Taxicabs of Singapore

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Taxicabs are a popular form of public transport in the compact sovereign city-state of Singapore, with fares considered relatively low compared to those in most cities in developed countries. Currently, the taxi number ratio is declining with the rise of Uber and Grab, private hire cars and tighter emission regime with at least minimum Euro 4 standard.

Taxis may be flagged down at any time of the day along any public road outside of the Singapore Central Business District (CBD). Issues of high traffic and demand in certain locations and areas, particularly in the downtown area and other major buildings and establishments around the island, require the building of taxi stands. As taxis may conversely be harder to obtain in less densely populated areas, as well as to meet the needs of time-sensitive users, taxis may be booked via the apps provided.

Stringent requirements ensure that all taxis are fitted with meters and are air-conditioned and serviceable. Drivers who fail to utilise their meters may be fined up to S$500, an enforced rule which brings fare disputes down to a minimum. About 90% of taxis have inbuilt AM broadcasting communications.

Operations[edit]

Taxis are predominantly operated by large companies, which require either a flagdown licence (FL) or ride-hail licence (RHL) from the Land Transport Authority (LTA). Holders of the FL and RHL are required to comply with LTA's Quality of Service (QoS) standards, codes of practice and audit directions, failure of which the LTA may revoke the licence.

ComfortDelGro, HDT Taxis, SMRT Taxis, TransCab, Silvercab and Prime Taxis allows flagdown and bookings. ComfortDelGro has an independent app database that allows people to book taxis and private hire cars through "ComfortRIDE". Grab, Ryde, TADA and Go-Jek only allows bookings through the smartphone, allowing ease for passengers.

As of March 2019, there are 10 taxi and private hire booking companies in Singapore. On 25 March 2018, Uber's business has been shut down.[1]

Taxi company Brand FL/RHL started in Fleet Dominant
colour
ComfortDelGro Comfort
CityCab
1970
1995
9,105
3,111
Blue
Yellow
SMRT Corporation SMRT Taxis 2003 (June) 2,300 Brown
TransCab TransCab 2003 (August) 3,147 Red
Premier Taxis Silvercab 2003 (October) 1,861 Silver
Prime Taxis Prime Taxis 2007 677 Copper
Grab GrabCar
GrabHitch
JustGrab
GrabCar (Premium)
2013 49,302 Green
Ryde RydeX 2018 5,301 Purple
MVL (Mass Vehicle Ledger) TADA 2018 2,251 Black/Yellow
Go-Jek Go-CAR 2018 5,982 Green/Black
Total 83,037
(excluding 200 HDT electric taxis[2])

All taxi drivers in Singapore are required to hold a valid Taxi Driver's Vocational Licence (TDVL) and Private Hire Driver's Vocational Licence (PDVL) issued by the Land Transport Authority, after having met basic prerequisites and successfully completed a training course in the Singapore Taxi Academy and passing a theory test. Holders of the licence may then approach any of the taxi companies to hire a taxi on a daily rental basis, the rental rate and associated benefits of which vary among the various companies.

As of December 2018, there were a total of 100,411 TDVL holders in Singapore and 59,520 PDVL holders in Singapore.[1]

Fares[edit]

Fares on Singapore's taxis are considered relatively affordable and even "cheap",[3] and are thus a popular form of public transportation in Singapore, particularly for the upper-middle income groups. Taxi fares were regulated by the Public Transport Council until September 1998 to allow operators full freedom in setting their own fares in a bid to introduce greater competition in the market.

Normal taxi fares are metered at $0.22 for every 400 m thereafter or less which is less than 10 km and again every 350m thereafter or less which is more than 10 km, and it is an offence for taxi drivers to disable, tamper with, or fail to use their metering devices. Drivers found guilty may be fined up to S$500. Higher metered fares applies to the limousine vehicles at $0.33. The normal flagdown fares varies from $3.20 to $3.90. Waiting can be done at $0.22 for every 45 seconds or less, booking can be done at $2.90 or $3.30. The peak hours are from Monday to Friday, 6am - 9.30 am and 6.00 pm - 12.00 am, and has a surcharge of 25% of the metered fare. The public holiday surcharge is 25% of the metered fare, and whereas for late night, it is 50% of the metered fare. There is also a CBD surcharge of $3, together with Changi Airport surcharge at $5 on weekends from 5.00 pm to 12.00 am, and $3 at all other times. Others include $3 for Seletar Airport, $3 for Resorts World Sentosa and Singapore Expo.

For the flat fares, under ComfortDelGro and Grab, there is also a $5 surcharge for extra stop made outside the booking.

Safety[edit]

Only about 70% of taxis in Singapore are equipped with airbags. Second Minister for Transport, Ng Chee Meng, state that airbag is a supporting safety feature and does not make it a mandatory requirement for taxis.[4] With the introduction of newer vehicles, it is expected that more taxis will be equipped with airbags.

History[edit]

Taxicabs were first introduced in Singapore in 1910 by C.F. Wearne and Co., using taximeters imported from the United Kingdom installed in Rover cars. The Straits Times claimed that Singapore was the second city in the East with a taxi service, after Calcutta.[5] In 1919, The Singapore Motor Taxi Cab and Transport Co. Ltd., which planned to work with the municipal government to set up a taxi service, was proposed,[6] but the plans fell through.[7]

The 1950s and 1960s[edit]

In the 1960s, with the poor state of Singapore's public transportation, pirate taxis proliferated.[8] These taxis were uninsured and often overcrowded with passengers. The police tried to mitigate the issue by discouraging people from taking such taxis, but their efforts had little effect, a result of problems faced with finding witnesses to testify against pirate taxi owners.[9] The police also started sending undercover agents to deal with these taxis, but the number of pirate taxis continued to increase, detrimentally impacting bus and licensed taxi operators.[10] In February 1966, a committee was set up by the Singapore government to review the policy on taxis and taxi drivers, especially with respect to taxi licenses.[11] The committee completed its report by June that year, in which it recommended an increase in the number of licensed taxis, along with the legalisation of pirate taxis for the sole purpose of transporting schoolchildren. The report also recommended against increasing the number of taxi licenses.[12] In addition, penalties for pirate taxi operators were increased, with higher fines and prison terms for up to six months.[13] In October 1966, with new government regulation, licensed taxis were required to have a two-tone black and yellow livery, and be fitted with a lit sign with the word 'Taxi" on the roof.[14]

The 1970s, 1980s and 1990s[edit]

By 1970, with the implementation of a diesel tax and an additional 1,200 licenses for taxis, the government announced plans to phase out pirate taxis.[15] In May that year, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) announced plans to provide a cooperative taxi and minibus service,[16] and to get former pirate taxi drivers to drive the minibuses as part of the cooperative.[17] In July 1970, a taxi stop scheme was trialled on four streets in the central area, in which taxis could only stop at designated taxi stops.[18] Despite concerns over inconvenience and confusion raised by the Taxi Driver's Association, the Registry of Vehicles declared the trial a success and went on to expand the scheme.[19] Pirate and school taxis were eventually phased out by July 1971.[20]

NTUC's taxi cooperative, named 'Comfort', started operations in 1971 with a fleet of 1,000 taxis, with the first taxis entering service at the end of January that year.[21]

In June 1981, electronic meters were introduced to the taxis.[22] TIBS Taxis was formed in 1987, and was renamed to SMRT Taxis in 10 May 2004.

In 1995, CityCab was formed with the merger of SBS Taxi, Singapore Commuter and Singapore Airport Bus Services. In April 1998, CityCab had introduced MaxiCab (a 7-seater cab).

The 2000s[edit]

In November 2006, NETS payment was made available for the first time in taxis in Singapore, and in September 2009, online taxi booking was introduced. On February 2010, ComfortDelGro taxi booking app was launched for the iPhone users, and this is followed in June 2011 to the Android and Blackberry users after the elections. On December 2013, in-vehicle cameras were installed in all ComfortDelGro taxis.

In January 2007, ComfortDelGro is the first taxi operator to introduce new generation of taxis, which is Hyundai Sonata, followed by Toyota Camry (Natural Gas Retrofit) in 2008, whereas Yellow-Top had purchased Fiat Panorama and Fiat Croma JTD. ComfortDelGro had announced that it will be purchasing Hyundai Sonata and Hyundai i40 vehicles after which it was replaced by Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid.

On 11 July 2008, ComfortDelGro announced the implemention of a $0.30 fuel surcharge starting from 17 July. Other taxi companies except Prime Taxis followed suit with different implemention dates. ComfortDelGro Yellow-Top taxis has ceased to exist in October 2007.

On 25 January 2008, the Land Transport Authority announced that it will also set up a common call booking telephone number for taxis by July 2008, to complement the taxi companies’ call booking systems, which is called +65 6342 5222 (Common Taxi Booking Number). In March 2008, street hail in the central business district was disallowed, but it was released in stages, without buses plying in the first phase from 17 March 2009,[23] the second phase involved shortening the time to full-day bus lane hours from 23 February 2012[24] and finally, it was eased on every road except full-day and half-day bus lanes from January 2013.[25]

Since 2008, SMRT Taxis had purchased various taxis, ranging from Chrysler 300C, Hyundai Azera, SsangYong Rodius and Hyundai Starex. The first Chevrolet Epica was delivered in May 2011, to the no success between TransCab and SMRT Taxis. All the Chevrolet Epica vehicles were retired by 2018. SMRT Taxis had purchased Toyota Prius since 2013 and currently operates till today.

In 30 September 2013, Smart Taxis ceased operation. The LTA transferred some taxis from Smart Taxis to TransCab.[26]

In September 2014, the last Toyota Crown and Nissan Cedric were scrapped from various taxi operators. This marks the end of $3.00 flagdown taxis.

Late 2010s: Age of Disruptive Transport[edit]

The taxi industry has fallen in the decline since 2017 coupled with many car drivers scrapping the passenger cars over the years, together with the COE reaching zero growth.[1]

In 2017, regulations to safeguard commuter interests were introduced with the advent of the private hire car operators, Uber and Grab - the requirement to have a Private Hire Car Vocational Licence (PDVL), as well as tamper-proof blue colour decals. Taxi driver licences are more standardised to follow PDVL rules, and it is also called TPDVL. They are only required to dispatch insured and licensed vehicles.[27][28]

On 10 April 2017, ComfortDelGro offers flat fares without surge pricing for the first time and chalks up to 100,000 jobs in 10 days.[29] In June 2017, it had launched the CabRewards+ Programme which rewards commuters who travel on bus, trains and taxi. On 1 August 2017, ComfortDelGro is the first in Asia to extend Masterpass payments to street hail.[30] In December 2017, ComfortDelGro and Uber had formed the alliance, and in January 2018, it had launched UberFLASH. ComfortDelGro launches ComfortRIDE, a new booking service whose fares adjusts according to market supply and demand, which replaces Flat Fare in 15 May 2019 before reaching two million mark in August 2019. ComfortDelGro had also planned to extend the service to private hire cars.[31]

Several taxi companies had applied to implement dynamic pricing since February 2017. Since 22 March 2017, Grab has planned to implement this called JustGrab on 29 March 2017, that brings taxi companies into the scene of fixed rates (SMRT Taxis, TransCab, Premier Taxis, Prime Taxis and HDT Taxi were involved).[32]

In January 2018, Compressed Natural Gas taxicabs were discontinued which is from TransCab, and uses the Toyota Wish vehicles since 2010.[33]

In May 2018, Uber had merged its operations with Grab to form Grab.[34] Later on, more taxi operators also came into the scene including the conversion of trial-based electric taxi operator HDT Taxis (Hold Dreams Together) to a full-scale taxi licence. These include Ryde, TADA and Gojek, whereas some of the operators were shortlived - Kardi, Jugnoo, Filo Ride and Urge. Gojek was introduced in November 2018, pilot trial began without surge pricing and was restricted to DBS/OCBC card users before the full launch to all users in 11 January 2019.[35] Additionally, more taxi operators tied on with ride-hailing giants to introduce flat fares, out of which TransCab had signed up with Ryde on 26 September 2019[36] and Gojek on 29 November 2019.[37] Similarly, Premier Taxis had signed up with TADA on 19 February 2019, that had combined both taxis and private cars,[38] followed by introducing a Smart Call feature on 20 May 2019.

After the loss of Uber in May 2018, taxis had revived, but ComfortDelGro has bought 2,400 taxis in the revived demand in three phases. In July 2018, ComfortDelGro Taxi had trialed first fast-charging fully-electric Hyundai Ioniq taxis in Singapore. Trial of fully electric taxi was expanded to include long range Hyundai Kona electric taxis that boasts battery power twice that of the Ioniq in January 2019. Additionally, TransCab will also purchase Toyota Prius taxis which will also be delivered from January 2019.[39]

In 2019, there was a review on the Point-to-Point Passenger Transport Industry Act. The idea of setting a fare cap is being done. First, we only allow surge pricing on the fixed fare bookings, where fare levels are displayed upfront before showing the ride.[40]

Taxi demand plunged since January 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, ComfortDelGro has scrapped taxis between 2012 and 2014, by 22 April 2020 and saw the last Hyundai Sonata retired.

Vehicle types[edit]

Currently, the following vehicle makes and models are in use:

ComfortDelGro (Comfort)
ComfortDelGro (CityCab)
SMRT Taxis
Union Energy Corporation TransCab
Premier Taxis SilverCab
Prime Taxis
HDT Singapore (GO Electric)
Yellow-Top Taxis (Private)

All vehicles (excluding MPVs) seat 4 passengers unless otherwise stated.

Gallery[edit]

ComfortDelgro Comfort and CityCab Taxis (including luxury ComfortDelgro taxis)[edit]

[1]

Mercedes-Benz V220d (Maxi Cab)

SMRT Taxis[edit]

TransCab[edit]

Premier taxis SilverCab[edit]

Prime Taxis[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c http://www.lta.gov.sg/content/dam/ltaweb/corp/PublicationsResearch/files/FactsandFigures/taxi_info_2016.pdf
  2. ^ "Hold Dreams Together | Home". www.hdt.com.sg. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  3. ^ "The world's most expensive city". The Economist. 7 March 2014.
  4. ^ "70% of all taxis in Singapore equipped with airbags: MOT". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  5. ^ "Taxicabs for Singapore". The Straits Times. Singapore. 30 June 1910. Retrieved 15 May 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  6. ^ "Taxis for Singapore". Malaya Tribune. Singapore. 16 April 1919. p. 4. Retrieved 15 May 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  7. ^ "Untitled". The Straits Times. Singapore. 21 July 1919. p. 9. Retrieved 15 May 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  8. ^ Fwa, Tien Fang. 50 Years Of Transportation In Singapore: Achievements And Challenges. Singapore: World Scientific. p. 6. ISBN 9814651613.
  9. ^ "Growing pirate taxi fleet alarms police". The Straits Times. Singapore. 9 November 1964. p. 8. Retrieved 20 March 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  10. ^ "Bus problem: How to woo back millions". The Straits Times. Singapore. 24 October 1965. p. 11. Retrieved 20 March 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  11. ^ "Policy on taxis to be reviewed". The Straits Times. Singapore. 25 February 1966. p. 4. Retrieved 20 March 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  12. ^ "'License school taxis' report is tabled". The Straits Times. Singapore. 23 June 1966. p. 8. Retrieved 20 March 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  13. ^ "Now taxi 'pirates' in Singapore face prison terms". The Straits Times. Singapore. 24 June 1966. p. 5. Retrieved 20 March 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  14. ^ "Yellow top look for all S'pore taxis". The Straits Times. Singapore. 8 October 1966. p. 11. Retrieved 20 March 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  15. ^ Fong, Leslie (19 April 1970). "The days are really numbered for 7,000 pirate taxi drivers". The Straits Times. Singapore. p. 10. Retrieved 20 March 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  16. ^ "NTUC to set up taxi, mini-bus co-op". The Straits Times. Singapore. 25 May 1970. p. 5. Retrieved 20 March 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  17. ^ "Aid for pirate taximen plan". The Straits Times. Singapore. 29 May 1970. p. 7. Retrieved 20 March 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  18. ^ "Taxi stop signs at four busy streets". The Straits Times. Singapore. 29 July 1970. p. 21. Retrieved 20 March 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  19. ^ "Taxi stops a success, says Registry". The Straits Times. Singapore. 4 August 1970. p. 10. Retrieved 20 March 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  20. ^ "More buses, taxis will create 6,500 jobs". The Straits Times. Singapore. 24 July 1970. p. 8. Retrieved 20 March 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  21. ^ "Taxi licences for NTUC only?". The Straits Times. Singapore. 6 January 1971. p. 8. Retrieved 20 March 2020 – via NewspaperSG.
  22. ^ ComfortDelGro Milestones
  23. ^ LTA eases CBD taxi rules
  24. ^ Taxi restrictions relaxed in the CBD
  25. ^ CBD taxi rules to be eased from January 2013
  26. ^ LTA will not renew SMART Taxis licence
  27. ^ Applications for PDVL to open on 13 March 2017
  28. ^ All private hire cars to display decals from 1 July 2017
  29. ^ Flat Fare for ComfortDelGro
  30. ^ ComfortDelGro extends Masterpass to Street Hail
  31. ^ ComfortDelGro to launch new ComfortRIDE service
  32. ^ Dynamic Pricing for Taxis
  33. ^ hermes (2018-01-29). "Last CNG taxi scrapped, gas cars down to 1,000". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  34. ^ Grab merges with Uber in Southeast Asia
  35. ^ Gojek extends beta phase to all consumers in Singapore
  36. ^ TransCab ties up with Ryde
  37. ^ Gojek ties up with TransCab for taxi hailing after a year in Singapore
  38. ^ TADA combines private hire cars and taxis
  39. ^ ComfortDelGro buying up to 1,200 hybrid taxis
  40. ^ PTC new regulatory framework for the Point-to-Point Public Transport Sector
  41. ^ Mercedes-Benz Vito

External links[edit]