Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How much is that again?

$2.80, $3, $3.20, and now $3.80. Taxi fares in Singapore have gone mad. So too the people who allow this state of affairs to carry on. What are these numbers, you ask? Those in Singapore who have boarded a taxi in the last month or so will know. Just 3 weeks ago, I boarded a cab and was taken aback when the meter read $3.80. I learnt later that taxi companies have decided unilaterally to impose an increase in flag down fares for newer models of it fleet of cars because of the extraordinary prices that these cars were acquired, no thanks to the COE system of buying a car in Singapore. An occasional taxi commuter wouldn't able to determine this type of taxis when they stick out their hands to flag for one traveling towards them. More often than not, they'd just have to pay the going rate because it is still quite difficult to get another taxi. From the consumer point of view, this whole system is blatantly unfair.
Today we insist on fair employment practices, but the powers that be seem happy to let this discriminatory taxi fare practice to take place. I believe all taxi flag down rates need to be approved by the authorities. But their stance is that taxi companies are free to set their rates because they are private enterprises, never mind that other private transport operators such as buses and trains do not have such discretion.
What riles me particularly is that you cannot pick and choose the cab you take in a queue. It appears that there is a gentleman's agreement among cab drivers that the cab in the front of the queue must be boarded first. The ones behind this cab will refuse to take you even though the reason why a commuter would want to do so is because the flag down fare is lower. The only way is to let others willing to pay the higher fare to board first until you get to the desired taxi. What if I am the only one in the queue?
And it is not as if the cab drivers are benefitting from this discriminatory pricing. They don't earn more as the rental of these newer cabs are higher. So who are making away with the increases? The taxi companies of course. But since they pay for the sky high COEs, the one which ultimately makes the money is the Government, no? We're already suffering from increasing costs. Why do the governed have to bear this cost, especially when those who take the cab likely do not own a car?
Fairness is not a hallmark of life in Singapore.

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