Supply and Demand Issues Relating to the ACT Taxi Industry

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1 Supply and Demand Issues Relating to the ACT Taxi Industry by Professor Des Nicholls Research School of Management College of Business and Economics Australian National University ACT 0200 for the Canberra Taxi Industry Association 4 July 2012

2 Table of Contents Page Executive Summary 3 1. Introduction 4 2. The Release of Lease Plates 4 3. Measuring Supply and Demand 5 4. Comments on the KPIs KPIs Based on Forecasts Population Growth Airline Passenger Movements Changes in Taxi meter Activations Changes in the Percentage of Pick ups under 10 Minutes 9 5. Application of the Taxi Licence Release Model Impact of the Taxi Cost Composite (TCCI) Model for Setting Taxi Fares Comments Conclusion About the Author 15 2

3 Executive Summary As a result of significant turnover in taxi lease plates in the last twelve months, this report analyses data relating to the supply of, and demand for, taxi plates in the ACT. In undertaking the analysis, data has been supplied by the largest ACT taxi network, the Aerial Capital Group. No data was included from the Cabxpress network. When considering relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), it became evident that those relating to the recently adopted (by the ACT Government) Taxi Licence Release Model were relevant to the analysis. This has led to a refinement of a number of these KPIs to make them more stable to the impact of one-off events and to better reflect trends in demand and supply through time. The application of the Taxi Licence Release Model to data relating to the years 2010 and 2011 indicates a small increase in fleet size, namely 6 plates in 2010 and 3 plates in The release of 25 new plates and 16 surrendered plates in April 2011 far exceeds these. The surrender of lease plates, particularly in the latter half of 2011, together with the findings of this report, could be interpreted as an indication that the supply of taxi plates currently exceeds demand for taxi services. An analysis of the impact of plate releases, and the application of the taxi fare model indicates that during the last 5 years drivers have earned between $13 and $15.30 per hour, with the number of trips per shift being between 15 and 17. Operator revenue has not kept up with the costs associated with operating a taxi; this implies that for operators to get a return on their investment they should become operator/drivers. The impact of this analysis assists in explaining why the value of standard perpetual plates has fallen, together with the churn in leased taxi plates. The churn in leased plates may be reduced if the annual lease fee of $20,000 had to be paid in advance each year, rather than on a quarterly basis ($5,000) as at present. 3

4 1. Introduction The release of new taxi plates in the ACT was one of the central terms of reference in the ACT Government review of the ACT Taxi industry in This review report was heavily dependent on a PwC consulting report which addressed a broad range of issues leading to a significant number of recommendations. Included in the report was a model for the determination of the number of new taxi lease plates to be released on a periodic (annual) basis. Separate models were determined for standard taxis and WATs. In April 2006 a ballot was held for 10 new standard taxi licences releases which were transferable leased licences. All taxi licence releases since that date have been non transferable leased licences. Currently standard taxi plates are leased from the Government for $20,000 pa, with the annual lease fee being able to be paid quarterly ($5,000 per quarter), with no penalty/charge if a plate lessee hands back a plate to the Government. The aim of this report is to present an analysis of the current state of the market with respect to the supply of, and demand for taxi licence plates. The report is based solely on data supplied by the Aerial Capital Group; it does not include data from the other ACT based taxi network, namely Cabxpress, or Queanbeyan based cabs. The Aerial Capital Group is a much larger network than Cabxpress, in December 2011 there were a total of 305 taxis operating in this network. 2. The Release of Lease Plates Prior to April 2006 there was a total of 243 taxi plates in the ACT, of which 217 were perpetual plates and 26 were leased WAT plates. Table 1 * Taxi Licence Ballot Data Ballot Date Number Taxi Type Leased Licence Type 19 April Standard Transferable 15 August Standard Non transferable 22 May Standard Non transferable 27 November WAT Restricted Non transferable 27 May Standard Non transferable 27 May Conditional Non transferable 6 October Standard Non transferable 13 April Standard Non transferable 13 April Surrendered (Standard) Non transferable * Data supplied by Aerial Capital Group Table 1 indicates that 131 standard taxi lease plates (10 of which are transferable, the remainder being non transferable) have been released over a 5 year period, significantly increasing the ACT taxi fleet. Leased taxi plates now account for more than one third of the total ACT taxi fleet. 4

5 As a result of the introduction of a leased plate system, and a lack of any disincentives for lessees not to return their plates, there has been significant churn in the release and return of taxi plates. Indeed Table 2 indicates the number of plates surrendered, on a monthly basis, from February 2011 January 2012 (12 months). Table 2 Taxi Licence Plates Surrendered Date Number Plate Numbers Surrendered Feb , 427, 905, 902 Mar , 423 Apr ,409, 401 Jun , 462 Jul , 405 Aug Oct , 425, 490 Nov , 406, 488, 417, 402, 107 Dec Jan Total 25 Tables 1 and 2 indicate that in April 2011 a total of 41 plates (25 new and 16 surrendered) were offered by ballot. During the period February 2011-January 2012 a total of 25 plates were surrendered. That is, 19.1% of the total leased plates have been surrendered during this 12 month period. This turnover rate is significant. For the 24 of the 25 plates surrendered 1, data relating to the length of time the lease was held was able to be analysed, as Table 3 indicates. Table 3 Length of Time Lease Plates Held for those Surrendered between February 2011 January 2012 Years Number Surrendered >3 4 It is notable that only 4 of these lease plates have been held for more than 3 years. The surrender rate, or churn, in lease plates may be interpreted as an indication that, based on leased plates operating through the Aerial Capital Group, the leased taxi plate market could be regarded as being saturated. 3. Measuring Supply and Demand To further investigate the proposal that the the current supply of taxis in the ACT may be sufficient to satisfy demand, an analysis of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) identified 1 One lease did not have a commencement date, consequently the length of the lease for that lease plate could not be determined. 5

6 in the PwC taxi plate release model (which has been adopted by the Government) has been undertaken. In considering changes in supply and demand for taxi services, three categories of KPIs can be considered, namely Demand for Taxi Services, Industry Viability and Industry Performance. These three classes of KPIs have been reflected in the licence allocation model for taxis. In the case of standard taxis the relevant KPIs and their respective weightings are: Demand for Taxi Services Weight Change in Territory Final Demand 40% ACT Population Growth 5% Change in Canberra Airport Passenger Numbers 25% Industry Viability Change in Standard Taxi Meter Activations 15% Industry Performance Change in Percentage of Pickups under 10 Minutes 15% It is notable that in this model KPIs relating to demand for taxi services are given a total weighting of 70%, while industry viability and industry performance are given a combined weighting of 30%. As in the case of the Taxi Fare Model, it is proposed that the application of the Taxi Licence Release Model should be based on the most recent years available data, so that, for example, a plate release model to be applied in 2012 would be applied to calendar year data up to, and including December Comments on the KPIs. There are many KPIs which could be used to measure supply and demand for taxi services. Those chosen in the model in themselves could be improved to identify stable trend patterns in specific KPIs and hence in the demand for, and supply of, taxis in the ACT KPIs based on Forecasts The three KPIs identified to measure changes in demand are each based on forecasts. In the case of Territory Final Demand and Airport Passenger numbers this is seen as problematical. In the case of Territory (State) Final Demand (SFD), forecasts can vary significantly from the actual values (available the following year), as Table 4 reflects. Table 4 * Territory (State) Final Demand Comparison of Forecast and Actual Data Financial Year Forecast (%) Actual (%) 2007/ / / * ACT Government Budget Paper No 3, and

7 The difference between the forecast and actual values can have a significant impact on model outcomes. Indeed for a fleet size of 350 taxis, say, in 2009/10 with a weight of 40%, using the SFD forecast of 3.75% would have resulted in a fleet increase of 5.25 (ie 5) taxis from that KPI. Had the actual SFD been used (1.4%), the contribution to the fleet increase from that component would have been 1.96 (ie 2) taxis. As Table 4 also indicates, both actual and forecast SFD vary significantly from year to year. Rather than use individual years as measures of SFD, it is more reasonable to consider trends in SFD through time, as has been done in the case of KPIs relating to taxi meter activations and pickups under 10 minutes. For this reason it is proposed to use three year compound annual growth rates (CAGR) applied to annual SFD data (December to December). The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Catalogue No supplies SFD data on a monthly basis for all jurisdictions, including the ACT (the appropriate seasonally adjusted data appears as Series A K). Table 5 ACT State Final Demand Data $m Dec % Change Dec Dec yr CAGR Dec Dec From this table it is seen that the 3 year compound annual growth rate for SFD is 2.51% in 2010 and 2.41% in As identified, this is a much more stable approach for measuring trends in SFD. 4.2 Population Growth The ACT Government supplies ACT population projections for suburbs and districts. 2 While population projections are fairly stable from year to year, for consistency it is proposed that for the purpose of the application of the model, 3 year CAGR also be used. Table 6 presents the relevant data for these projections. Year Table 6 ACT Population Projections Population Projection % Change yr CAGR See 7

8 These data indicate that the three year CAGR for the ACT population was 1.63% to the end of 2010, and 1.65% to the end of Airline Passenger Movements As indicated earlier, rather than use forecast passenger movements at Canberra airport for the coming year to determine the annual change in passenger numbers, actual data should be used based on the previous, and earlier years. These data are available on a monthly basis, from the Australian Government Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. 3 Since airline passenger data can change significantly from year to year, as with other KPIs, a three year CAGR should be used. The data relating to passenger numbers at Canberra airport which appear in Table 7 support this argument. Table 7 Canberra Airport Calendar Year Passenger Movements Year Number (000 s) % Change 3 yr CAGR (%) The data in this table indicate that the percentage change in the actual (as distinct from forecast) data from year to year is volatile, ranging from 9.1% to -3.0% in a 4 year period. To avoid such significant volatility in the taxi licence allocation model, and to reflect a trend over time in airline passenger movements, it is proposed to use a 3 year CAGR to better reflect the trend in passenger movements. Table 7 indicates the 3 year CAGR was 6.51% in 2010 and 2.42% in Using a 3 year CAGR will also reduce the impact, in the licence allocation model, of a major event in a particular year (such as a major exhibition at the National Gallery for a extended period, or the impact of the planned Canberra centenary celebrations in 2013) Changes in Standard Taxi Meter Activations The licence allocation model proposes the CAGR in standard taxi meter activations as an appropriate measure of industry viability. This KPI could also be regarded as a measure of demand for taxi services, of course. This PKI does not, however reflect changes (increases) in the number of taxis operating from year to year. The appropriate KPI here is the change in the number of taxi meter activations per taxi per year, including WATs. WATs should be included as the vast majority of their work is not disabled related. Also by considering the total number of activations per taxi per year, this will reflect the number of taxis operating, in a particular year, to service the demand. 3 See 8

9 Table 8 summarises the data required to measure changes, and the 3 year CAGR, for total meter activations. Table 9 takes account of the increasing taxi fleet and presents data relating to the total number of meter activations per taxi per year. Table 8 Changes in Taxi Meter Activations Year Total Activations % Change yr CAGR Table 9 Changes in Taxi Meter Activations per Taxi Year * Number of Taxis Activations per Taxi % change 3yr CAGR * The stated number is the average of the number operating each month in each year. A comparison of the data in Tables 8 and 9 clearly illustrates why it is important to measure this KPI as the number of meter activations per taxi per year, particularly when an extra 53 taxis have actively entered the Aerial Capital fleet during the period Changes in the Percentage of Pickups under 10 Minutes. Changes in the percentage of pickups under 10 minutes for the period , and the related statistics, are summarised in Table 10. Table 10 Percentage of Pickups under 10 Minutes Year % Pickups under 10 mins % Change yr CAGR As this table indicates the percentage of pickups under 10 minutes has increased from 80.3% in 2007 to 86.4% in The 3 year CAGR is 2.54% in 2010 and 1.66% in

10 5. Application of the Taxi Licence Allocation Model Table 11 displays the outcome of the application of the taxi licence allocation model based on data for 2010 and Table 11 Application of the Taxi Licence Release Model Weight Forecast Change/CAGR Model Contribution Forecast/ Change/CAGR Model Contribution Change in Airport Passenger Numbers Change in Population Projections *Forecast of State Final Demand * * 1.60 Change in Taxi Meter Activations **Percentage of Pickups under 10 minutes ** ** Fleet Increase (%) Fleet Size-December Fleet Increase (Number) 9 4 *Forecasts from ACT Government Budget Paper No 3, and **As the CAGR indicates an improvement in the percentage of pickups, the contribution to the model from this KPI will be negative. If the allocation model was applied as described, as Table 11 shows, in 2010 the model would indicate the release of a further 9 taxi licences in 2011 (based on data up to, and including 2010) and 4 taxi licences in 2012 (based on data up to, and including, 2011). Table 12 presents the outcomes of the application of the allocation model, but reflecting the changes/improvements proposed in the previous section of this report. 10

11 Change in Airport Passenger Numbers Change in Population Projections Forecast of State Final Demand Change in Taxi Meter Activations per Taxi Percentage of Pickups under 10 minutes Table 12 Application of the Revised Taxi Licence Allocation Model Weight Forecast Change/CAGR Model Contribution Forecast/ Change/CAGR Model Contribution Fleet Increase (%) Fleet Size-December Fleet Increase (Number) 6 3 The application of the revised model indicates an increase of 6 taxi licences in 2011 (based on relevant data up to, and including 2010) and 3 licences in 2012 (based on data up to, and including 2011). 6. Impact of the Taxi Cost Composite (TCCI) Model for Setting Taxi Fares In 2004 the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) developed a Taxi Cost Composite (TCCI) for the setting of taxi fares on an annual basis. Each cost item was determined and given an appropriate weight, as indicated in the first two columns of Table 13. In the third column of Table 3 each cost item has been adjusted to reflect its current value. This has been done as follows: - The Interest Cost item, which reflects the cost of owning or leasing plates, has been set at the current plate lease value ($20,000). - Network fees have been adjusted using the ICRC approach (70% Consumer Price Index and 30% Labour Price Index) - LPG has been adjusted based on movements on the average monthly LPG prices in 2004 (42.8 c/l) and 2011(66.4 c/l) - Registration and third party insurance are actual cost values. - All other Cost items have been adjusted using the appropriate indices identified in the ICRC 2004 report. 11

12 Table 13 TCCI Cost Item ICRC 2004 Weights (%) Taxi Fare Model Estimated Cost ICRC 2004 ($) Estimated Cost ($) 2011 Weights (%) PwC 2010 Report Weights (%) Labour 50% Interest 7.20% Network Fees 6.60% Insurances 8.70% LPG 6.80% Vehicle Costs 3.70% Repairs and Servicing 8.40% Tyres 1.40% Registration and third party personal injury 3.50% Administration and Other 3.70% Total 100% Total Cost $189,568 $253,036 Driver Return $94,784 $126,518 Operator Return $94,784 $126,518 The fifth column in Table 13 indicates the cost item weights based on the 2011 Estimated Costs, while the final column lists the weights proposed in the 2010 PwC report. This Table indicates that had cost items changed in accordance with the appropriate indices, etc, the driver and operator returns would have increased from $94,784 pa to $126,518 pa. In the case of drivers, this figure represents the combined income of 2 drivers which are required to keep the taxi operating for an average 11 shifts per week for 48 weeks a year. As Table 14 indicates, this increase in revenue over the period has not eventuated. As a result of the data which can be extracted using the Aerial Capital Group MT data software, it has been possible to analyse these data to give an accurate overview of what has happened with respect to driver and operator returns in recent years. 12

13 Table 14 Driver/Operator Performance Data Average No. Trips/Taxi Cost of Aver. Trip $20.21 $21.02 $21.54 $21.54 $22.59 Total Revenue $171,300 $193,699 $170,446 $172,794 $186,842 Driver Return (50%) $85,650 $96,850 $85,223 $86,397 $93,421 Operator Return (50%) $85,650 $96,850 $85,223 $86,397 $93,421 No Shifts/week No shifts -48 weeks Driver Revenue/Shift $ $ $ $ $ $/hour $13.52 $15.29 $13.45 $13.64 $14.74 No Trips/Shift In Table 14 the first row indicates the average number of trips per taxi per year, based on meter activations recorded on the MT data base. The second row gives the cost of an average trip (8.35 km) for each of the years which have been approved by the Government regulator. From this it is straightforward to determine the operator and driver returns. Based on the industry norm of a taxi operating for 11 shifts per week for 48 weeks a year, the last two rows of Table 14 indicate the average $/hour earned by the driver, together with the average number of paid trips per shift. The MT data base also indicates that the average distance travelled per taxi in 2011 was 148,428 km and the average paid km was 50.1% (74,362 km). The average trip length in 2011 was 8.99 km, which is a slight increase on the 2004 average of 8.35 km. This would be accounted for but the increase in the urban spread of Canberra during that period, of course. What is notable in the data presented in Tables 13 and 14 is the hourly earning rate of drivers, and the consistency of the number of trips per shift. In the case of operators, the 2011 average operator return of $93,421 is less than the estimated cost of operating a taxi in 2004 ($94,784), and significantly less than the $126,518 return which should have been attained had the demand for taxi services increased in accordance with indexed cost increases. What this indicates is that for the operators to get any real return from their taxi plates they must be driver/operators. The data would indicate that the taxi market for conventional plates would not result in an acceptable return for investors. 7. Comments Even though the application of the models to determine demand for taxis indicate a slight increase in the taxi fleet in 2010 and 2011, a combination of factors taken individually, and referred to in earlier sections of this report, should be considered in discussions with the taxi industry prior to any future decisions being made (which relate to increasing the taxi fleet size). These include: 13

14 Significant churn in leased plates. In April 2011, 25 new and 16 surrendered plates were released by ballot. As Table 2 indicates, 24 plates were surrendered in 2011, 10 of which were in the last 3 months of that year. Canberra airport movements declined by 3% in The change in State Final Demand, a measure of economic activity, declined from 4.77% in calendar year 2010 to 2.33% in The application of the revised model to 2010 and 2011 data indicated a fleet increase of 6 plates and 3 plates, respectively. The release of 41 plates (25 new and 16 surrendered) in 2011 would have contributed to an apparent oversupply of plates, based on the number of plates surrendered in Data relevant to the Aerial Capital network fleet show that the percentage of pickups under 10 minutes was relatively stable, (86.6% in 2010 and 86.4% in 2011), while meter activations per taxi increased from 8,022 in 2010 to 8,271 in Of course caution is necessary when comparing individual yearly data, one or two major events, such as a National Gallery exhibition extending over a period of some months may significantly impact on demand for that period, and for that year. The analysis summarised in Table 14 indicates that the application of the taxi fare model has resulted in consistent annual increases in fares, with drivers earning, on average, between $13 and $15.30 per hour during the period The average number of trips per shift has remained constant (15-17) during the 5 year period. During the 5 year period , operator costs have varied from from $85,223 in 2009 to $96,850 in In 2011 average operator costs were $93,421. This can be compared to operator costs determined in the 2004 ICRC review where in that year, as Table 13 indicates, the costs were $94,784 and which, when indexed to 2001 were $126,518. It is clear that operator returns are not increasing in line with the cost of maintaining and running a taxi. This would indicate that to run a viable operation, operators will need to reduce taxi operating costs and/or consider driving their taxis. This will of course, be impossible for operators with multiple licences. As the data in Tables 13 and 14 would indicate, the most significant impact of the release of taxi licences has been on operators, where costs have exceeded returns. This could contribute to a reduction in the sale price of conventional plates. The churn in leased plates may be reduced if lessees were required to pay the full annual lease fee ($20,000) in advance, rather than a quarterly fee of $5,000 as at present. 8. Conclusion This report evolved from a desire to determine why taxi licence lease plates were experiencing such a significant turnover. When information from individuals who surrendered their licences was not freely available, an analysis of the key performance indicators to be applied to determine the supply of, and the demand for, taxis was undertaken. Further relevant information was also obtained from an analysis of changes in taxi fares and average trip data for the period In the process of gathering and analysing the relevant data it became clear that the model could be refined to present more representative measures of KPIs measuring demand, supply and performance in the ACT taxi industry. 14

15 From the above analyses, and the comments relating to these, the evidence indicates that the current size of the taxi fleet is sufficient to satisfy the demands for their services. Given the significant churn in leased plates, consideration should be given to introducing measures to deter lessees from surrendering their taxi lease plates. An analysis of relevant taxi related data for the period clearly indicates that the market has stabilised with hourly rates of pay for drivers and the number of trips per shift. Given the identified costs associated with operating a taxi, it has become a very marginal enterprise from the point of view of operators, unless the operators are willing to also drive their taxis. Of course this would not be an option in the case of an operator with multiple taxi licences. 9. About the Author Professor Des Nicholls BSc(Hons), MSc, PhD, AM has spent more than a decade researching in, and consulting to, the taxi industry in Australia. He has undertaken taxi industry related projects for the Australian Taxi Industry Association, Queensland Treasury, Canberra Taxi Industry Association, advised the ACT Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission on taxi related matters and assisted the Productivity Commission (with a submission and presentation on issues relating to the potential impact of deregulation on the taxi industry). During this period he has produced a significant number of reports/submissions relating to the taxi and hire car industries. He has recently developed a taxi plate release model for the Taxi Council South Australia and given advice to the Victorian Taxi Association relating to the ongoing review of the Victorian Taxi Industry Inquiry. 15

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