Wednesday, December 12, 2007

You Pay More

Well, the inevitable has become reality, new increased taxi fares have been announced by the largest operator on the island. It is a steep increase but not un-manageable if one is an occasional taxi passenger like myself. Where I live, the subway is more convenient. It is for those occasions where the subway or the bus is too inconvenient (and there are not many occasions) or I am too tired that I take the cab.

But the way that the fares have been increased, with more surcharges, is more of the same. The operators are not really thinking long term. My initial thought on learning about the new surcharge was: "Let's wait and see what distortions the new surcharge will create". Humans have demonstrated that they needn't behave the way that policy makers think humans should behave by instituting a certain rule. Certainly, there are the docile ones who probably will toe the line, the law abiding ones who will find no other way but to obey. But there are cunning ones who will find a way to circumvent the new rules to their advantage and the really nasty ones who will work things to their advantage through illegal means.

The "I can control you" approach is past its 'use by date'. We should be looking at ways in which taxi drivers will drive their own business towards a service oriented approach. Sadly, taxi operators and policy makers think that money and not service comes first. I know, it is easier said than done, but I do not detect any effort by the policy makers to think any other way right now. I hope that the train operators will react quickly enough and not wait for the complaints to start rolling in before they take action.

My main worry now is the additional pressure this will put on the bus and rail services. More people will now choose to use the bus and subway. Already, I have noticed that the subway trains are bursting at the seams with a drastic increase in passenger volume. When once I could board a train and find a place to at least stand comfortably, it is a squeeze now, not unlike the subway situation in Beijing, Hong Kong and S Korea. At rush hour in the tunnel between SBSTransit's NE Line and SMRT's East-West Line, you can see people marching like an army, five abreast one way. I often thought what if there was a stampede? It could be fatal. With potentially more people taking this mode of transport, this can only become worse.

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