Thursday, April 15, 2010

Terrible Public Transport in Singapore

In a recent report, the PTC says it sees greater improvements in QoS
(Quality of Service) in its latest report for June to November last
year. This is measured by the number of non-compliance to a set of
service standards laid out by the PTC. I think very few people who have to
endure the sardine packed buses and armpit smelling experience will agree
with the findings. Besides, real personal experience, it is hard for
commuters like myself to dispute the PTC - but note that the PTC only looks
for compliance to standards not measurement of comfort i.e crowding on the
buses and MRT. Few or none on the PTC depend on public transport system to
get to work. In June 2008, I switched from taxis to buses/MRT when the last
taxi fare hike resulted in my taxi fares to work (and back) to surge to
roughly $55 per day [my blogpost on the taxi hike here]. Before the switch,
I took taxis to work everyday for 7 years so my 1st experience taking the
bus/MRT after I switch in 2008, I could see the accumulated changes in
service quality over the 7 year period. The first time I got back onto the
bus/MRT, I was simply overwhelmed by how crowded they have become. Many
people taking public transport may not be aware because the squeeze on our
buses and MRT occurred incrementally over months and years....many
Singaporeans also experienced greater stresses at the workplace, and rising
cost of living may have switch their minds off to the other deteriorating
aspects of our quality of life. Goh Meng Seng showed a few months ago that
the service capacity fell far short of the expansion in population[Link].
You can go through is numbers to see the problem.

For those with longer memories, I would like to show you something else.

Remember these? These are bus tickets from the 1980s. In those days, you
don't have to bring your EZLink or exact change when you board the buses.
Besides the driver, there was another person working on the bus - the bus
conductor. After you got on the bus and sat down, the bus conductor would
come to you to collect the bus fare - if you had a $5 note, no problem, you
would get change. He would then punch a hole in the ticket to indicate which
stop you got on and hand it to you. What has these tickets to do with our
public transport system today? If you're old enough, dig hard for some old
memories. See the truth is the bus conductor could never do his job if the
buses were packed like sardines - he had to issue a ticket to everyone
before the next 1 or 2 bus stops otherwise the passenger would get a free
ride. While the buses in those days did not have air-cons like the modern
ones, they were rarely as packed as today's buses during rush hour. It was
only possible to pack buses like sardine cans only after automatic ticketing
was introduced in the 90s and bus conductors were relieved of their jobs.
These bus tickets remind me how much the pace and quality of life has
worsened in Singapore over the past few decades.

Without the recent spike in COE prices, the cost of car ownership and usage
in Singapore was already the highest in the world. Given the sharp reduction
in number of COEs and recent stock market surge (which I discussed here) ,
the recent hike in COE is probably just the beginning of further increases.
The temporary solution for those who need a car is to go to the 2nd hand
market to get one - this market will tighten up and prices here will also
rise as more people hang on to their cars for longer periods instead of
switching to new cars. As the COE rises, it will start pricing out more and
more people who really need cars. The COE creates unhappiness by allocating
car ownship to those who are wealthy enough to pay for it instead of the
people who need it most. The problem is further compounded by Singapore
having the most unequal distribution of wealth among developed countries and
a for-profit 'public' transport system. The primary goal of the public
transport is to generate profits to pay dividends for its shareholders while
meeting 'standards' laid out by the PTC. There is no incentive for public
transport operators to make quantum leaps in service quality because they
have shareholders to please and shareholders want higher profits which
translate to more dividends.

posted by LuckySingaporean

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