For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction – this is one of the most fundamental laws that students learn in Physics 101; and while not everybody takes physics, it is something that most of us should be familiar with in our daily lives.

However, as we progress to higher applications of physics, or for that matter, any subject, there’s a tendency to lose our connection with our fundamentals, and that’s when simple problems can no longer be solved easily.

I am not sure if this is an after thought, or is it an oversight. Not only did the new hike do away with the staggered midnight charge – which brings back the disappearing taxis before midnight syndrome (DiTaBeM – yes, I’m inline with standards for creating difficult to remember acronyms) in most heartlands, it now introduces another problem – the disappear taxis at the fringe of town syndrome (DiTaFriToS – doesn’t it just sound like some Mexican food?)

I thought it was a rather obvious problem – if I am a taxi driver and if there’s a taxi stand before the CBD and one after the CBD zone, which one will I stop at? Hmm… that’s really a tough question. If I stop at the one outside CBD, then I don’t quite know where the passenger that I pick up will go. If I stop at the one inside the CBD, then there’s the issue of ERP charges. Will I be able to pick up a passenger that will make the ERP charges worthy?

Hey, wait! Won’t the taxi company refund me my ERP charges if I am unable to pick up a passenger within 15 minutes of entering the CBD? But what if the passenger inside the CBD is going to somewhere that is of a shorter distance? Won’t that still be a gamble anyway?

Oh, I remember, there’s now a city surcharge of $3.00! So even though the distance is short, I’d still earn an additional $3.00 no matter what. Hmm, that sounds like a good deal!

Oh wait, it’s 4:45pm now! Ok… I’ll wait 15 more minutes to earn that additional $3.00. Meanwhile, I think I’ll just take a break and go to that newly opened Kopi-tiam.

Enough said.

IF YOU need to hail a cab on the fringe of downtown, be prepared to wait, a transport expert warned yesterday.

In the wake of a new pricing structure that gives some cabbies a bonus for picking up passengers in the heart of the city, many are likely to skip the outskirts and make a beeline for places like Orchard Road.

Among the areas likely to be affected are taxi stands in high traffic areas such as Far East Plaza, Shaw House and Tanglin Mall near Orchard Road and The Concourse in Beach Road.

National University of Singapore transport researcher and postgraduate student Han Songguang called the new surcharges ‘very bad news’ for people working or living in these areas just outside downtown.

‘I am not sure how taxi companies or LTA will be able to enforce or discourage errant cabbies,’ he said on Monday.

The same day, ComfortDelGro announced it will levy a $3 surcharge on passengers who hop into a cab in the downtown area during peak hours – up from $1.

Its fare revision includes higher flag-down rates and metered rates but lower call booking charges during prime hours.

Member of Parliament Ong Kian Min, who is deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said he is concerned over the downtown surcharges.

Without a gradual scale, drivers will likely head to the city proper, he said.

‘It’s a choice between $3 or nothing for drivers, so this will definitely influence their driving behaviour. We may head to more problems and complaints, in the end, if taxi drivers do avoid taxi stands along the fringe.’

Comfort – the largest company here, with 65 per cent of the cabs on the road – said the new city surcharge is designed to encourage taxis to pick up passengers in the city centre. Cabbies leave downtown for the suburbs and find little incentive to drive all the way back to pick up new passengers, it said.

While the surcharge may address the problem of too few cabs in the city during peak hours, Comfort acknowledged it may create a shortfall on the outskirts of downtown.

Comfort said it will ‘keep a close eye’ on cabbies to make sure they do not zip by taxi stands there. But when asked specifically how it will monitor its drivers, the company declined to comment.

Yesterday, only one passenger in 10 who discussed the fare increase with The Straits Times was ready to walk in and pay the city surcharge if left stranded.

The rest, like frequent cab user Carol Lee, would opt to wait or call a cab at the cost of $3.50.

‘There’s not much difference when you compare a call charge and the new rates, so I would rather call one,’ said the 33-year-old bank manager.

Marketing manager Gary Loh agreed.

‘I will be prepared to wait 10 minutes tops and if there is still no sign of a cab, I’ll call one. I’m too lazy to walk into town,’ said the 31-year-old.

SMRT Taxis, Premier and Smart have confirmed they will also raise fares.

Prime Taxis will look to implement new surcharges but will not raise flag-down fares for at least the next three months.

Trans-Cab could not be reached for comment.

mariaa@sph.com.sg

jessicaj@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 12th December 2007



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