HONG KONG - Taxi fares in Hong Kong went up yesterday, the second increase in two years.
The new flagdown fare is HK$22 (S$3.60), up from HK$2. Passengers also have to pay HK$1.60 - instead of HK$1.50 now - for every 200m after the first 2km. This means an overall increase of 7 to 9 per cent, depending on the trip.
The fare hike is due to an increase in operating costs ranging from fuel expenses to insurance premiums, said a Transport Department spokesman.
While there is some talk that the fare hike may lead to an initial 10 per cent drop in passengers, it is unlikely to significantly affect the role that taxis play in Hong Kongers' transport needs. After all, taxi rides here are cheap, fast and basic.
Hong Kong's 18,138 taxis make an average of 900,000 trips a day, about the same number made by Singapore's 28,000 cabs.
Their niche in the city's transport system is in providing short-distance trips, such as between an MTR station and the ultimate destination.
A trip from Central district to Causeway Bay, a distance of about 4km, will cost roughly HK$40 after the increase. This is equivalent to the $7 charged to get from Shenton Way to Orchard Road - but minus surcharges and road tolls.
In fact, it is cheaper for a group of four here to share a taxi, than it is for them to take the bus.
How easy is it to hail a cab? According to the most recent survey conducted in 1998 by the government, almost half - 44.6 per cent - of the respondents waited under one minute.
Of those who waited longer, 90.8 per cent cooled their heels for a median time of 3 1/2 minutes. Tolerable, they say. The rest waited 10 1/2 minutes.
Fifteen years on, anecdotal evidence suggests that passengers are having to wait longer, especially during peak hours and on rainy days, although the situation is still "by and large good", says economist Wong Ka Fu who has studied the taxi market.