Opinion

6 Good Reasons ComfortDelGro Shouldn’t Hike Taxi Fares

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Ryan Ong

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Yesterday, ComfortDelGro announced a hike in cab fares. The reason is inflation and cost of living, to which, you know, taxi fares are a contributing factor. In effect, they’re responding to the rising cost of living by raising the cost of living. Our PTC (Public Transport Commission) hasn’t had the decency to respond appropriately (i.e. leaning over to slap whoever’s in charge), so MoneySmart will do it instead. Here’s six reasons that fare hike shouldn’t happen:

1. The “Helping Our Cab Drivers” Excuse

Comfort claims the fare hikes are to help cab drivers “cope with inflation”. But if they wanted to do that, why not lower the $70 a day rental rates for cabbies? Why not increase their fuel rebates? It’s not as if Comfort wouldn’t run a nice profit even then.

Besides, Comfort is already considering the gradual removal of some subsidies (i.e. the fuel rebates). This “help” is like my boss chucking a ball of dental floss at me and calling it a health plan.

If Comfort wants to help their cabbies, let their senior management take a pay cut. Don’t foist the cost on customers, and drive up our cost of living. As the world’s second largest transport company, I think Comfort can afford it.

 

Man sleeping in car
The “free employee lodging” benefit.

 

2. We’re Having Public Transport Issues Already

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew has been struggling with long wait times at MRT stations and bus stops. And have you tried catching the train from Orchard at rush hour? It’s positively lethal. If you die in the stampede, no one will notice your trampled corpse for hours. The First Aid kits at train stations should be equipped with stain scrapers instead of bandages.

And then there’s the rising CoE, so a car is too expensive to afford. Short of buying a horse, taxis are the only other recourse.

But the PTC seems to think we should all be playing on “hard” mode, so they’re jacking up the cost of the only alternative. And the difficulty of public transport is doubled for…

 

3. The Handicapped

 

Woman peering from behind a crutch
The S’pore System – Steal reserved seat for handicapped = Become handicapped

 

There are segments of our society that can’t use the bus or train. At least, not without a major hassle. For these people, taxis are an essential arm of public transport. By upping the fares to insane levels, these people have no choice but to join the daily fight for busses and trains.

Have you ever had to get on a bus, at rush hour, in a wheel chair or crutches? It’s possible, but imagine doing that every day, to and from work. Or what about the pregnant, the mentally handicapped, or the blind? Let’s just limit their ability to use cabs, because apparently, their lives aren’t inconvenient enough.

 

4. Competitive Fairness

So Comfort raises its price. Hey, no problem. Some other cab companies will keep theirs the same, and then undercut them. The free market will rectify it, right?

Except cab companies work in tandem. So SMRT will follow suit. They happen to be the second biggest cab company in Singapore. In any other industry, we have another name for this. It’s called price fixing. And it’s so illegal, your great-grandchildren will be cursing your name as they slave to pay off your fine. But it’s totally okay for the two biggest cab companies.

In a properly competitive environment, fare hikes have to be justified by improvements in service. But with cab companies just jointly rising prices, what incentive do they have? When was the last time you saw a brilliant promotion by a cab company?

 

Blurry speed image of comfort cab
“Who say never compete? I every day compete. Compete with red light, with other driver…”

 

5. It Raises the Cost of Doing Business

There are any number of jobs where transport is essential. Sales people and journalists can’t always rely on busses and trains. Nor can events planners, real estate agents, or anyone whose job involves a modicum of travel and urgency.

We also have people whose jobs take them across the island. From Changi to Jurong Island, or vice versa. An increase in cab fares is devastating to both these commuters, and their employers. Productivity drops, quality of life drops, and companies face higher transport claims.

 

6. Conclusion

Since the PTC likes bending over backwards, we ought to make a demand. Not that they lower cab fares, but rather, that they license more cab companies. Write to your MPs, and suggest the establishment of more cab companies. Put more taxis on the the road, and we’ll see if Comfort doesn’t squeal a little. There’s a reason for them to stop pushing us, if it happens.

 

Citycab
Keep hiking those fares Comfort, and yellow will be the new blue.

 

ComfortDelGro, in the context of Singapore, has never truly faced free market conditions. Hence, their management is disconnected from the public, and has the responsiveness of a very retarded snail. Some competition should wake them up.

Image Credits:

tallkevNeajjeanStewart YuBrenda CalaraPerson who used fancy symbol for his nameThien Anh, Dinh

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.