TNP Poll: Faster rides with JustGrab, but not always cheaper
JustGrab has helped cut down waiting time to get a ride, TNP poll shows
Shorter waiting times, but not necessarily lower fares.
This is the experience of more than 110 users of ride-hailing apps surveyed by The New Paper after recent changes to the private-hire car industry.
In March, ride-hailing firm Grab announced that it was partnering five taxi companies to offer dynamic pricing for taxis and private-hire cars under the platform JustGrab.
Last month, ComfortDelGro, which controls 60 per cent of the local taxi fleet with about 17,000 taxis, started offering flat fares, on top of the regular metered fares, for bookings through its app.
The TNP poll shows that more than 56 per cent of frequent users of ride-hailing apps feel they can get a ride faster since the introduction of JustGrab. (See report below)
But only 47 per cent think their fares have fallen over the same period.
Transport economist Walter Theseira said shorter waiting times are usually more noticeable than lower fares.
The senior lecturer at the Singapore University of Social Sciences explained: "It is harder for commuters to appreciate any changes in fares because prices are affected by many factors, such as surge pricing, peak hours, routes and even discount codes."
Transport expert Terence Fan thinks the ride-hailing companies might be selectively trying to raise fares after gaining a large market share of riders.
The assistant professor of strategic management (education) at the Singapore Management University added: "They might have got past the stage of subsidies, in terms of cheap fares and renting cars at low rates. With the upcoming opening of more rail lines, there is no better time to raise fares."
The taxi landscape has also changed drastically since the entry of the ride-hailing companies four years ago.
In its first-quarter results released last week, ComfortDelGro, which also has taxi fleets in Australia, China, the UK and Vietnam, said that it expects lower revenues from its taxi business.
In Singapore, its challenges include lower rental income from a lower operating fleet and introduction of flexi rental schemes.
According to the latest Land Transport Authority statistics, the total number of private-hire rental cars is now twice that of taxis.
As of March 31, there were more than 58,000 private-hire rental cars, compared to less than 27,000 taxis.
But taxi ridership has decreased only marginally from a daily average of 967,000 in 2013 to 954,000 last year.
A recent survey by the Public Transport Council shows about half of all rides taken by more than 1,500 respondents over a seven-day period last year were private-hire car rides, with taxi rides making up the other half.
Dr Fan thinks the ridership numbers suggest pent-up demand for taxi rides, especially for short distances.
Dr Theseira, however, thinks that sustaining this ridership would largely depend on the ability of the companies to inject more investment, in terms of incentives to drivers and commuters.
He added: "I think a part of the growth in ridership comes from people who are price sensitive, and the demand had been induced by low prices."
TNP's poll shows that commuters are price conscious - more than 80 per cent of those polled said they compare fares of the different companies before booking a ride.
But most said they appreciate the cheaper fares and convenience, without necessarily seeing a drop in service standards.
A student who wanted to be known only as Gabrielle, 19, said: "It is more convenient, as we have shorter waiting times which make us less anxious when we are rushing.
"With new implementations such as JustGrab, we can also take taxis where the drivers are more professional and more experienced."
Customers feel waiting time for ride-hailing apps has fallen
The average waiting time for ride-hailing apps has fallen over the years.
Uber, which recently celebrated its fourth year in Singapore with a million active riders, said that average waiting time here is now 3.4 minutes.
It was 6.5 minutes in 2014 and 3.6 minutes last year.
Grab, which entered Singapore as GrabTaxi in 2013, said the average waiting time for JustGrab rides has dropped to 3.29 minutes from five minutes.
Their recent survey also found the average fixed fare for JustGrab is $3.40 cheaper than a metered taxi fare.
ComfortDelgro did not respond to queries about its latest flat fares.
The New Paper's poll of frequent users of ride-hailing mobile apps also revealed that more feel that waiting times are now shorter, though not as many feel that prices have dropped.
More than 40 per cent of those polled take rides during peak hours. Among those who noticed shorter waiting times, two-thirds think that it has decreased by one to three minutes.
Of those who saw lower prices, a majority - nearly 40 per cent - think that their fares are about $2 cheaper.
think waiting times are now shorter. 66 per cent of these think the decrease is one to three minutes.
think fares are now lower. 70 per cent of these think they are cheaper by $1 to $3.