Monday, March 22, 2010

Can I use my EZ Link card, like you said, please?

In the past year, SMRT introduced these handy little boxes in the white SMRT taxis of Singapore.

The purpose of these things is to allow passengers to pay for their taxi fare by tapping their EZ Link card (the card we use in Singapore to pay for buses and trains) on top and having the total subtracted from the balance currently on the card.

In theory, these things are awesome. They further aid to streamline the public transportation system into one system in which you use one card for payment, no matter the mode.

However, these machines are falling flat, in my opinion. In the last ten SMRT cabs I've been in, only one had the machine turned on. (The one in the picture is also not powered on. Big shocker there.) The problem with this is when it's not turned on, it takes nearly ten minutes for it to boot up, if it does at all. I've had two fail to boot up for me which caused me to have to run up to my flat while the cabbie waited outside to grab cash.

It's not a big deal, but it turns something that supposed to make life more convenient into something that's a huge pain in the tuckus. I'm guessing that that wasn't their intention here.

No one likes a pain in the tuckus.

So basically, I'm hoping that we might actually get to use and enjoy these things sometime soon.

Hello? Anyone listening at SMRT?



FISH said...

Same experience here. Totally useless.

I think the taxi drivers don't like them. That's why they are off. They'd prefer cash. Probably has something to do with being able to claim less income for taxes, or something.

Brad Farless said...

Good point Fish. Probably helps them to report less income at the end of the night by taking cash.

It should be mandatory for those things to be on though. It should be enforced, or it's a waste of money to have them installed. Not to mention it inconveniences travelers expecting to be able to use their ez-link cards.

kate said...

I don't think it's a tax issue, as the metered fares are all recorded in the system. But rather, it takes ~2 days for them to get the cash because of the processing time, and they hv to make their way down to a specific office to get the money. Cash is king to these guys who don't make a lot.

Same thing goes for nets and credit card. I once ran out of cash and had to pay by nets. The taxi driver grumbled endlessly. Until the system works better for them I do feel apologetic for not paying cash.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kate,

You might not be aware that most of these drivers do not own the cab and are literally forced to rent them from Taxi companies. The government has gradually phased out the private taxi licenses. Most of these Taxi companies are government related either via direct ownership or via proxy thru shares. The comfort Sonata cost $100/day in rental and if these drivers work 25 days in a month, they would have cough up $2500/month in rental only. If you drive, how much are you paying for your car? You get my drift? The large part of the money goes into the coffers of these companies that are protected by state legislation. Welcome to a part of SG.

Anonymous said...

hi kate,

i've got a nagging suspicion that the cab drivers dislike the system. personally, cash on the spot beats anything else. and i believe cab drivers think likewise.

issue aside, i rather not the current EZ link become into another NETS monster.

last, this situation actually reminds me of the joke in bangkok where you can flag a taxi full of the latest gadgetry (think TV) all available for your usage; only to have them tell you that the taxi meter is not working and that you have to pay a flat fee.


Amused said...

Hi Anon

Singapore now has 6 or 7 cab companies, of which only 2 (albeit the largest ones) are government-linked through share ownership in these public listed companies. Your point is incorrect.

I don't know how long it takes for the driver to get paid but it may be a valid point. One reason could be the charges for collecting payment by card. If the driver can avoid it then why not especially if the perceived benefits do not outweigh the cost.

Man in Sg said...

HI Amuse,
Actually if i'm not wrong, comfort delgro runs the two. But the other cab companies are actually run on the same business model, so essentially the taxi drivers are getting a raw deal. SMRT would make a third government linked company so there's three.
I think the red cabs are hired at a lower rate, but then for the cabbies there's a high buy-in amount about 5 figures.

So yeah my little 2 cents about the plight of the Singapore driver, it's no wonder it's hard for them to give good service. They hardly make a living