I can’t believe myself when I read this article. What? Another surcharge? Goodness, is implementing surcharges the only thing that can be done to solve all problems? I’m sure when that happens some other problems are going to arise from it. Goodness knows what other things we might face. However, I think it’s as gloomy as it is now. Everything is. The MPs probably don’t take taxis, I suppose.

EVEN as the Land Transport Authority brings out the big stick in its bid to rein in errant cabbies starting today, a Member of Parliament has proposed a peak-hour carrot — a “location surcharge” — to improve taxi services in areas with greater demand.

MP Seng Han Thong has suggested an additional sum for busy places like clubs, pubs, hotels, shopping malls and Raffles Place.

The root cause of soliciting, refusing to pick up passengers and overcharging lay in the pricing mechanism, he said, and errant cabbies resorted to such behaviour because demand for taxis exceeded the supply at certain times and places.

The MP, who is adviser to the six-affiliate Taxi Operators’ Association, wrote in the latest edition of NTUC This Week: “Taxi companies need to impose surcharges at taxi stands in the CBD (central business district) and Orchard Road areas during peak hours, and at lobbies of hotels, major tourist attractions and nightspots.

He said: “Only location surcharges can address the problem of balancing the demand and supply of taxi services at specific places and time, while allowing taxis to charge a more affordable rate at other places such as HDB estates and neighbourhood shopping malls.”

Singapore’s approximately 45,000 taxi drivers have been getting a lot of bad press recently for soliciting, overcharging, meter-less rides, accepting advance bookings but not turning up, and refusing to pick passengers at taxi stands.

Effective today, the LTA will enforce harsher penalties on drivers for refusing to pick up passengers — a $300 fine, six demerit points and an immediate two-week suspension.

Those guilty of touting will be docked 12 demerit points, fined $500 and suspended for four weeks, while drivers caught overcharging by more than $20 will have their licences withdrawn.

A Today reader complained recently that a taxi driver had charged him and his friend $50 for a ride to Changi Airport from Boat Quay, while others said they were stood up by cabbies despite confirmed advance bookings.

But Mr Seng noted that the “silent majority” of taxi drivers were hardworking, making an honest living.

“We know that a very small group of errant taxi drives have given the Singapore taxi service a bad name whereas the silent majority is not as vocal as others in explaining the problems they have to face everyday,” he wrote.

He said taxi drivers’ biggest concern was the rapidly rising operating costs, which had increased to some $780 a month.

“The pressure on them is immense because they have to work hard to earn the extras in order to settle these increases in operating costs,” he said.

The parliamentarian’s proposal did not sit too well with bunker trader Lynn Chong, who said: “No, there’s enough surcharge. There’s already a peak-hour charge. It already costs up to $7 upfront if you take a cab in the CBD or town area during the peak hour.” It will cost even more if one makes a call booking.

Ms Carol Loo, a financial adviser who spends between $600 and $800 a month on cabs, agreed, laying the blame on errant drivers who just cruise around waiting for call bookings. A price change will not make a dramatic effect.

She suggested that the taxi companies re-look their business models: “Their practices are lousy in the first place. A price fix won’t be fair to people, they should be paying more for better service or quality.”

But marketing undergraduate Nur Iskandar Malik welcomed the proposed increase during peak hours: “I wouldn’t mind paying.”

It would be better than having to wait in vain for a cab. Like many other long-suffering commuters, he will find out tonight if the LTA stick will see the return of the “disappearing” taxis during peak hours.

Article obtained from todayonline.com on 19th November 2007

Reader's Comments

  1. GeekyCoder | November 19th, 2007 at 7:18 am

    Look like gov run out of ideas, and money is the easiest to implement afterall money is the emotional thing that many hate to lose. But one can’t help thinking that surcharge is just a primary excuse to increase transportation cost.

    I won’t be surprised that in the future, we have to pay surcharge for public transportation during peak hours. Just look at the MRT overcrowded situation when going to work.

    If the taxi surcharge work, I don’t see why gov don’t apply to public transportation.

  2. xizor2000 | November 19th, 2007 at 8:14 am

    The surcharge system should be removed so the cabbies would be more hungry for fares. All the woes with the system are a result of the surcharges – the call and peak time ones especially, and ERP.

  3. spyer | November 19th, 2007 at 8:15 am

    The cost of living is definitely going up. The new initiative is again passing the taxi problems back to the passengers.

    The government can pass laws to stop errant taxi drivers. The reason that they did not want to pass stiff laws to stop these taxi problems is because they also owned some of the biggest taxi companies in Singapore, they would not want any measure that affects their bottom lines.

  4. xizor2000 | November 19th, 2007 at 8:40 am

    And where is the money to ensure their bottom line is going to come from? First, pass it to the drivers. When the drivers complain, pass it to the commuters. And when commuters complain… the PTC and LTA will say everything is alright, and the Stooge Times – Singapore’s People’s Daily – will have a whole new propaganda campaign featuring quitters from other countries (aka foreign talents setting up shop here) saying how good it is, and comparing our ‘worse class’ transport system with that of Somalia.

  5. SingaporeCabby | November 19th, 2007 at 10:16 am

    More surcharge to come … diesel surcharge – just like the airlines

  6. Ghost | November 19th, 2007 at 11:36 am

    What do you expect from Million dollar Mps?

    The root cause is the Mps themselves. Hey you got to pay top dollar for us to ensure Singapore will prosper.

    Thus every solution will involved money.

    You want to grow old and live beyond 85? Pay us so that you get peanuts to survive.

    You are poor and need help. No problem, the GST is there to help you. You pay the GST, we help the poor, that includes yourself poor citizens.

    You are poor and want to get married? Sure can. Just make sure you and your spouse have at least O level and you can only have 2 children. We do not want more poor kids. After 2nd birth, sterilize yourself.

    Errant taxi drivers? No problem, increase fines and everything will be alright.

    What’s that? Traffic jam on the road and expressway? Just increase the ERP.

    All problems solved by increasing the fees. Why are surprised at all?

    CPF not enough for you to retire on? No problem. Just work longer until you can’t get up. Then you retire when you are dead.

    Would your solutions or suggestion be heard and implemented? I don’t think so. First thing you are not paid millions. It would look bad on the MPs for getting advice from someone who is paid much much lower than them. Furthermore, if your solution is workable and effective, than why the hell are we paying the MPs million dollar salaries?

    Future implementation so that Singapore can prosper?
    1. Taxi charges based on location.
    2. Fuel surcharge for public transport. Basic fare + fuel surcharge. Its fairer.
    3. GST to 10%.
    4. ERP on most if not all major road.
    5. Parking charges to increase. $1 for 1/2 hr in HDB carpark.
    6. More workers from foreign countries so that wages will remain low.
    7. Your father, mother, grandfather, grandmother must work. In fact anybody above 12 should be working.
    8. Pay more if you want our longevity insurance to payout to your next of kin if you die before 85.
    9. Medisave can only be used when you have terminal illness. Other than that use cash. The fault is yours because you did not keep yourself healthy.
    10. Personal ERP bracelet. Since population will grow to 6m, we need to manage the human traffic too.

    Feel free to add more…..

  7. James Chia | November 19th, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    That’s their way of solving problem. Remember raising GST is to help the poor?

  8. Daily SG: 19 Nov 2007 « The Singapore Daily | November 19th, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    […] ERPains, Trains & Automobiles – All and Sundry Singapore: Taxi Problems in Singapore and Possible Solutions – Simply Jean: What?! Another taxi surcharge? […]

  9. Ryan | November 19th, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    Increasing cost to solve problems? Dun think so. This will only cause more problems for commuters and allowing those unreasonable tavi drivers to “try” other even more outrageous acts! Just imagine, if you get to earn more if you pick up passengers in the peak areas, who will want to pick up passengers from other “low-paying” areas? Increasing cost to match the demand? I dun think so. This will only create a major problem of “starvation” for taxi demand in other areas like HDB areas which are tagged as “low-paying” areas. I would not be surprise if people need to call in for advanced booking even if you are calling for taxis in neighbourhood areas.

    Want to solve to problem of matching demand and supply for taxi? Easy. Just sack those taxi drivers who tries to be funny! Implement tougher laws to make sure that they “follow the law”. If they wanna earn money for a living, then they better wake up and pick up every passenger “regardless of race, language and potential income that they are getting!”

    I cannot believe that this kind of “solution” is actually suggested by our beloved MP! I thought the core objective of MPs are to help the people and not cause more problems? How are we(Singapore) going to progress and prosper if we are having this kind of “capable” MP who thinks that increasing cost for anything is the ONLY solution to solve any problem? I think that we can do a better job of helping Singaporeans !

  10. zeezzen | November 19th, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    Addition to Ghost’s entry:

    Future implementation so that Singapore can prosper?

    11. SMRT and SBS Transit and even taxi will increase their mrt and bus fare AGAIN, due to the rising cost of fuel.

    12. Higher education standards for Singapore? Just increase school fees so that teachers and Professors are more “motivated” to the education services and the school can hire more foreign talents to teach Singaporean.

    13. Want better medical services? Increase personal income tax rates, medisave contribution rates (i.e. lower take home income!) and the relevant bills for medical services. In this way, we can build bigger hospitals that are better equipped and hire top notched medical professionals to Singapore.

    14. Implement parking gantries at ALL HDB carparks to cover the cost of building the carparks.

    Feel free to add more!

  11. chappy | November 19th, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Isn’t it better for the consumers to, simply, lower the rental cost for the cabs?

  12. xtrocious | November 19th, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Yes Chappy, that would be the ideal situation but we know it is impossible…

    Anyway, I think it actually makes more sense (cents) to do away with all the surcharges and raise the flag down fee and mileage charges…

    This will effectively even out the supply since there is no incentive to wait for a booking…

  13. gnayenelrahc | November 19th, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Well said Ryan and Ghost! I totally agree with you guys entry!

    Hope the MPs can hear us!

  14. Ghost | November 20th, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Well here goes. Let’s solve this taxi problem if anybody is listening.

    1. Employ all taxi drivers as employees.
    2. Pay is basic + % of fare taking.
    3. Work 3 shifts And changing period is at off-peak hours.
    4. Remove all surcharges except the ERP charge.
    5. Since drivers are employed, taxi companies can deploy more taxi in areas of high peak.
    6. Higher flag down rate and per km rate.

    Would any taxi companies have the balls to this? Look a taxi out is on average $100 daily for the operators. Whether the driver is sick or decide to stay it is still $100 per day.

    Now who got squeezed? The drivers. They need at least $160 daily (rental+diesel+food). What do they do?

    Run only during peak periods and wait for call bookings.

    At morning peak period, most taxis will be out. At about 10:00 they will be at coffee shops, then get bookings. In the evening peak period, run again. Don’t take bookings during peak periods. Then wait for midnight. Then at about 03:00 or so rest and morning peak period again.

    It takes two men to run this gig. One for the morning peak, the other for evening peak. Don’t believe it. Try getting a cab at around 16:00 or so. They are changing shift.

    Every hirer and relief driver knows this. For the hirer if he decided to be greedy and cover both the morning and evening peak, he knows he could not get a relief driver. The hirer knows it takes a superman to drive 14 hours daily.

    With this system, the drivers can cover cost as well as bring home a tidy sum.

    Take note that the biggest taxi operator is NTUC. Thats right boys and girls. Its the union. Need I say more?

  15. Ghost | November 20th, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Or make it even simpler. The taxi driver as the Owner not the hirer. Just like the good old days.

    There only surcharge was for midnight only I think.

    If any of you guys can remember, please enlighten.

    The problem starts when companies take over.

  16. Ducky | January 3rd, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    We should have boycotted the whole damn thing right from the beginning. Half the cabs plying along Orchard Road were doing circuits waiting for the impatient person to make the call to book a taxi coz there were no taxis available (after waiting for 15 to 30 mins at the taxi stand). Then these cabbies just simply turn on their On Call sign and appear from around the bend!

    If most cab users refused to call cabs from the beginning because it was simply more convenient (or they thought it was still affordable – aiyah, pay a little more for the convenience type of mentality), then the cabbies have no choice but to pick up street fare. Also bear in mind that some of these bad apples in the barrel are cabbies who used to be behind some desk in an office and want to earn more without the sweat. So a lot of cab users are to be blamed as well and now everyone else have bear the consequences of their actions.

    If the system had been the other way, for example, bookings were cheaper than street fare, then cabbies can plan their entire shift and maximize their earnings and streamline their routes taking booking appointments and not have to worry about not earning enough during off-peak hours and still can pick up passengers in the street. And cab users can call in advance and book all they like and plan their own schedule without wasting time waiting for a cab. And if you have to flag a cab down, it will cost a little more than if you call, I wonder if the scenario would have worked out?

    If the powers to be think paying more for everything is going to solve every single problem, even the foreign talent they are so desperate to have will up and leave (to expensive!) in no time (lucky them)and poor us (coz we live here)!

  17. Dan | July 17th, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Now got different cabs with/without Fuel Surcharges.

    If not sure.

    to Check Applicable Taxi Surcharges at different day, times and different cabs.

    or http://www.TripSum.com

  18. dennis | June 13th, 2009 at 1:58 am

    What is there to complaints about Singapore Taxi Service. You have yet to see Malaysia Taxi Service. Old rusty, hot air cond, about to fall apart Proton Taxi!

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