Opinion

3 Ways to Improve Our Public Transport System That Have Nothing to Do With Frequency, Overcrowding or Breakdowns

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Joanne Poh

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you what’s wrong with Singapore’s public transport system—it’s too crowded, breaks down too often, and for those who are located far from MRT stations, is too slow.

The Public Transport Council’s recent survey is now hoping to glean more insights on why the public transport experience sucks.

Instead of harping on the crowding and breakdowns, which to be fair aren’t going to be fixed anytime soon, they have chosen to focus on the areas which can be changed.

Their first report has touched on some ways to make public transport more inclusive for commuters such as families, the elderly and the disabled. More reports are forthcoming. I’d just like to jump the gun and offer some suggestions that many of the Singaporeans around me have provided.

 

Bring back the MRT seats

You can’t not have noticed that at some point in our recent past, MRT carriages with zero seats came into being. People complained about overcrowding, and then someone at LTA/SMRT had a huge brainwave—remove the seats and you can cram even more people in! Um, when people highlighted the overcrowding, they were hoping for increased train frequencies or more carriages, not the removal of seats.

To be fair, most people who commute during peak hour do not even have a fighting chance of getting a seat. But removing the seats altogether reduces the number of people who can sit down during off peak hours. And anyone will tell you that being able to sit down, even if it means waiting a couple of stops for others to vacate their seats, makes a world of difference to your comfort levels, especially if you face a long commute.

In 2015, there was a report which mentioned that fold-up seats might soon be available—let’s hope this comes to pass, although we foresee that Stomping will be brought to a whole new level, as Singaporeans navigate the minefields of when it is appropriate to fold up your seat so the other sardines in the can have more room to breathe.

 

Allow non-foldable bicycles on trains and buses

The PTC’s report revealed that parents want to be allowed to bring strollers onto buses without having to first fold them up.

Well, they’re not the only ones who find it highly inconvenient not being able to bring certain things onto buses and trains. People who ride bicycles and other mobility devices face a conundrum when they have to rely on the MRT to complete their commutes.

At present, only foldable bicycles are allowed on the MRT. A good foldie is quite expensive, and many people find cycling on tiny wheels slow and uncomfortable. Nobody wants to lock their nice bicycles up at the station because bicycle theft is rampant.

If Singapore is truly going to become a cycling city, they’re going to have to find a way to enable commuters to transport their bicycles on the train. Outside of peak hours, allowing bicycles should not be a problem, especially as so many seats have already been removed to create standing areas.

Sure, it’s going to be an inconvenience. In a city where people can commute entirely by bicycle without having to rely on public transport, or where they can just hop in a car to get somewhere further, banning bicycles on public transport would be more reasonable. But if Singapore really wants Singapore to be “car-lite” or whatever, some concessions will have to be made in order to promote alternative forms of transport.

 

Bus routes should be made clearer on buses and at bus stops

If you’re one of those unlucky souls who lives far away from the nearest MRT station, you’ve probably tried to take buses to your final destination, figuring that it’d save you having to take the feeder bus to the MRT station.

Being one of those people, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve found myself staring squinty-eyed at the bus routes posted up at bus stops, before searching the road names on my phone in order to ascertain where exactly a particular route would be taking me.

Even if you go so far as to fork out the money to buy the Bus Guide at Popular, the routes are confusing simply because you only have road names to go by.

One big problem is that there’s no visual representation of the bus routes online. If the bus service websites could post up maps showing the routes of the various buses, life would be a lot easier.

In addition, there’s also the problem of not knowing which stop to get off at. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed a stop, only to realise the next one was a million miles away. There is no clear indication of which stop a bus is at. While bus stops are labelled, it is often difficult to see them from inside a crowded bus, especially when the windows are always tinted with some ad so you can barely see outside. You could be alighting in Hell for all you know.

In the old days as a student, I used to just ask the bus driver to tell me when to get off. But when buses are crowded or the driver has difficulty understanding English, that tactic doesn’t work as well. Also, when you’re forced to move to the back of the bus and there’s a sea of people between you and the driver, it’s a lot harder to give him a shout out.

Digital displays in all buses informing passengers of the next stop would be a huge help. This is something I’ve seen in many countries, and I don’t see what’s stopping the bus companies from installing them on the buses in Singapore. In addition, a map providing a visual representation of the bus routes should be made available online, or even better, at bus stops.

Do you have any suggestions for the improvement of Singapore’s public transport system? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.

  • Adi Sutanto

    Add drinking water re-fill and toilet to each MRT station, just like how Taiwan did it