Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

The NTA Has Competition

Two weeks ago, I joked about how the likes of Grab and Uber should band together to form a national association for private hire drivers, the equivalent of the National Taxi Association (NTA) for taxi drivers (NTA Just Cares For Themselves). It turns out such an association has indeed been formed. I suppose it was a matter of time that it would happen.

The new association is the National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA). They will champion and protect the interests of drivers under industry players like Grab and Uber, as well as others who provide private limousine and chauffeured services.

It will be interesting if the NPHVA now steps up to fight with the NTA over regulations governing taxi drivers and private hire drivers. On the one hand, NTA wants to level the playing field by standardising things like vocational licensing, training and insurance. Now, let’s hear about how NPHVA can argue that, under such standardised governance, shouldn’t private hire drivers be allowed equivalent opportunities to pick up street jobs.

Taxi drivers, or the NTA, or perhaps both, are just not understanding that taxis are failing to meet commuters’ demands. The recent taxi availability heatmap published by NUS student Joseph Tang shows how insane it is that all the taxi drivers just love to stick around Changi Airport. Why do they love Changi Airport so much?

Seriously, the bright red spot at Changi Airport isn’t just that are taxis available there. You see, the taxis have got to get there in the first place. One way the taxis get there is by carrying a fare to the airport, and then just sticking around there. That’s reasonable enough. But there must also be empty taxis who would rather travel to Changi Airport and hang around there. The fact that we have such a big red spot at Changi Airpot must be that there are that many taxis happy to just hang around Changi Airport to wait for a fare.

Honestly, we don’t really need the heatmap to know this. We don’t need the governments data API to know this. You just need to go to Changi Airport to see the insane queue of taxis, crawling along at an excruciatingly slow pace, leading up to the passenger terminals.

Can the NTA please tell us how they plan to help meet commuters’ needs? I mean, I can understand that they are mostly interested in protecting the taxi drivers, but you know what, taxi drivers need commuters, otherwise there’ll be no need for taxi drivers.

Can you just imagine Grab and Uber setting up a kiosk at Changi Airport to facilitate easy booking of private vehicles by arriving travellers. There is a chance that private higher vehicles could just replace, or at least reduce the dependency of, taxis at the airport. I don’t suppose this would be breaking any government regulation, since the private vehicles were booked, and not hailed by the street side.

I know, there are already private hire vehicle service counters at the arrival halls. But Grab and Uber can scale things up a notch, and make pricing so attractive that it would be insane to still want a taxi.

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