Usual queues at taxi stands in LTA trial

Usual queues at taxi stands in LTA trial
People queueing at the Lucky Plaza taxi stand at 6pm on 7 November 2014. Waiting time was over 15 minutes.

NOT much has changed since a trial was rolled out on Wednesday by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to alert cab drivers to long queues at seven taxi stands.

Cab drivers said they had yet to receive any alerts directing them to congested lines, while the LTA was vague, saying more time was needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the system in reducing waiting times.

Checks by The Straits Times yesterday and on Thursday during peak hours at the seven stands showed lines of 20 to 40 people. Commuters said they had waited more than 15 minutes at the stands at HarbourFront Centre, Hitachi Tower, Keck Seng Tower, Lucky Plaza, Ngee Ann City, OG People's Park and VivoCity.

Under the trial, heat sensors detect the number of commuters in line in real time. An algorithm calculates average waiting time and sends out automatic SMS alerts to taxi companies when lines form that are more than 15 long, or if commuters have been waiting more than 15 minutes.

LTA added that the algorithm will be recalibrated when necessary during the trial.

Once they get an SMS alert from the system, taxi companies can choose to alert their cab drivers, as they see fit. Cabbies arriving at the stands told The Straits Times they had not received any alert but added that these places were well known for their lines anyway.

"We already know which places are crowded and at what time," said cabby Neo Kim Soon, 57.

It was unclear if the automatic SMS alerts were being sent to the cab operators.

According to Comfort DelGro, the largest operator here with a fleet of 16,800, "the proposed system should help direct drivers to areas where demand is higher and this will hopefully reduce waiting time for passengers. When more details are available, we will notify our drivers so that they are kept abreast of developments."

Asked, among other things, if the system had begun sending alerts to cab companies, the LTA replied: "The taxi information trial has recently started and some time is necessary to evaluate its effectiveness based on improvements in waiting time, as well as commuters' and taxi drivers' feedback on the system over a sustained period of time before drawing any conclusions as to the effectiveness of the trial."

Meanwhile, an all-too-common sight was spotted at these stands, of commuters tapping away on their smartphones on their taxi-booking apps.

Said interior designer Micah Valenzuela, 29, who had been in line for more than 20 minutes at the Hitachi Tower taxi stand: "The wait is too long. I'm trying to book one instead."

This article was first published on Nov 8, 2014.
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