Lawmaker Ron Lam has expressed doubts about the local radio taxi’s ability to cater to foreign visitors, due to its unreliable location platform and outdated means of communication.
In an exclusive interview with the Times, Lan commented on reports of the latest radio taxi app allegedly excluding non-mainland and non-Hong Kong visitors.
The MassPlus app only allows registration using cell phone numbers from Macau, Hong Kong or mainland China, potentially hindering visitors not from these regions from using the app to prebook a ride before arriving in Macau.
Despite being named ‘MassPlus,’ the app cannot be found when searching with that name on the Apple App Store. However, a search using the Chinese name yielded better results. Additionally, using ‘Macau taxi’ as the keywords led to the radio taxi app.
After the resumption of normal activities in Macau, the government has been seeking to attract foreign tourists to diversify Macau’s source market and alleviate the tourism industry’s overreliance on the mainland market.
When asked about the lack of options for non-Hong Kong and non-mainland visitors, Lam pointed out that this is not unusual for apps developed in Macau. Lam noted the need for improvements in apps developed for public services, especially as the government aims to attract more foreign visitors.
He questioned the ability of foreign visitors to hail a taxi through the app, given the highly unreliable location pinpointing function.
“In Macau, a taxi driver often needs to call the rider to confirm the pick-up location,” Lam said, noting that in other places, the location service is much more reliable.
He hinted that local taxi drivers may be unable to communicate over the phone with their foreign customers, who may not speak Cantonese or Putonghua. He expressed disappointment that the app falls short of the general public’s expectations for a ride-hailing app.
The app’s faults indicate a lack of thorough planning, particularly in infrastructure, to realize the government’s vision of attracting foreign visitors.
Regarding the reliability of location services, Lam suggested that the government release the rights to use a digital map developed in-house. “The map is very accurate, with all roads, alleys, buildings and other constructions presented in the correct locations, which will be useful for scenarios such as ride hailing,” Lam said.
The lawmaker also pointed out that however many taxi licenses the government is willing to issue, there will still be a service gap between peak and off-peak hours, resulting in insufficient taxis in peak times and excessively long lines of empty vehicles at taxi stands during off-peak hours.
As such, the lawmaker again called for licensed ride hailing options. Objecting to the government’s comment that these cars are unlicensed, the lawmaker suggested the government monitor their operations using the licensing system.
Lam commented that these drivers were likely to work on a freelance basis and only operate during the high hours “to complement the shortage of taxi services.”
Yesterday, local taxi fares were raised from MOP19 to MOP21 at the commencement of a ride.