Hot Topics: Uber’s Vision to Modernize Transportation in Hong Kong – YP


Uber is considering a partnership with Hong Kong minibus operators, although its carpooling business is still illegal in the city.

Estyn Chung, general manager of Uber in Hong Kong, said the company plans to work with various transport operators, including MTR, buses and ferries. It would use its digital platform to modernize these businesses.

There are 164 operators operating 3,343 green minibuses on 600 routes. Regulated by the government, they have fixed routes, fares, bus stops and timetables. Their drivers are employees of the company with a fixed salary.

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Some 1,007 red minibuses also circulate in the city. They are unregulated and are nicknamed “desperado minivans” for the way they speed up on highways at night. Their drivers own or rent the vehicles. They set their routes, allow passengers to hop on and hop off anywhere, and increase their fares when demand increases.

Uber’s ambitious plan to work with the city’s transport operators faces many obstacles. Although the company has been operating in Hong Kong for seven years, its ridesharing services are not legal without a rental car license. The company was attacked by the taxi industry, which has 40,000 drivers and 18,163 licensed taxis.

The government only issues 1,500 permits for private car rental services, which means many Uber drivers take passengers illegally.

Although Uber has come under attack from the taxi industry, it recently teamed up with a popular app called HK Taxi. Photo: SCMP / Dickson Lee

Despite this, the company bought HKTaxi, the city’s most popular taxi app, in August. The move bolstered its ridesharing service deeper into the Hong Kong market. More than 70,000 registered taxi drivers – full-time, dormant and part-time – have signed up for the HKTaxi app.

The deal is expected to complement Uber Taxi, which launched last October. This service charges passengers flexible fares rather than at the meter. According to Uber, taxi drivers reported earning about 20% more through the taxi platform than through street calls.

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HKTaxi app co-founder Kay Lui said he hopes the partnership will change the public’s negative perception of local taxi drivers.

He told him that many residents mistakenly thought local drivers were “relatively bad” in general, while customer reviews for taxi drivers using both platforms were overwhelmingly very positive.

Personal editor

Question prompts

  • What is your overall impression of Uber’s Hong Kong rideshare service, and why? List two differences mentioned in Background between Uber taxis and street taxis.

  • How are red minibuses different or similar to Uber ridesharing services? Explain your answer using the context and the glossary.


  • Using information from Context, what opinion of the Hong Kong taxi industry does the cartoon allude to?

  • Based on your answer above, is this review as common with Uber taxi drivers? Explain using the context and your own knowledge.

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News: Uber plans share of Hong Kong minibus market, but industry leader dismisses idea as “totally unrealistic”

Uber’s plan to partner with Hong Kong minibus operators may already fail before talks take place, with industry officials calling it “totally unrealistic.”

Chau Kwok-keung, president of the Hong Kong Taxi and Public Light Bus Association, rejected it outright.

“Unless Uber gives up its illegal carpooling business, there is no room for the minibus industry to cooperate with Uber,” Chau said.

Hong Kong’s minibus industry struggled during the pandemic. Photo: Shutterstock

According to industry leaders, the city’s minibus industry has struggled for its survival, with up to 900 vehicles – about 20% of the city’s 4,350 licensed public light buses – left idle in the last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Minibuses are something that could bring some really exciting opportunities,” said Estyn Chung, general manager of Uber in Hong Kong.

“What we would do is provide minibus operators with a way to manage ticketing, routing, algorithms and pricing.”

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Chung declined to say whether Uber had approached any of the city’s minibus operators about their idea.

The idea would be to link Uber’s digital operation to an operator’s ticketing system, while also providing other services, such as real-time traffic data.

Chung said passengers would benefit from being able to pre-book a seat in a minibus using the Uber app.

“If you’re a consumer waiting for a minibus at peak times and it’s full, it’s a very frustrating time,” he said.

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Other benefits, Chung said, would be to help operators manage the frequency of their services during peak hours and other peak periods. A similar partnership had already been tried in other cities, such as Cairo and Delhi.

“I think we are still experiencing what the right role models look like in the world,” he said. “It’s totally doable in Hong Kong … The idea is to help transport become more efficient, a win-win for everyone.”

Personal editor

Question prompts

  • List ONE reason why minibuses should work with Uber, and ONE reason why the potential partnership could be difficult for minibus operators. Explain each reason using information from News and Context.

  • Using your own knowledge and News, identify and develop ONE group of residents who could be left out if an Uber-minibus collaboration were to go ahead.

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Problem: Hong Kong taxi operators call for restrictions on Uber again, even as rideshare company expands ties with taxi drivers

Hong Kong’s taxi industry is once again trying to persuade the government to crack down on Uber. The industry wants all private vehicles without a valid taxi or rental car license to carry passengers for payment to be banned from the Uber app.

The latest salute from taxi operators in a long-drawn-out battle to put the brakes on rival Uber came after the popular taxi service acquired HKTaxi, Hong Kong’s most popular taxi app, in August.

“Uber has put a lot of effort into investing in the taxi industry. This transaction reflects our commitment to invest in the development of the industry in Hong Kong, ”said Uber Hong Kong Managing Director Estyn Chung.

Uber Hong Kong chief executive Estyn Chung, left, said the deal with HKTaxi, co-founder Kay Lui, right, was aimed at increasing uptake of online calling services. Photo: Handout

Chung added that he was dismayed by the government’s refusal to put in place a regulatory framework in the city to legalize Uber’s ridesharing services, despite repeated requests from the company.

Chau Kwok-keung, chairman of the Hong Kong Taxi and Public Light Bus Association, said a loophole in the law allowed companies like Uber to evade responsibility. He said a new law was needed to crack down on illegal ridesharing operations and prosecute companies rather than unlicensed car rental drivers.

Meanwhile, Quentin Cheng Hin-kei, spokesperson for the commuter concern group, Public Transport Research Team, said he wanted the city’s taxi industry to stop repeating ways to crack down on Uber.

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“Rather, the taxi industry should look for ways to improve their service and learn to coexist with Uber,” he said.

“After all, Uber is now part of everyday life for Hong Kong people. The taxi industry should accept this reality and strive to achieve a win-win situation for itself. “

Cheng added that the government should open up the VTC market with a simplified regulatory regime.

“[The] The very restrictive car rental permit system has actually hampered the development of transport in the city, ”he said.


Question prompts

  • Identify the main reason why Uber rideshare services cannot legally work in Hong Kong. Who should be responsible for fixing this situation, and why?

  • “Hong Kong should do away with its current car rental licensing system to encourage a more robust and efficient transportation industry.” Using News, Issue, and your own knowledge, develop ONE argument supporting this suggestion and ONE opposing it.

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Green minibuses: serve areas that standard Hong Kong bus lines cannot reach, such as those with narrow, winding roads. Green minibuses operate a regular service, with fixed routes and prices.

Red minibuses: operate on an unscheduled service. Red minibuses tend to be privately owned and set their own routes and fares. Thus, some red minibuses run all day on certain routes while others only run during certain hours.

Car rental license: refers to a license issued to car owners or drivers to allow the use of private vehicles for the transport of passengers for pay or hire. The Department of Transportation currently issues the following types of car rental permits: hotel services for the transportation of designated hotel guests; excursion services for the transportation of clients of a designated tourist agency; private limousines for the transport of clients of a contracted company, or individuals requiring high-end personalized transport; private limousines specifically for cross-border travel; private services for the transport of people in areas where transport is insufficient.

Taxi HK: an app that allows Hong Kong residents to book taxis

Carpool service: also commonly referred to as private car rental services. Customers typically order a personalized ride online using a smartphone app.

Uber: a US-based ridesharing service that allows passengers to request a ride from private drivers, who usually own their own vehicles. Uber uses an algorithm to decide the rate charged to customers. The company encourages drivers to pick up customers during peak hours by charging higher fees during those hours.

Uber Taxi: an extension of Uber’s carpooling service to include licensed taxis in Hong Kong. Uber Taxi uses the same platform as Uber, allowing customers to pay through the app and track the vehicle they have called.


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