“The idea of a cheaper alternative to taxis appealed to commuters, but drivers appear less enthused by the idea of ferrying passengers around via GrabHitch, a new ride-sharing service launched by GrabTaxi yesterday” (Mixed Response To Cheaper Alternative To Taxis, Kelly Ng and Toh Ee Ming).
Reservations as to whether “GrabHitch could jumpstart enthusiasm for carpooling in Singapore as Singaporeans are wary of strangers” (TODAY, Nov. 12) are valid, and unless the new ride-sharing service – launched by smartphone booking app GrabTaxi – can provide evidence that Singaporeans are or will be more receptive to carpooling, then the endeavour appears to be no more than a publicity stunt. Furthermore, security requirements for potential drivers, while well-intentioned, to provide documentation such as licenses and insurance may slow take-up rates too.
Quantifying a sharing culture may be difficult, though perhaps perception surveys could provide more insights. Taking into account the public transportation infrastructure in Singapore as well as its smaller size vis-à-vis the United States or the Scandinavian countries – factors which influence demand for carpooling – the potential market for GrabHitch seems limited to begin with. Carpooling site ShareTransport.sg posits that there has been a “‘spike in interest’ since the new carpooling regulations took effect”, with the recent number of monthly messages exchanged increasing from 700 to 1,200, but numbers on transactions are more significant. The number of active users per month is useful too.
Notwithstanding the problems of inconvenience and the concerns over the lack of enthusiasm in the country, claims by GrabTaxi co-founder that “there will be less congestion and less carbon footprint [as a result of the ‘social value’ created by GrabHitch]” are ambitious. Moreover, the company has to build a sustainable community of drivers, who – already accustomed to present practices or arrangements with their passengers – may not see the need for GrabHitch. Unless there is a broader strategy to change mind-sets, to attract more individuals to join the platform, the potential impact of the app will remain limited.