Although it has been banned in Sabah, I believe it will be a beneficial service in Sarawak
IN the last two weeks, I’ve visited Singapore, Penang and Kota Kinabalu. I grabbed at least a dozen Uber rides and all of them were good to great.
Uber rides were mostly better than the regular taxi services I’m accustomed to.
Only in Singapore could taxis still be considered better than Uber and even then, not by much.
This is because Singapore’s taxi fleet is of such a high quality. Even the oldest taxis there are new by Malaysian standards.
All of the taxis are mid-size sedans and clean. Uber in Singapore, by comparison, had vehicles that were a step below, with cars like Toyota Corollas.
Meanwhile in Malaysia, our taxis are woeful, with very old vehicles (Proton Iswaras more than 20 years old) and drivers that are not known for cleanliness nor honesty.
Uber drivers, on the other hand, cannot cheat. Uber rides are GPS-tracked, from the moment you order a ride until you reach your destination. A receipt is emailed to you with a route included.
Passengers are always expected to rate a driver, including his or her vehicle, on a five-star scale. Similarly, drivers rate passengers. It’s a win-win. Poor drivers are penalised and lousy customers don’t get picked up.
In Singapore, opposition to Uber is weak. It’s already too popular for taxis to oppose it. In a small country with such a high population density, the Singapore Government is unlikely to discourage ride-sharing services.
Furthermore, prices between fares for taxis and Uber rides do not differ too much there, meaning the former cannot accuse the latter of ruining profit margins.
In Malaysia, the price disparity is wide. My parents and I used Uber to get from New Lane Hawker Centre to Straits Quay in Penang and it cost us RM13. My sister and her husband could not get a Uber ride and found a taxi but the driver charged them RM25 for the same journey without using a meter.
Later that night, we ordered a Uber XL and a nice Toyota Estima came to pick us up from Straits Quay back to George Town and it only cost RM13, even with 1.5x surge pricing (surge pricing is activated when demand is higher than the drivers in the area).
In Kota Kinabalu, a Uber ride between the airport and downtown costs me RM8. The official taxi rate is RM30.
I really do not know what most in the taxi industry expect in this day and age.
They insist on such exorbitant charges based on their whims and fancies but offer such poor service in return.
What’s more, in Kuala Lumpur, taxi drivers operate on heavily subsidised gas from Sarawak and Sabah.
It’s quite infuriating to think of that sometimes when you are sitting inside a taxi there.
At the moment, there is a strong pushback from the taxi industry against Uber.
When I was in Penang, I came across a 200-member strong protest by taxi drivers against Uber and Grab Car.
By the time I arrived in Sabah a couple of days later, the state Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board had just banned Uber outright.
I asked my Uber driver in Kota Kinabalu about it and he replied he didn’t care about the ban.
“This is how people evolve,” he told me.
Did he fear getting trapped and attacked by taxi drivers, I asked him.
“If they smash me, I’ll smash them back,” he replied, adding there were already at least 30 Uber drivers in Kota Kinabalu doing brisk business.
When I got into his car, he had been driving non-stop for five hours. He wouldn’t tell me exactly how much money he could make an hour, but said it was way above minimum wage.
He was also keen to point out that he was earning an honest living and doing a lot more driving and taking more trips than the average taxi.
I gave him five stars.