Commuters groan over taxi operators' recent fare hikes

Commuters groan over taxi operators' recent fare hikes

SINGAPORE - He thought he had it all worked out when he gave up his three-year-old Corolla Altis in January.

Since he was moving to a deskbound job, sales manager Dave Lee thought he could halve the $1,400 he used to spend on loan instalments and petrol by taking public transport.

But punctuality became a problem for Mr Lee and his family, who live in a four-room flat in Bedok.

His administrative executive wife has to send their six-month-old daughter to the babysitter in Simei before going to her office at VivoCity.

And he drops their two-year-old son off at the childcare centre in Kembangan before heading to his workplace in Orchard Road.

Taking the MRT with young kids at peak hours is near impossible, he says.

"There were times when we had to wait for two or three trains to go by before we could even get on one."

Husband and wife resort to taking two separate taxis, and the family's transport costs run to around $1,100 a month.

So it is only natural that he is sensitive to any news regarding taxi fares.

On Tuesday, it was reported that SMRT was rolling out 600 Toyota Priuses with a flag-down rate of $3.80.

This comes in the wake of ComfortDelgro's new fleet of Hyundai i40s that were first rolled out last month, with flag-down fares of $3.70.

A few months ago, Trans-Cab, Comfort and Premier raised the flagdown rates of their luxury cabs to $3.90.

The Straits Times reported last week that cab fares have been increasing as operators move to counter higher certificate of entitlement (COE) prices and a growth restriction on their fleets.

Mr Lee concedes that the 600 cabs is a small portion of the total taxi population in Singapore, and the chances of him taking one of these new cab is small. But he feels powerless against any increases.

"It's not like I can opt not to take cabs at this time, with our two young kids," he says.

One taxi commuter feels that flagdown rates have increased tremendously in five years.

Freelance fashion stylist Gladys Leow, 47, says: "In 2007, flag-downs were generally $2.50. These days, it's averaging $3.60, before the various surcharges.

"And it feels like when one company increases, the rest follow suit."

Taxi fares were deregulated in 1998 in a move to allow cab companies to set fare structures based on their assessments of prevailing market conditions, said the Land Transport Authority then.

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