LTA recently announced that it will be setting aside 1 million dollars to help the Taxi Industry. As we all know fewer people are taking Taxi lately due to the recession, high fares, H1N1 etc etc. I’m not going to debate on why we should be using taxpayers money to save an industry. A lot of people have already done.
But I can’t help but wonder, can the $1m help the Taxi industry? In his letter to ST Forum, Jeremy Yap, Group Director for LTA Vehicle & Transit Licensing, states 3 aims of $1m fund.
First, it aims to improve the service levels of taxi drivers, so as to enhance the overall delivery of service to commuters, by co-funding initiatives such as programmes on good service behaviours.
Second, it encourages the industry to do more to stimulate demand, by co-funding initiatives from the taxi companies for up to one-third of the cost of the promotional activities, but this will expressly exclude any direct subsidy of taxi fares.
Third, it serves to improve demand through improving convenience and accessibility for taxi commuters during major events like the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Singapore River Hongbao, by supporting additional infrastructure facilities such as temporary taxi stands.
In short, that means training for Taxi drivers, marketing and building more Taxi Stands.
First question, do we need to give Taxi drivers more training? Training is good. It improves the service standard of Taxi drivers. We all heard of the poor service standards by some taxi drivers. But those are just black sheep. And besides, is poor service standard the reason behind the fall of taxi ridership? Answer is No. The service standards has been improving over the years, yet the ridership has been dropping lately. Service standard is not the reason behind the fall.
Next question, do we need more taxi stands? More taxi stands are good. Especially after the stupid ruling where taxi are not allowed to pick up or drop off passenger at the side of the main road in CBD. Speaking of that stupid ruling, I really think it should be abolished. For the uninitiated, Taxi drivers are only allowed to pick up or drop off passengers at Taxi Stand or building driveways in the CBD. The ruling is supposed to be for safety of passengers, taxi drivers and other road users. I’ve lost count of the number of times I see foreigners trying to flag for a taxi along the main road in CBD. I even walked up to some of them to tell them that they can only board a taxi at the Taxi Stand, which coincidentally is either empty or having long queues. We can built a few hundred more Taxi stands in Singapore, but they are useless if there is no Taxi. Have you ever tried waiting for a Cab at Ngee Ann City Taxi Stand? It’s a nightmare. Sometimes, the waiting time is enough for you to take a train from Orchard to any part of Singapore. So will building more Taxi Stand help the Taxi industry? No.
Last question, do we need to have marketing and promotion campaign for Taxi? I can tell you straight away that the answer is no. Everybody knows what is a taxi. Everyone knows how to flag for a taxi or call a taxi. There is no need to run a marketing campaign to promote taxi ridership. Marketing can be good for some business. But you don’t need to run a marketing campaign for taxi. Everyone knows what is it already. Just because I see my favorite celebrity taking a cab on television doesn’t makes me want to take Taxi. And promotion isn’t going to help much. Giving another trip free or free goodies is not going to encourage me to take a taxi.
The problem lies with the Taxi fare pricing, especially the ridiculous 35% peak hour surcharge. If LTA is really sincere about saving the Taxi industry, try lowering the taxi fares. With cheaper rates, people will start taking taxi again. But then, lowering the taxi fares will pose another problem. Taxi drivers might not earn enough to make a living. And the only solution to that will be reducing the Taxi rental. Then the taxi companies will complain since they are earning lesser now. But taxi companies are already earning a lot nowadays. Do you know that taxi rental per day is around $100? It is impossible for the Taxi companies to reduce the rental because that will affect their profit. But what if LTA reduce the tax and license fee on taxi companies to cushion the loss in profit? Hmmm…. Maybe that might work.
Honestly, I’m not against LTA using $1m to help the Taxi industry. If it is a good method, I won’t even mind if they spend more money on it. But after reading the 3 aims of the $1m fund, I can’t help but think that LTA is going to throw the taxpayer money into the ocean without getting any results in return.
Come to think of it, there must be other ways to help the Taxi industry other than the one I’ve suggested. If you have any, feel free to throw them in the comment box. Hopefully someone from LTA will pick it up and put that $1m into better use.