Not to be superstitious or anything, but the MRT seems to have been born under a bad sign. Not only has it been plagued by an increasing number of breakdowns, but in the space of about a month and a half in 2017, an MRT tunnel has been flooded, there has been a collision and, believe it or not, an MRT train recently got struck by lightning. These are truly 4D-worthy incidents.
Now that we know even the gods are conspiring against SMRT, should Singaporeans continue to hope and pray that nothing goes wrong or, instead, find ways to use the MRT as sparingly as possible? Here’s how you can do so without spending tons of money.
Telecommute wherever possible
The government has been dangling incentives at companies to try to get them to extend flexi-work programmes to their staff. There has never been a better time to look for an employer who’s willing to extend such arrangements—particularly telecommuting arrangements that will enable you to work from home a certain number of days a week.
Squeezing into an MRT carriage with half of Singapore to rush to the office during peak hour is stressful, uncomfortable and, now that the Internet enables us to communicate with colleagues and clients, unproductive. So grab any chance you can to telecommute and you’ll save yourself from hours of MRT-related angst.
Use food delivery services and online shopping to avoid having to leave the house
Minimise the number of times you’re forced to take the MRT to buy food or other items by making full use of food delivery services and online shopping sites.
For instance, let’s say you’re starting at a new job and need to get some shirts from Uniqlo so you don’t show up for work looking like a hobo. Instead of taking the MRT to your nearest Uniqlo outlet, buy your clothes at their online store instead. They offer free shipping on orders of $60 and above.
What’s more, with the multitude of food delivery services such as FoodPanda and Deliveroo, you no longer need to leave the house to satisfy the most specific of food cravings.
Avoid rush hour like the plague
If you can’t work from home, the least you can do is to avoid rush hour as much as possible. Breakdowns are ten times worse when they happen during rush hour, as crowds are suffocating and it’s nigh impossible to find alternative transport.
Instead of coming into the office at 9am, arrive at 9:30 instead and you’ll find that your MRT commute is a lot more pleasant.
Alternatively, for those who are morning people and whose bosses are willing to offer staggered hours, you can now get a discount of up to 50 cents on your train fare if you tap in before 7.45am.
Stop meeting in town
Singapore might be a small country, but as a city it is actually fairly big. Meeting a friend for dinner often means making a fairly long commute from your respective homes in the suburbs to a central area like Robertson Quay or Tiong Bahru. And such a commute usually means taking the MRT.
Decentralise your social engagements by inviting your friends to meet somewhere that’s closer and more convenient to all of you. For instance, if you live in Bukit Batok and are going to see a friend who lives in Queenstown, meet in the middle at Holland Village, which can be reached by bus from both your homes, instead of going all the way to town.
If you’re lucky enough to have a home in which you can entertain, hosting your friends saves you from having to commute. And try as much as possible to build ties with people living in your area whom you can hang out with without having to step on the MRT.
Familiarise yourself with bus routes
The MRT has long been Singaporeans’ preferred mode of transport, simply because travelling by bus is so much more time-consuming.
But given the frequent MRT breakdowns and goodness knows what else, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with bus routes that can get you to the places you frequent. Some people even prefer to endure longer commutes if taking the bus means they can get a seat.
At the very least, you want to know roughly which buses can get you home and to work, and also have LTA’s MyTransport mobile app on hand so you can check routes.
Get your driver’s licence
Think there’s no point in getting your driver’s licence because you’ll never be able to afford a car? Well, you might not be about to shell out a six figure amount on a vehicle anytime soon, but a Class 3 licence might just come in handy someday.
Not only might you someday decide to moonlight as an private hire driver should you get retrenched or decide that driving a few hours a week is worth it if it enables you to avoid public transport, being able to drive will also enable you to take advantage of Singapore’s very first electric car sharing scheme.
This car sharing scheme can be an affordable alternative to the MRT, especially when Grab and Uber prices are surging. Of course, the availability of electric cars remains to be seen—it’s likely they’ll be in short supply especially during MRT breakdowns—but we’re hopeful the scheme will give us yet another alternative to the existing public transport network.
How have you been coping in light of the recent breakdowns and mishaps on the MRT? Tell us in the comments!