FROM today, taxis are allowed to pick up and drop off passengers from side roads in the Central Business District which are not served by public buses, the Land Transport Authority announced on Monday.
But the CBD rule for taxis remains for trunk roads where public buses run.
LTA said it has fine-tuned the rule, following complaints and feedback from commuters, cabbies and other road users that it has caused pratical operational difficulties for drivers and misunderstandings and unpleasant incidents between them and their passengers.
In introducing the new rule on March 1, which made it compulsory for taxis to pick up and drop off passengers only at taxi stands and driveways of buildings between 7am to 10pm from Mondays to Saturdays, LTA said safety was the principal reason.
Sudden stopping and haphazard lane changes by taxis along heavily used roads to pick up or alight passengers pose a danger to passengers and other road users, it explained.
Furthermore, with more bus lanes, taxi drivers will find it increasingly difficult to stop along the roads in the CBD, making it also harder for passengers to hail a taxi along the road. Taxi drivers who flout the rule can be fined $100 and given three demerit points.
But commuters and taxi drivers have complained that it has resulted in much inconvenience. Elderly and disabled passengers, as well as tourists with heavy luggage, say they find it difficult to walk to a taxi stand.
LTA's chief executive Yam Ah Mee on Monday told a media briefing that the LTA has taken into consideration feedback from the public, as well as from taxi associations, and decided to adjust the rule to minimise inconvenience to passengers, business and taxi drivers.
'The principal consideration for this rule is safety. This remains our key priority. We, together with the Taxi Operators? Associations and taxi companies, have considered very carefully the feedback from passengers, businesses and taxi drivers, and LTA has decided to allow taxis to pick up and drop off passengers from side roads,' he said.
'Our risk assessment is that roads with the highest risks are the roads where public buses ply. This adjustment balances safety concerns with the need to minimise inconvenience to commuters.'
To make it easier for passengers to find a taxi stand, the LTA said it will add ten more to the existing 105 in the CBD by the end of March. It will also put up more prominent directional signs to guide them to the nearest taxi stands.
Maps showing the location of taxi stands in the CBD area will also be distributed to hotels and commercial buildings to make it easier for commuters to locate the nearest taxi stand. These maps will also be included in the public transport information guide for tourists.
So far, 469 taxi drivers have received warning advisories from the LTA for flouting the rule. The LTA said the rule will be enforced against errant drivers from May 1.
Mr Foo Chi Yong, President of Premier Taxi Operators' Association, welcomed the easing of the rule. 'I am relieved to note that the authorities have exercised flexibility in enforcing the new policy during the initial period. We hope to receive the support and understanding from the public so that they can help us as drivers to adjust to the new ruling,' he said.
Added Mr Yang Ban Seng, CEO of ComfortDelgro's Taxi Business: 'We are heartened by LTA's receptiveness to industry feedback. The proposed tweaks to the system will help ease the problems that our drivers have experienced on the ground. We will continue to work closely with the LTA and our associations to monitor the situation on the ground.'
Mr Lee Wai Mun, Chief Executive Officer of the Automobile Association of Singapore, also hailed the change.
He said: 'The CBD rule for taxis, in placing safety high on the list of priorities, is the correct approach to take. AAS is happy that the adjustments, while making it more convenient for taxi commuters, retain the need to make our roads safe for the motorists.'
Mr Nah Tua Bah, President of Comfort Taxi Operators' Association, said cabbies are happy that their views and concerns had been considered.
'We believe these changes will still meet our objective to ensure safety and improve convenience for passengers and motorists. As with all changes, it will require some time for adjustment and we seek the understanding of all commuters, businesses, and taxi drivers,' added Mr Yam.