It’s just not right

I’ve been having conversations with taxi drivers over the past few weeks, usually over things like how the taxi business is run and the new price hikes which kick in this coming Monday.

Most of the taxi drivers I’ve met used to be in another field and flunked out of them for various reasons. None of them really like the taxi trade but they don’t seem to have a choice. Either age or tiredness prevent them from rebooting their careers. Fear keeps them from revolting against the system.

But one thing is clear – everyone wants taxi rentals to be reduced. I’ve been calling for that (in my head at least) ever since I started work and kept getting into taxi conversations.

On average, these drivers have to make about 8-12 trips a day to cover the daily rental fees (about $90-$100), and what you get are taxi drivers who ply the road bleary-eyed on 12 or 14-hour shifts. And you wonder why taxi drivers keep getting into accidents (apart from the lousy drivers lah).

We keep hearing plenty of justification from the Gahmen or taxi operators on why they can’t seem to fix the taxi problem in Singapore. I stopped listening a long time ago.

The reality is that they don’t really understand the bigger consequence – yes, the people here are docile  enough to accept or be resigned to what is imposed upon them, but it reduces the country in the eyes of the rest of the world who come by to do business here.

Can’t get a cab in town on Friday nights? It’s ridiculous you know, when you can’t even get to the taxi call centre after 20 min.

We have to stop comparing our taxi rates with the rest of the world. A country’s reputation is measured by its real-world efficiency, not how it stacks up in terms of quantitative data. Who cares if our kids are top in spelling or maths? That doesn’t count for much when they get into the working world where we need people to be articulate and emphatic, not robotic bean counters.

Our taxi drivers aren’t a happy lot – they know their operators earn so much money, and it’s them who have to slog day in day out, risk their lives and health to keep the coffers at HQ overflowing.

To anyone who thinks our public transport system is great, go fly a kite ok? When I was in NTU, I spent 90 min just to get from Bishan to Jalan Bahar. In a straight line, that’s less than 30km. That’s inhumane. The sheer lack of competition or forward-looking vision in the transport system has made getting to work such a miserable experience.

I try not to take buses because I might just rot waiting for them. I was driving for the past few years, but it’s back to the SMRT and I cannot believe the length of time I have to wait during non-peak hours.

You know, Gahmen, few people in Singapore really cares how you justify your case on so many things anymore. We’re designed to be a pragmatic lot, thanks to your divisive education system, so what we want to see are results, and walking the talk. Transport in Singapore is usable, but it falls far short of what a tiny country is capable of demonstrating.

Don’t forget your taxi drivers are human at the end of the day. There’s only so much crap they can take.

8 Replies to “It’s just not right”

  1. You know what, these days I just simply shake my head and tell myself and those who care..

    That “this gahmen doesn’t fucking care a single bit”. Why be fools and vote them in poll after poll? U all got blain right, use the damned thing.

  2. I have a lot less sympathy for cabbies after getting taken on joyrides one too many times. They see a youngish girl and decide it would be clever to bump up the fare by going on a loop-de-loop between points A and B…

  3. Our super-talent government don’t give a damm whether you common peasants can make end meet. They lack passion to look after this red dot and their only interest is to find means and ways to hold back your CPF money to fund Auntie Ho’s shopping spree in order that the world can continue to rate her as one of the top 10 super woman.

    What concern them the most is to enrich themselve while in power by coming up with a obsence pay formula which I strongly believe most Singaporeans disagreed.

    Can’t wait for 5 years to vote them out of power. Look like I have to vote with my feet.

  4. Hi Ian!

    I may surprise you by saying that I think Singapore’s public transport system is pretty okay. I don’t think I will call it great, but it’s rather fine. And I certainly am not going to fly a kite.

    A year ago I may have agreed with you, but after spending some time in Australia, experiencing the public transport in a couple of their cities (mainly, Sydney and Canberra), I think Singapore’s bus and train system is decent in comparison.

    In Sydney, I noticed that many of the buses (at least those that I took) require me to travel to a central terminal, then to my destination. In Canberra, the bus (read: singular) that run through uni has a frequency of half an hour. And that’s not to mention the horrendous fares (I still can’t believe it costs A$13.80 to get a train ticket from the CBD to the airport).

    Granted, a direct comparison is never justified, given the differing social and economical conditions (Australia has generous welfare, Singaporeans are more reliant on public transport, etc.). But I think only when one steps out of Singapore and stays in another city for an extended period of time can he/she appreciate Singapore’s public transport. It is certainly not excellent, but it doesn’t suck to the core either.

    Oh, and I don’t consider taxis as public transport (as your post seem to imply), and I do agree with you that the taxi fare system is screwed up.

  5. Hi Pandemonium,

    Yes, you’re right, but I also pointed out we shouldn’t compare our transport system with other countries, but look at our own geographical size, level of societal sophistication and demands of the population when evaluating our own public transport system.

    I do consider taxis as public transport because it’s available to any member of the public as long as they can afford it. But even if you can afford it, it may not meet your needs.

    Anyway, transport is always a hot topic and but the people here are largely impotent to do anything about it due to the system that’s been imposed on the public.

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