No city surcharge, no cabs in sight
The Straits Times
THE $3 city surcharge, or lack thereof, seems to be one reason why commuters on the fringes of Orchard Road have to wait a long time for cabs.
Going by The Straits Times' recent investigation, those at Far East Plaza wait as long as 40 minutes for a cab on a Friday night.
Taxi drivers seem to avoid heading to the Scotts Road mall as it is just outside the Orchard cordon, which means they do not get the surcharge.
But commuters who wait in Orchard Road, where cabbies can charge the extra $3, take around 10 minutes to get a taxi.
Seven in 10 cabbies that The Straits Times spoke to said the surcharge is why they preferred waiting for passengers in the main Orchard belt.
"If you can get an extra $3 at those places, why would you wait at the malls without it?" said cabby Tay Kim Fatt, 50.
The city surcharge starts from various Electronic Road Pricing gantries around Orchard, including one before Lucky Plaza and another behind Wisma Atria. It applies from 5pm to midnight daily.
Another cabby, Mr Lau Joo Meng, said passengers waiting outside the Orchard cordon should just call a cab. For example, it costs $3.30 to call a Comfort cab during peak hours, which include 6pm to midnight daily.
"The city surcharge costs you $3 more; if you call, it's just $3.30. You still need to walk over to another shopping centre in the surcharge area and join the queue, so you might as well call," he said.
When contacted, Far East Plaza said it did not have plans to help shorten taxi-waiting times, as it did not receive any complaints from shoppers.
"Shoppers usually call a cab if they cannot get one - we have not received any complaints so far," said Mr Kenneth Lim, a centre manager for the mall.
The Grand Hyatt Singapore, in the same Scotts Road stretch, also faces a cab shortage. The hotel once considered imposing a surcharge from 7am to 7pm to attract cabbies to its doorstep.
But it gave up the idea after talks with taxi companies and the Orchard Road Business Association. The hotel was advised that "the difference would be minimal".
Instead, hotel staff pre-book about five cabs in the morning when patrons are expected to go out for business meetings. The hotel also gives guests in the taxi queue priority and advises them to book cabs in advance, especially after 5pm.