Taxi flag-down rate up due to COEs

SINGAPORE - If you hail one of 300 new Chevrolet Epica taxis operated by TransCab, expect to see a flag-down fare of $3.60 on the meter.

The transport operator rolled out a new fleet of such taxis in January this year and raised the flag-down fares for these cabs by 20 cents from $3.40.

The fare hike was due to higher Certificate of Entitlement (COE) prices at the time, said TransCab general manager Jasmine Tan yesterday.

She said the COE for the new fleet of taxis in January was about $90,000 per car, up from about $50,000 previously.

Some 1,000 taxis of the same model that TransCab rolled out in September 2011 continue to have a flag-down fare of $3.40.

Commuters will be able to differentiate the new taxis from the old by the colour of their window rims.

The older taxis have white window rims and white tops while the newer ones have red window rims instead.

The rise in COE prices is why rental rates for drivers differ for the two types of cabs as well, Ms Tan explained. The new ones cost drivers $123.05 a day, compared to $115.56 for the old.

A print advertisement about the change was placed in The New Paper in January, but the TransCab website does not display the new flag-down fares.

The change has caught commuters by surprise. Marketing executive Stephanie Lim, 25, who takes a taxi to work every day, said: "The difference in the appearances of the two cabs is minimal. It is not right to just raise fares like that, especially for the same type of cab." TransCab is the second-largest operator here with 4,300 taxis.

ComfortDelGro also rolled out 10 Hyundai i-40 taxis in December last year with a higher flag-down fare of $3.50 as part of a six-month trial. The largest taxi operator here could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts yesterday.

Mr Ang Hin Kee, adviser for the National Taxi Association, pointed out that taxi companies find it challenging to fix flag-down fares due to the "unpredictable" nature of COE prices.

He said he has been urging the Land Transport Authority to view taxis as a form of public transport and to review the COE system for them.

Public Transport Council chairman Gerard Ee said that flag-down fares are not regulated and are subject to market forces.

"At the end of the day, it is about market demand. If people don't want to use the more-expensive ones, then operators certainly won't want to keep buying them and raising fares," he said.

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