Sep 30, 2014

    Do away with taxi surcharges

    I REFER to recent discussions on "vanishing passengers" who make multiple taxi bookings just to get one taxi, and cancel the others when a cab arrives.

    Such a phenomenon is a tit-for-tat reaction by commuters to the games played by many of Singapore's cab drivers.

    At times, the frustration of trying to catch a cab makes me want to do the "vanishing act" too, although I have also encountered honest drivers who provide good service.

     I once stood in a busy downtown street trying to flag down a cab, only to have about 10 of them with "green lights" pass by, as if I was invisible. I consoled myself with the thought that the streetlights might be too dim.

    One of the most daunting tasks faced by a commuter in this city is securing a taxi ride.

    There is a multitude of "excuses" cabbies give to deny a person one: Cabs being "on call"; the taxi's "air-conditioning is down"; and taxis "changing shifts" at 4pm, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm and so on.

    If Singapore wishes to become one of the world's top tourism and convention destinations, it must satisfy this basic commuter need.

    The taxi service is a vital cog in the transport wheel of any major city.

    There are taxi services in developing cities that are plagued with problems such as dishonesty.

    But one should not have such a hard time finding a taxi in a city like Singapore.

    Singapore seems to be one of the few cities with so many charges and surcharges. With these in place, it is no wonder that taxi drivers will look for loopholes to exploit the system for financial gain.

    Maybe, the way to solve this problem is to get rid of all the surcharges and simplify the system.

    The authorities could conduct studies of similar cities and adjust taxi fares here accordingly, to a level that is fair to both commuters and cab drivers.