If there are saviours Singaporeans should all bow at the altar of, it’s Grab and Uber. While taxi drivers might disagree, for most of Singapore there is no doubt that Grab and Uber have made our lives better. In case you’ve forgotten, it used to be almost impossible to get a taxi at certain times of the day. These days, things have changed quite a bit, and it’s all thanks to Grab and Uber’s disruptive influence. Here are three reasons we should thank our lucky stars that Grab and Uber now exist.
Grab and Uber have singlehandedly raised standards in the taxi industry
While taxi drivers are cursing the day Grab and Uber first darkened their doors, commuters are rejoicing, because the unreliability of the taxi industry used to be the absolute worst. In a survey earlier this year, Singaporeans complained that long waiting times for taxis were the thing that annoyed them most about commuting.
Off the top of my head, I can recall at least twenty occasions where I’ve waited over an hour for cabs, or been rejected by at least ten cabs who all claimed they were changing shifts or only going in the direction of Woodlands.
But now, thanks to competition introduced by Grab and Uber, taxi drivers have been forced to up their game. Money is getting harder to earn, which means they can no longer afford to be as picky as before. Because of this, waiting times for taxis have fallen islandwide, and people are having less difficulty calling for and hailing cabs.
Besides, if you can’t get a cab, you can always call for a GrabCar or Uber.
It’s easier to become a driver now
Driving taxis has long been Singaporeans’ favourite Plan B. Just got retrenched from your cushy bank job? Or are you looking to become your own boss? Get a vocational licence and hit the road as a cabbie. Heck, even a former Mediacorp star is now a taxi driver.
But one annoying barrier to entry is the cost of becoming a driver, and the amount of time involved in making multiple trips to an often inconveniently-located driving school.
Thanks to how much easier it is to become a GrabCar and/or Uber driver, taxi drivers face the risk of extinction. In response, the authorities have relaxed the requirements for becoming a taxi driver.
The course cabbie hopefuls have to take in order to get their vocational licence has been cut from 60 hours to 25 hours. The refresher course drivers have to take every 6 years has also been shortened by about 50%. Course fees have also been reduced from $250 to $200, while the refresher course is now $40, down from $45.
For the many Singaporeans who intend to become taxi drivers, including younger cabbies in their 30s whose numbers have increased by almost 500% between 2010 and 2014, this can only be a good thing.
And for those who don’t want to go the taxi route, or who own cars and just want to earn a bit of spare cash on the side, there’s also the option of becoming a GrabCar and/or Uber driver. This is particularly advantageous for those who have their own vehicles or need to subsidise a vehicle purchase, since they’re not forced to pay expensive taxi rental fees and can drive on an own-time, own-target basis.
Cheaper late night options for commuters
While a lot of attention has been paid to improving the public transport system, the government has paid scant attention to late night options. I guess it’s assumed that Singaporeans should all head home before midnight so they can wake up bright and early and ready to work, work, work for the economy.
And while many people argue that taxis cost less in Singapore than they do in major cities like New York, London and Paris, they are still more expensive than the budget late-night transportation options in these cities.
We have had no night buses past 2am since the decision was made to have the Night Rider services end hours earlier because they weren’t making enough money. Nor do we have overnight rail services, since the MRT system shuts down close to midnight.
The 50% surcharge means that someone taking a cab from the CBD to, say, Choa Chu Kang or Pasir Ris can expect to pay about $30. Which is a lot just to get home.
In late night situations where the midnight surcharge applies, UberX has proven to be cheaper than taking a taxi. While this is not a substitute for a truly robust public transport solution, it’s better than nothing.
Which do you take more often, Grab and Uber or taxis? Tell us why in the comments!