SINGAPORE: From January 2017, taxis will no longer be required to clock a minimum daily mileage of 250km. Taxi operators will also no longer have to meet availability requirements between 6am to 7am and 11pm to 12am, otherwise known as “shoulder peak periods”.
Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng announced these changes to the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) Taxi Availability (TA) framework on Saturday (Dec 17) at a fundraising event involving the taxi industry and other stakeholders.
"With these changes, I hope taxi drivers will be able to better utilise their vehicles for maximised earnings, and perhaps more importantly, the taxi companies could pass some of their reduced costs to their taxi drivers to ease the current burdens," said Mr Ng, adding his hope that taxi drivers will be able to transit into the new landscape better.
In September, Mr Ng, who is also Education Minister (Schools), said in Parliament that the Government would review the TA framework by the end of the year amid growing competition from private car-hire services such as Grab and Uber.
This was to “further level the playing field” between such service and traditional taxi operators, said Mr Ng, who was then Senior Minister of State for Transport.
These availability standards were put in place since 2013, requiring taxis to clock a minimum daily mileage, as well as ply the roads during peak hours. Private car-hire services, however, are not subject to such requirements.
In a statement, the LTA said the move to simplify the TA framework was to give taxi companies and drivers more flexibility to “adapt to the evolving market”, which has changed greatly over the past one to two years due to the proliferation of third-party booking apps and private car-hire services.
Since the introduction of the Taxi Availability framework, the percentage of taxis on the roads during peak hours rose from 82 per cent in 2012 to 93 per cent in the first nine months of 2016 – an increase of about 2,000 more taxis during these hours.
Over the same period, the percentage of taxis plying at least 250km daily also rose from 75 per cent to 81 per cent, with 64 per cent clocking more than 300km daily from January to September 2016. The proportion of taxis on a two-shift system also increased from 53 per cent to 68 per cent in the four years since the framework was introduced.
LTA said based on these figures and its assessment of the current mobility landscape, there will be sufficient taxis plying the roads to meet commuter demand, especially during non-peak periods.
Taxi operators will still have to adhere to availability standards of 85 per cent of their fleet on the road during the peak hours of 7am to 11am, and 5pm to 11pm next year. This remains unchanged since 2015.
The National Taxi Association (NTA) said it welcomed the revisions, and believe that they will help drivers minimise empty cruising going forward.
Mr Ang Hin Kee, executive adviser to the NTA, noted that when the taxi availability indicators were first brought up, the association said it is a rough proxy to matching drivers with commuters.
Since then, NTA has given LTA feedback that the current TA framework let to empty cruising but might not match commuter needs, he added.
"Creating supply does not necessarily mean that you'll be able to meet the commuters where they are and when they want it. So that could be better served through technology," Mr Ang said.