Friday, April 12, 2024
HomesingaporeAvailability of taxi, ride-hailing services under review as daily ridership jumps 18.6%

Availability of taxi, ride-hailing services under review as daily ridership jumps 18.6%

SINGAPORE – The way that taxi and ride-hailing operators conduct their business – including the availability of rides – is being reviewed by the authorities, in an effort to ensure that services stay relevant as commuter needs and the industry evolve.

The review of the point-to-point transport industry’s structure and regulatory framework, announced by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Wednesday, comes at a time when ridership is climbing.

On average, the number of daily trips, comprising both street-hail and ride-hailing services, rose by 18.6 per cent, from 517,000 in November 2020 to 613,000 in July 2023.

The review, due to be completed by the second quarter of 2024, comes nearly three years after the roll-out of a licensing framework for ride-hailing and taxi operators in October 2020.

LTA said the point-to-point sector plays an important role in complementing mass public transport, giving commuters an option for direct journeys without the need to own a car.

The review will focus on three areas:

Improving the stability of the supply of taxis and ride-hailing services, such as during late-night hours when there are ride shortages 
Ensuring that services can be provided with minimal disruptions and downtime
Ensuring that services cater to the needs of commuter groups such as wheelchair users and families with young children

Talks with taxi and ride-hailing operators, the National Taxi Association and the National Private Hire Vehicles Association have started, said LTA.

In addition, it will get feedback from different commuter groups.

LTA said the point-to-point sector has evolved significantly since the licensing framework was rolled out.

On the one hand, taxis retain an important role in serving high-demand locations such as Changi Airport, as well as tourists and commuters who are less technologically savvy.

This is despite the demand for traditional taxi services decreasing, resulting in fewer taxis plying the roads.

On the other hand, there has been an increasing preference for ride-hailing services among commuters and drivers, LTA said. Companies such as Gojek and Grab offer these services.

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Transport, said in a Facebook post that even as the review is under way, there has already been consensus among the operators, associations and LTA to make “helpful changes” to rules relating to driver conduct.

One of them is to remove the legal requirement for drivers to search their vehicles for items left behind by passengers after every trip. Instead, this would become part of operators’ best practices, she said.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, the Ministry of Transport said this change would be rolled out once the legislative process is completed.

Taxi and ride-hailing firms said they were supportive of the review.

Taxi operator ComfortDelGro’s spokeswoman, Ms Grace Wu, said the long-term sustainability of the industry was important in serving the needs of passengers better. Its taxi and private-hire car fleet completes between 80,000 and 90,000 trips daily.

Grab’s spokesman said it has already been trying to recruit more drivers and creating tools to improve their productivity on the roads.

These include allowing drivers to choose to work within predefined areas for a fixed period. This is meant to reduce idle time and increase the number of trips they can complete, with shorter distances per trip.

A spokesperson for Gojek said the stability of driver supply should also take into account the nature of platform work, where drivers want the flexibility to determine their working hours and increase their income through other earning opportunities.

Associate Professor Walter Theseira, a transport economist at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, said efforts to ensure an adequate supply of drivers on the roads throughout the day would be “challenging”.

That is because unlike public transport, which is supported by taxpayers, the point-to-point sector is driven by market forces.

He said: “The reason for low availability is that many drivers find it uneconomic to be on the road during (certain) times of the day. Forcing them to be on the road without guaranteeing them income basically harms their interests.”

With many drivers being on more than one platform, it will not make sense to impose standards on the platform level, said Prof Theseira.

Further complicating matters, taxi drivers are also on ride-hailing apps.

More On This Topic

Private-hire car numbers up 11.3% as demand for service grows

ComfortDelGro CEO sees no threat in Grab’s purchase of Trans-Cab, open to similar acquisitions

Across the sector, there has been a rebound in the number of drivers.

In response to queries from ST, LTA said there were about 63,000 active drivers in the point-to-point sector in the first half of 2023. This is about 15 per cent more than in the last quarter of 2022.

While the number of active taxi drivers has been stable at 21,000, the pool of private-hire vehicle drivers has climbed by more than 15 per cent to around 42,000, said LTA.

Drivers need a valid vocational licence to provide point-to-point services.

LTA said the average waiting time for the approval of applications to attend vocational-licence training courses has been cut from 10 days in March to four days in July.

More On This Topic

Ride-hailing firm Ryde files for $23 million US IPO

Lexus cars to be used as taxis in Singapore

Join ST’s WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.

p.st_telegram_boilerplate:before {
display: inline-block;
content: ” “;
border-radius: 6px;
height: 6px;
width: 6px;
background-color: #12239a;
margin-left: 0px;
margin-right: 13px;
}

a.st_boilerplate {
font-family: “SelaneWebSTForty”, Georgia, “Times New Roman”, Times, serif;
}

RELATED ARTICLES
- Advertisment -

Most Popular