According to ComfortDelgro's press release (here), the "fare changes" (just say fare hike, la!) is meant to address issues including,
1) Addressing commuters' concern in the difficulty of getting a cab in the city in evening
2) Simplifying taxi fares for the convenience of commuters
3) Encouraging call bookings to better match the supply and demand
On the first issue - Little cab in city in evening (just make the cab bigger, lor...sorry, can't help it there :p)
The solution is to increase city area surcharge from $1 to $3! Simple wat! Even an orang utan can understand. No cab in city area, increase surcharge so cab drivers will go into city area! Simple, right? Pay them well and they will come. Not enough talents? Pay them more, lor!
Hmmm, I wonder will this deter commuters from taking cab in the city area in the first place! Also, where's the boundary of city area? Maybe I better go find out so next time, I'll just step out of the city area and then lament no cab in non-city area. But then again, perhaps not or they'll increase the surcharge for non-city area.
I also wonder how would cab drivers really react to it. Will they still go into hiding so that they can not only get the city area surcharge, they'll earn the call booking as well! Afterall, ComfortDelgro has shown them that maximising profits is still more important.
The second solution (City ERP rebates) to the first issue (no cab in city in evening), I think is a good move. It does not deter passengers and it encourages drivers. Unless you believe ComfortDelgro will go bankrupt paying ERB rebates... nah, not possible.
Second issue - simplifying fares
The first solutions is to revise back to the days where Late Night Surcharge is 50% of the metered fare between midnight and 0559hrs. Great! I hated the idea of progressive increments starting from 2330hrs at 10% anyway. Aunties and Uncles will find it easier to calculate afterall.
However, the second solution doesn't seem to have anything to do with simplifying fare. Instead of charging $2 surchage for peak hours, they charge a 35% of the metered fare (and call it premium?!?!?). If you tell an ape, "Uncle, peak hour, hor! I need to charge $2 extra!", the response will either be, "OK lor... what to do?" or "Walao! Tai lang pang her! Bo pian la, kia la kia la! (meaning: It's daylight robbery! What to do? I can only suck thumb, just go!)"
But if the driver goes, "Uncle, peak hour, hor, need to charge 35% more!" one might response in the manner shown above or "How much is that going to be? I no study noe no maths like tat one leh. Midnight I can still count simply, meter plus jit pua (half) of meter, 35% is how?"
The only thing in the second solution that touches on simplifying fare is the use of automated computing for the calculation... with detailed breakdown of receipts! Woohoo! Erm... can they not do that also using flat $2 surcharge?
Also, the solution is focusing just on Late Night Surcharge and Peak Period Surcharge. However, if you look at the whole concept of cab fare, do you think it is simple?
Flag Down Fare (with it own formula)
Peak Hour Surcharge (on different dates and time)
City Area Surcharge
Late Night Surcharge (meter plus jit pua, ya?)
Airport / Terminal Surcharge (I've no idea how much now)
Call Booking Fee
ERP Fee (please check with LTA)
Honestly, sometimes when a foreigner asked me how much it cost to take a cab... I just tell him, pay whatever the meter says... although I'm not sure how many of these surcharges are computed into the meter.
The third issue - Encouraging call booking
Here's another good solution... although I'm not sure the $0.50 less is borned by the driver or ComfortDelgro). Simple. Straight to the point. I wonder how effective will it be. Personally, $0.50 makes little difference when I consider other factors such as availability of and need for a cab.
There is one point that crept into the press release yet seemed out of place. It between the 2nd and 3rd solutions and did not explain what issue(s) it is supposed to address - Flag Down Fare Increase. I'll leave you to figure that out.
Whatever the case may be... I'm beginning to be more conscious of which cab (base on the operator) to take and will not hesitate give certain cabs a miss. So I urge the other cab companies to reconsider if they should always follow suit whenever one company increase... or should I say make adjustment, to the fare.