Why Singaporeans Prefer Third Party Transport Apps to Taxi

Since I started working full-time, I started taking taxis more frequently. This is because the nature of my job requires go for client presentations and meetings in their offices every week. This was before a colleague kindly introduced me to third party transport apps like Grab and Uber.

Taking taxis frequently opened my eyes to how poor the flag down cab service is in Singapore. With such poor standards compared to taxis I have taken in Europe, Hong Kong and even China, it amazes me who they can even have a 7.7% rise in net profit!

Last week was really the last straw because I got turned down by so many taxis when I urgently needed one. On top of that, the driver who accepted my ride missed out on where I wanted to go even though there was a huge signboard outside. As a result, he had to make a huge big round.

So, I heeded my colleague’s advice and converted to using third party transport apps. Here are some problems about local taxi services which I found that apps such as Uber and Grabtaxi can resolve.


1. Taxi Drivers Often Don’t Know How To Get To The Destination

What annoys me most is that Taxi drivers often ask how to get to a particular location when you tell them where you want to go. If they ask which way I prefer, that is fine.

However, it really pisses me off when they genuinely don’t know how to get to the location. This happens in about 75 percent of every one of my journeys.

This is really stupid because firstly, Singapore is so damn small. And most Taxi drivers are middle aged uncles, meaning to say they lived almost twice the number of years I have. How can you not know where “21 Merchant Road, next to Park Regis Singapore Hotel” or “The Globe at 100 Cecil Street” is?

Even when I was at Harbin, China which is at least twice the size of Singapore, the taxi drivers all knew how to get to where I wanted to go.

Also, it is their job to know! Can you imagine going to a barber who asks you how to cut hair? Or hiring a technician who doesn’t know how to repair things. You would walk out and not pay a single cent.

Technology is so advanced these days and there is Google Map, so many drivers use Google Map, why can’t you use it too? Even when these local taxis get the location wrong, they still have the cheek to collect the same amount of money from you without discount. Sigh.

In contrast, in third party transport apps, even if the driver doesn’t know the location, he has Google Map or other mapping apps to help him out.

I don’t blame the taxi drivers. Rather, I blame the taxi company for not giving them enough training or at least equipping them with a GPS.


2. Being selective about customers

Singapore has 28, 000 taxis and one of the highest ratios of cabs to people among cities, but commuters still find it hard to get a cab when they need one.

Even if they do stop for you, they ask you where you want to go before even deciding or not whether to take you. Such a scenario is rarely seen in other countries. This happens to me even when taxi drivers are not changing shift.

This is especially so during peak hours. Cabbies from operators such as ComfortDelGro and TransCab earn about $3.50 more from a call booking during peak hours. Thus, they go into hiding during these period of times to wait for call bookings rather than pick up customers who don’t call.

Another scenario where it is almost impossible to get a taxi is when it rains.

This has very little to do with demand and supply but rather taxi corporations policies. According to Oliver Senn, a senior research engineer with the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), most of the island’s taxis would withhold S$1,000 (about US$800) from a driver’s salary immediately after an accident until it was determined who was at fault.

The process could take months, and the drivers had independently decided that it simply wasn’t worth the risk of having their livelihood tangled up in bureaucracy for that long.

In contrast, at 9:30am in the morning, while I have to wait 15-20 minutes for a flag down taxi who will be willing to pick me up, I could get a ride from Grab Taxi or Uber within less than 5 minutes of booking.



3. Pricing

Many people are under the impression that Grab Taxi or Uber is expensive. However, there are options like GrabCar Economy and Uber X.

For instance, while Uber Exec is pretty expensive, Uber X and can sometimes be even 20% cheaper than a taxi! As of 2014, here is how Uber X prices:

  • UberX (Min Fare: $8.00, Cancellation Fee $6.00)
  • Off Peak: $3.50 (base fare) +$0.24 (per minute) + ($0.40 per kilometer)
  • Peak (Monday – Friday: 5pm-10am, Saturday/Sunday: All day): $3.50 (base fare) +$0.30(per minute) + ($0.50 per kilometer)

Do note however that during some periods of time, third party transport apps such as Uber employs surge pricing. This does not occur very often. During blogger Dedrick Koh’s 14 rides with UberX, he only encountered Surge pricing once at a rate of 1.4X. The app clearly stated that Surge was in effect, and how it would multiply his bill.

Dedrick advises that we should not take Uber when surge pricing is in place if cost is of concern to us “If you think paying the peak hour taxi surcharge of 25% is painful, try 40%. At least it is still better than the 50% midnight taxi surcharge.”


4. Payment method

Another pet peeve that I have is the payment method. I am not a person who carries around a lot of cash with me so usually I can only rely on Comfort and Citycab. They are the only taxi company in Singapore which accepts card!

Can you believe it? Even mama shop and provision shop in heartlands accepts Nets Payment and you don’t? It’s incredibly backward to not even accept nets payment or credit cards. We are living in a first world country, mind you.

And even for those cabs which accept card, they charge an extra fee if you want to pay by nets or credit card, up to 10 percent for the latter.

Sometimes, even when they do display on their cars that they will take card, when you flag them down and ask if you can pay by nets, they will suddenly come up with excuses like their machine is not working on a Thursday or Friday. This is because they don’t get their money till after the weekend unless it is cash payment.

In contrast, Uber and GrabTaxi allows the option of automatically charges to your credit card or debit card, so you don’t have to take out cash at the end of the ride. No extra cost for card payment involved at all.

5. No need to queue up at malls

Last but not least, with uber, you can choose where the car can pick you and specify the exact location. This is like calling a cab without the extra cost!

Never again will you have to join long queues in malls at taxi stand or wait for a long time under the hot sun with taxis flashing “BUSY” or “HIRED” sign passing you one by one.

Whatever it is, Taxi companies in Singapore should really just shut up about kicking Grabtaxi or Uber out of Singapore or regulating it etc. This is a free market economy, if you are losing out to your competitor, up your game!If you are thinking of trying out Uber too,

If you are thinking of trying out Uber too, use my promo code “jeraldinep1” and receive S$10 off your first Uber ride!