S$30 from Orchard to Ang Mo Kio: Companies introducing incentives to attract more drivers, commuters frustrated over 'crazy' fare hikes
SINGAPORE: With the easing of COVID-19 measures and the increase in the number of passengers booking rides, private-hire transport companies have started implementing initiatives to attract more drivers to meet the renewed demand.
Over the last two years of the pandemic, Grab observed “some driver-partners becoming inactive” due to the lack of demand for rides, a spokesperson for the company told CNA.
This “industry-wide trend” was also reflected in the Land Transport Authority’s statistics, which showed the number of taxi and private hire vehicle drivers decreasing over the last two years.
For instance, there were 101,536 valid taxi driver’s vocational licence holders in December 2019. In December 2021, the number decreased to 94,642. And last year alone, the number of valid private hire car driver vocational licence holders dropped from 56,121 in January to 48,523 in December.
“But as Singapore relaxed its major COVID restrictions late last month and with the easing of border controls and recent festive celebrations, we are seeing more passengers booking rides on the Grab app,” said the company.
“To meet this growing need, we have put in place a number of initiatives including various incentive programmes to encourage our existing driver-partners to drive during the peak hours and attract new driver-partners. We have also rolled out a driver referral programme.”
Over at Gojek, a spokesperson told CNA that the company “expects to see increasing demand for rides” as consumers embrace the easing of restrictions.
“(We) have a number of existing schemes and initiatives in place to enhance the attractiveness of driving later for our drivers. Last year, we also announced enhanced far pick-up incentives to help reward drivers who travel further to pick-up customers, such as to the airport.”
But the situation will take some time to stabilise, noted Mr Yeow How Pheng, senior general manager of Strides Mobility Services. He added that the company is currently recruiting more taxi partners.
“The number of active taxi partners under Strides Taxi has increased in recent months. We have been revising our rental schemes to attract more taxi partners, including the offer of brand new electric taxis that can help our partners to cut operating costs in the midst of rising petrol prices,” he said.
ComfortDelgro declined to comment on recent fare hikes citing “competitive reasons”.
PEAK HOUR “DOESN’T WARRANT THAT HIGH A PRICE”
But it appears change cannot come soon enough. CNA spoke to several commuters who cited recent “crazy” fare hikes, especially during peak hours.
When Sarah Oh, 32, wanted to book a Grab ride from Choa Chu Kang to Kranji, it cost S$35 at 6pm. The same journey used to cost slightly more than S$10.
“It’s peak hour but still, it doesn't warrant that high of a price,” she said, adding that she ended up cancelling her booking and taking the MRT.
Another commuter who only wanted to be known as Nick said it now costs him double to travel his regular route from Bishan to Bukit Batok on both Grab and Comfort.
“The price has increased from S$13 to S$26 to S$29. I normally travel this journey between 8 to 10pm. But on the several occasions I took it around 7pm, the prices were just as high,” the 30-year-old said.
Two commuters who live in Ang Mo Kio said the fare from Orchard to their homes has recently shot up to about S$30, a two-fold jump.
“It’s more than S$30 for Grab from Orchard to Ang Mo Kio. It seems to be so during weekends regardless of the hour. The same point-to-point from my house to Orchard is usually less than S$20 … around S$14 to S$16,” said a 39-year-old who only wanted to be known as Ms Ong.
“Usually, it’s about 16 to 20 bucks from town to home but recently it’s been almost 30,” added another commuter, who gave his name as Marcus.
For Marcus, this fare was reflected on both the Grab and Ryde apps at around 10pm on a Friday.
“I think all the (people) go clubbing drive up the price, is it?” the 36-year-old asked.
TAKING THE MRT MORE REGULARLY
On the other hand, Sam Chui, 32, suggested that the recent fare hike could be due to “a major shortage of drivers on a whole, between the delivery services and the ride shares”.
“I feel like a part of it could be attributed to economic recovery. That is, the gig economy pool has shrunk because many people have returned to pre-COVID office jobs,” she added.
Ms Chui’s regular journey from Botanic Gardens to Afro-Asia at Robinson Road used to cost S$14 on the Grab app for a journey anytime between 7pm and 2am. Now, she pays between S$23 to S$30.
“It’s quite crazy. Gojek is usually marginally cheaper but impossible to get. I've been using Comfort a lot. Generally yes (it’s better), but still higher than average. (Comfort is) usually closer to the low 20s while the other two are high 20s, low 30s,” she said.
As a result of the price hike, Ms Chui said she has been taking the MRT more frequently.
Similarly, Ms Ong said she can “hardly count as a regular Grab user anymore”. She would compare prices among different platforms and pick the cheapest, but because of the fixed fare prices and waiting time, she usually ends up taking the MRT or using metered taxis instead.“I think the more important point is that it’s harder to get a ride these days. It can take up to 20 minutes of waiting time or even more,” she said.
RIDES AVAILABLE, JUST A MATTER OF COST
While 32-year-old Taj Marhim’s waiting time ranges from six to eight minutes, he noted that his “usual spots” are located in more convenient areas, like Bedok, Tampines, Bugis or downtown.
At the moment, a trip from Tampines to Bedok can cost between S$15 to S$18 during peak hours, and heading from Bugis to Tampines could cost him S$30. The former would previously cost him S$12 “at its worst”, while the latter would cost him around S$15 to S$18.
“I think taking it at non-peak is fine for most rides, but peak prices are nuts. But I’m basing this on Grab, because my thought process is I (will) check out Grab’s price first, then compare with Gojek and Comfort. If Grab is the lowest, I'll go for it. If not, I’ll see how urgent I need to go anywhere,” he said.
Mr Taj later sent CNA a screenshot of his Grab app “just to prove a point”. At 6.10pm on a Wednesday, it would cost him S$38.80 to travel from Telok Ayer MRT to Tampines.
“So (there will be a) car. It’s just a matter of how much (it costs),” he said.