The Voice of the People: Singapore
What do Singaporeans think about the recent huge increases in taxi fares? Well, today, I observed their reply.
We are approaching Xmas. It is prime shopping time for Singaporeans making those urgent gift purchases in the last few days. Many people will be laden with bags and, in need of a cab. But will they take one?
I haven't conducted a scientific survey, through numerical monitoring of taxis, but I have conducted an informal one. This afternoon I noted whether a cab was full or empty as it passed me - and the company from which it came. Chance being what it is, my sample is likely to be a typical one for a non-central area, for there is no reason why my sample should be in anyway special. I noticed something strange. About 80 % of Comfort Delgro taxis were empty. That's right, about 4 out of 5 passed me by empty of passengers.
What is even stranger is that the smaller taxi companies which are implementing their own fare changes in the near future, but have yet to do so, were mainly full. So, what do we have here: Comfort cabs empty, other cabs full. I think the people of Singapore, have spoken. By their choice have they made their view clear. Comfort cabs are being actively avoided by enough Singaporeans to create a noticeable difference in usage, in the afternoon, between Comfort, and their competitors.
There is only one problem with this: soon all firms will implement their own taxi fare rises.
The fact that so many Comfort taxis are empty, on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, is very telling. It also calls into question the taxi firm's strategy in the first place. You see, have you ever wondered why they chose to raise taxi fares by such a huge margin in the run-up to Christmas? Well, it is because they thought you would be busy shopping and visiting relatives and that you would have no choice but to pay up. Rather coldly, they calculated that, at this particular time of the year, Singaporeans had no choice but to cough up for the new charges. They probably reasoned that, by the time the festive season was over, everyone would be used to the new raft of charges and their level of custom would be back to normal. But that does not seem to be what is happening out on the street, if my observed sample is typical. What is happening is that Singaporeans are actively avoiding taxis. I don't think this comes from any concerted action. It arises from individual decisions based on affordabilty. Many Singaporeans cannot, now, afford taxis. They simply cannot pay that ten dollars extra (or whatever it is) for their particular journey - so they don't take them anymore. They are either reducing their travel to essentials only - or using alternatives such as the MRT (train network) or the buses - neither of which is particularly convenient for large areas of Singapore.
It is Christmas. It is the time of "good cheer". Yet, it is also the first time that many Singaporeans can no longer afford the convenience of a taxi. This conclusion is easily reached. You just have to observe the traffic flow and note how many more empty taxis there are, than usual - at this busiest of all times of year.
If this situation persists and Singaporeans continue to refuse to take taxis it may come to pass that taxi fares are quietly lowered again. Then all can go back to normal - and people can start travelling conveniently again. However, if Singaporeans put up with the new fares, and go back to the cabs, then the high prices will be here to stay - until the next round of taxi fare hikes, of course.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and no months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and five months, and Tiarnan, twenty-two months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)