to the varying flagdown and metered fare structures of taxis here. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The difference in cab fares from Dover to Changi can be as much as $12, thanks to the varying flagdown and metered fare structures of taxis here.

Commuters have long bemoaned the confusion that the array of rates has caused, with 10 different taxi flag-down fares ranging from $3 to $5.

And that is not including more than 10 different kinds of surcharges, and the fact that cab companies can adjust their fares on their own, and often do it quietly.

Only one out of 10 regular cab commuters interviewed was able to give the correct range, while six thought that the highest flagdown fare was $3.80.

Commuters' frustrations have led Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo to acknowledge in Parliament recently that the current fare structure is "complex and confusing", and that the authorities will study how to allow for easy fare comparison across the six companies.

Marketing executive Keith Tan, 24, who takes taxis five times a week, said: "I usually find out the flag-down fare only after I get into the taxi. Even if it's expensive, I just go with it if I'm in a rush."

While the difference in flag-down fare and metered fare increase is between a few cents and $2, the difference can be felt when the distance travelled is long.

A taxi ride in a Comfort Toyota Crown from Dover to Changi costs $23.60, while the same ride in an SMRT Chrysler 300C would cost $35.90.

Regular taxi commuter, auditor Toh Huey Sun, 25, feels more can be done to inform the public about fares, which are currently only published on the taxi companies' websites and carried on the taxis' window displays.

"Maybe taxis can display the fare they charge on top of their cabs, along with the hired/available status," she said.

Some cabbies, like Mr Francis Chia, 56, who drives a Chrysler, go the extra mile to let their passengers know the rates before the journey starts. Others, like Mr Woo Chong Guan, 52, do not even get a chance.

"I've had passengers skip my taxi and go to the cheaper models behind," said Mr Woo, who drives an SMRT Chevrolet Epica.

But while commuters want a standardised fare, drivers still need to recoup the higher rentals for newer models, pointed out adviser to the National Taxi Association Ang Hin Kee.

"We have to tackle the problem from all sides, which includes the rental structure and not just fares alone," said the MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC.

Standardising fares would also require government intervention in the currently deregulated industry, said National University of Singapore transport economist Anthony Chin.

"If we want to control flagdown fares and prices, we have to regulate. So, we have to decide: Are taxis public transport?"

jianxuan@sph.com.sg