With all due respect to our veteran politician, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, I think his story about waiting for more than an hour for a bus to go home every night when he was a young civil servant would provide cold comfort to those who nowadays have to struggle with the masses to get onto an MRT train during peak hours.
This is because whatever happened “in the old days” isn’t relevant or persuasive any more.
Yup, MRT trains are arriving every two minutes — at peak hours — and one needs wait perhaps up to a maximum of 8 minutes to squeeze into a less packed train.
But then, life today is a lot more intense and competitive than when SM Goh was young. There are so many things to occupy one’s time than there were 40, 45 years ago.
So everyone is doing his or her best to pack them into the 24 hours we have, and hanging around 8 minutes in a sardine-like station ain’t the best way to fritter away precious time.
Frankly, I’m not sure that making the frequency of trains go from 180 seconds down to 120 seconds at a cost of $1 billion will provide the full or perfect solution to the overcrowding of trains, especially when it won’t happen overnight, but several years down the line.
To me, what’s preventing me from adopting BMW in Singapore is the paucity, if not total lack, of good connectivity between B and M and reducing to negligible the W in the equation.
I love telling this story and have told it often. So I will tell it again.
Years ago, I was staying with a friend in Hongkong, whose flat was somewhere in Tai Koo Shing. It isn’t near an MTR station but it’s served by a series of mini buses right at the bottom of her block that took passengers at one flat fare to the MTR.
In all the time I stayed there, at whatever hour of day I went out, I always found a mini bus about to go off, or if I missed one, another appeared on the horizon even before the first was out of sight. It was the same for the journey from the MTR station to the flat.
And needless to say, it was the same with the MTR trains. I never had to beat my breast when I missed one, because another one would arrive on the platform almost immediately.
Hence, once, while in Central and not liking the lady’s loos in a departmental store, I actually went back to Tai Koo Shing to refresh myself and was back again in Central all in slightly over an hour.
Singapore’s public toilets are of a higher standard. So I never have need to rush from the heart of our shopping belt using public transport to get to the toilet at home.
But on the few occasions I turned out of choice (not need such as having no car for the day) to public transport in a burst of optimism about our trains and buses, usually brought on by positive write-ups or ads about our transport system, I’ve been sadly let down.
Such times, I found taking the MRT to Orchard or Newton and then a bus to get home a nightmare journey. Especially when I was foolish enough to be carrying highly perishable shopping like uncooked fish!
While there was nothing to complain about the trains, it was waiting for the connecting bus that reinforced every argument to have one’s own wheels.
I’ve waited anything from 20 minutes to half an hour, so that one journey that would take mayb 15 minutes to complete by car, could end up four times that, after factoring in walks to and out of stations.
Sure, in the old days, when I was a child, I had walked all the way from my school in Victoria Street to my home in Rangoon Road. More than once.
Why couldn’t I have walked just 3 bus stops from Newton or even six bus stops from Orchard? Instead of waiting for the bus?
The answer is this: we aren’t in the old days any more. The old is in me, dude! 😀