300 taxis to accept Octopus Card payment

Updated: 2011-07-19 07:48

By Andrea Deng (HK Edition)

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In the coming four months, 300 taxis operating in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island will be accepting payment with Octopus Cards.

Other taxi drivers, so far, have proven hesitant to join the scheme.

A survey of 500 citizens conducted by the Octopus Card Limited (OCL) in July 2010 showed that 90 percent favored the option of using Octopus Cards to pay taxi fares.

Of that number 40 percent claimed that they would prefer to ride in taxis that accepted Octopus Cards.

"As most of the public transportation modes are Octopus-enabled, many people would like us to extend the Octopus service to taxis," said Sunny Cheung, chief executive officer of the OCL.

However, some taxi drivers find the smart card payment method inconvenient, even though it means drivers may carry less change and have a lowered risk of being robbed, said Wong Yat-fung, head of the Taxi Drivers and Operators Association in Hong Kong.

"Taxi drivers are worried that they might be affected by the delayed cash withdrawal, as they need huge amounts of cash to support the rental fee for the cabs as well as petrol expenditures every day," Wong said.

Taxi drivers need to pay around HK$300-400 for cab rental fee after their shift every day, and about HK$200 for petrol expenditure on every shift, said Wong.

The Octopus fare calculator in the taxi is directly connected to the driver's bank account, and he is able to draw out the money from the bank on the next day, according to the OCL.

"More than 90 percent of the taxi drivers in Hong Kong are self-employed and are striving to make ends meet, therefore it may be a burden for them," said Wong.

Drivers are also concerned that adopting the smart card payment system may result in a reduction in tips.

Usually, drivers are tipped when passengers do not take back change when paying fares.

Using the Octopus reader means paying the exact fare, although the reader does have a button for the patrons to press, with HK$1 for each press.

Wong said the drivers usually earn HK$20-30 tips every working day.

"The convenience of using Octopus Cards for payment probably will mean more passengers taking cabs, and earnings may eventually outweigh the costs," said Cheung.

As for the 1 percent service fee charged by the OCL, C.P. Kwok, managing director of the partner taxi company, said the service fee will be covered by the company, so the drivers do not have to pay for that.

Wong also said that the drivers are concerned that their personal data will be accessible by a third party, since they will need to log into the Octopus paying system with their individual accounts.

Cheung reiterated that the personal data of the Octopus users will be applied for only internal use and will not be used by any third party for commercial purposes.

andrea@chinadailyhk.com

China Daily

(HK Edition 07/19/2011 page1)