Cabbies: Do They Actually Need More Help?


By: Obbana Rajah

The never-ending fuss over how under-utilised cabs are when compared to private-hire cars has once again reared its ugly head.

This time, an app created by a collaboration between Singapore Management University (SMU), Japanese technology firm Fujitsu and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) will be used for cabbies to predict the demand of taxis.

However, it begs the question: aren’t areas with high demand for cabbies, (generally known as ‘peak hour’) in this minuscule country, common knowledge?

Most of the Singaporean working population follows just about the same mundane routine, that can be mapped out (poor pun intended) to-a-T.

Let me show you.

Here’s Lesson 1 in Traffic Singapore:

Just about everyone would know that rush hour on weekday mornings start from about 7am; the crowd of those rushing to work and school. This lasts until about 9am with last-minute stragglers rushing in to work.

Lunch crowd: unlikely event that people take cabs to buy lunch. Would probably be better-off searching for clientele in the form of kids picked up by parents from schools.

After work hours, the Central Business District (CBD) is sure to be jam-packed with every Tom, Dick and Harry trying to get a taxi home once they clock-off at 5.30pm.

The same goes for weekday evenings – dinner rush. This means places with well-known eateries like Orchard Road is going to be busy.

Fridays and Saturdays – most mums and dads clamour to get home after date-night at about 10 to 11pm. On these same evenings, the young with iron-clad livers rush to popular watering holes at Clarke Quay, Haji Lane, Club Street and the likes.

Sunday afternoons you do see a hike in the demand for cabbies; everyone wants to visit their grandparents or go shopping.

If all other places fail to produce even a single taxi-rider, the fall-back location of Changi Airport with her multiple terminals is sure to have those looking for cabs.

Mobility patterns in Singapore are hardly rocket science.

When it comes to Singapore’s roads and her simple and mindless traffic patterns, do taxi drivers really need an app to be able to anticipate areas of high demand?

The long-standing bad rep of cabbies is also due to their refusal to pick up passengers just before midnight when they can wait until the latter and earn an additional 50% of the metered fare. This is a popular gripe of many Singaporeans.

Online forums boast multiple threads with complaints on the taxi system in Singapore. The very first complainer on the list, chaser77, recounts his experience, “During these 30 minutes, I notice several cabs with ‘blue light’ on the car roof indicating available but with ‘On Call’ plates on the windscreen passing by. This really makes me wonder if the taxi drivers are taking advantage of the cab booking system to earn the extra dollar through phone booking”.

He writes, “I know those people who work in the CBD area, who can only get cabs by booking when they finish work as they will almost never be able to flag a cab off the street during the period of 6.30pm-8pm.

Why are we at mercy of our own public transport system?”.

Fair question, I think.

This frustration was capitalised upon by private-hire companies such as Uber and Grab.

So when it comes to SMU’s app trying to lend a hand to cabbies for them to keep up with private-hire cars, it is good to note that they might have just brought this predicament upon themselves.



    • Exactly! Many cabbies are choosy. I travel by cab a lot. Many times I encounter cabbies not welling to take me becos I travel wearing my baby and have a pram. Some unwillingly stop but their butts were glued to their driver seat and juz watch me struggle putting my pram into the booth while wearing my baby and carrying some stuff all at the same time.

    • I agree with you. These taxi drivers deserves to be in the current state of affairs. They asked for it. They are never satisfied. They playing hide and seek with passengers. Now that they have competitors they start crying out loud for fair playing field. Shame on them.

  1. Back dated scenario. Now the whole ballgame is different. Now you have to come up with an app that can predict the commuters mind whether they are going to book a pvh or taxi. It is a waste of our taxpayer’s money to develop such an app that is not going to work.

  2. I do not take much cabs
    Ever since different cab companies implemented different flag down rates, surcharges and travelling cost
    They are too confusing for commuters
    Maybe is one of reason why many prefer to pay flat rate using HPV service

    And yes, disappearance act of cab drivers during peak period showed ugliness of our cab service
    Too many greedy drivers outshone the hardworking drivers
    Still happening now?

    Do our cab drivers need more help?
    Cab companies should jointly invest a software to fish out drivers with greedy mindset abusing “ON CALL ” portable sign. This sign should not be in use at all
    They are still plentiful of commuters prefer cab than HPV.
    Because cab drivers need to follow standard protocol and guidelines
    Unlike now, so many misunderstandings and unhappiness between HPV drivers and commuters that we read about online.

    Our public transport services should stay simple.
    Helping to ferry commuters from point A to point B.
    Discounts or promotional rates are unnecessary . Many are disgusted with the exceptional HIGH surcharge during train disruption

    Incentive to reward loyal commuters of cab or HPV service.
    Unlike now, companies introduce new strategies so often to get most commuters to use their service more

  3. The problem is with all surcharges (eg.midnight 50%,peak hour 25% ,casino surcharge,airport surcharge).It is natural that taxi capitalise on all these surcharges, that is why after midnight then suddenly all appear.WHY NOT remove all tge surcharges because all these money also goes to taxi company in the form of rental.The ones who struggle are taxi drivers because they need to foot the high rental.By removing the surcharges,there is no more reason why taxi company are collecting such high rental and they will be the same as uber /grab.So there is no neccesity to have so many phv on our roads and it reduces idling taxi on the road as well, only if taxi company are willing to rent out their taxi at the rate like Uber and Grab are doing.

    • If taxis have been always available when needed, like in HK, do you think passengers will call Grab or Uber? It’s not even about charges but whether taxis want to pick passengers!!! You drivers provided the opportunity to Grab and Uber to take away your business. So quit whining and just pick up passengers!!!

    • Andrew Koh The number of taxis ( about 27,000 units ) was or is not determined by Taxi Uncles ( about 100 K license holders ). The Sg Gov is in controller thru LTA which issues the number of Ownership Licenses. Do your Maths please 5.8 million supported by 27,000 taxis well sooner or later others will come in. This nothing new coz in the 50’s and 60’s there were Pirate Taxis too.

  4. I remember a time where “Changing Shift” means I couldn’t get a cab when I needed it.

    Or when I needed to go home at 11pm but couldn’t get a cab till 12am.

    Maybe it’s not a bad thing that competition is heating up. Taxi Companies need to innovate to stay current

  5. Serves the cabbies right. We have been at their mercy for the longest time. On CNY eve I joined a taxi stand queue, with at least 10 people before me. I waited for 10 mins and not a single cab appeared, and the queue did not move. I saw numerous empty cabs cruising by. I opened the Grab app and got a Chinese driver within 2 min.
    Phui! Cannot be that only taxi drivers celebrate CNY. Obviously wanting to earn booking fee. I would rather pay extra for Grab during surge pricing than to let cabbies survive. Besides, the so-called surge pricing was only an additional $5 from the usual taxi fare

    • Very true. And they are not around even during peak periods. If their business is so bad, how come they are not hungry for more business? They used to boss the passengers with the attitude of ‘you very lucky I fetch you’ crap. And now with less business, they still have the same attitude. Instead of changing, they blame everybody else except themselves!! Did many notice that most of the complaints about Grab are mainly current or former taxi drivers? They have now infected Grab, and soon Uber.

  6. I have heard that comfort taxi is charging about $120 per day, equals 3600 per month . You add petrol and some incidentals, ask yourself, how much does a taxi driver earns in a month. Have you tried driving around for 8 hours non-stop, continuously for 30 days, and see how tired you can be and the health risk and the drop in alertness on the roads. Take a look at taxi fares in New York City, London and Japan, and then you would appreciate the taxi drivers in Singapore and the fares that you are paying. In every service industry, there would be some irresponsible and rude guys around.

  7. To be fair, how long do you think the offering of grab and uber can survive the business with cheapest fare even at the loss of million of dollars ?
    They are not stupid ,they have their strategy to capture the market share . As for taxi drivers I think most of them are elderly drivers and need to force to retire for those younger unemployed may be above 50000 or more to drive phc on the road in order to survive .