Brilliant ideas: LTA do take note!

Two letters in today’s Straits Times Forum page hit the nail on the head of the travelling woes of people living in SG and explain hugely why too many of us go into hock in order to hang on to our cars. 😥

After all, a car is within one’s control a lot more than buses and taxis.

Of course the MRT is the most dependable, recent and continuing problems notwithstanding. At least 90% (?) of the time when one goes to take the MRT, there will be a train within a few minutes, depending on the time of day.

The problem is most of us don’t live within an easily ‘walkable’ distance from an MRT station, in rain or sunshine.

Very, very few has the good fortune of one of my friends who lives virtually a hop, skip and jump from the Marymount MRT station — which makes getting around a breeze for him.

Most who want to use the MRT are like me. I live between one existing MRT station and an upcoming one. But alas, 1 km separates me from either. And given our hostilely uneven pavements and temperamental weather, walking with shopping or even dressed to the nines to get to or from the MRT isn’t a walkable option — unless one is dead broke.

That’s why it never ceases to amaze me why our transport planners never think of what is done in Hongkong or as suggested by the letter writers below.

Why don’t we make our MRT a lot more accessible to more commuters without building a station at every household’s door step?

Hongkong has mini buses that take commuters from one cluster of high-rises to the nearest MTR station and then return with those getting off the trains and heading back to the high-rises. There’s a relay of such buses and if you miss one, there’s no need to curse and swear as the next one is on the horizon.

In SG, the few routes where dedicated buses run from private housing estates, for example, to MRT stations usually run by the hour which makes missing one a major catastrophe for those with a time sensitive schedule.

And I weep at our transport tsars’ idea of making travel more convenient for commuters: they roll out more bendy buses, more double deckers and more long distance buses.

It’s like putting out container ships or oil tankers when all we poor commuters want are just a few high speed boats that will help us catch the most reliable form of transport — the MRT train!

Smaller buses, running shorter routes to decant passengers at MRT stations and pick up others on the return route shouldn’t add to the traffic, if more people give up their cars to enjoy the new convenience.

Hopefully tansport policy makers won’t baulk at taking this route. It would be a lot less costly than spending $1.1 billion, I am sure, as I said here, not too long ago.

Letter One

Scrap long bus trips

ONE way to tackle the increasing pressure on efficiency in public transport is to scrap long-haul bus services, and replace them with services plying shorter routes of not more than 45 minutes’ duration.

This strategy will allow a quicker turnaround and cut down on time wasted when caught in traffic. Currently, travel time for long-haul services can increase by up to 45 minutes during off-peak hours and more than 11/2 hours during peak periods, because of traffic.

Shorter services will mean shorter waiting times for commuters – bus drivers will be able to keep to scheduled arrival times better. This will also help cut maintenance costs by making the electronic boards that show real-time bus arrival times obsolete.

Should a bus breakdown occur, the impact would be minimal on commuters as the wait for the next bus would be shorter.

Finally, and most importantly, the job of a bus driver would become more attractive as it will no longer entail long driving hours and little time for meal and toilet breaks.

This method of operating our public buses may require a slight increase – or maybe not – in the size of the bus fleet and the number of bus drivers.

One minor drawback is that commuters would have to rely solely on the trains for long-haul trips on public transport.

But the impact would be minimal as most commuters are already doing so.

Commuters who do not want to take the train will have to make multiple bus transfers to reach their destinations, but the shorter waiting times will lessen the negative impact.

Short of increasing bus fares year after year and falling into a vicious circle where the supply of buses and the service standards are unable to keep up with public demands, this may be a viable solution to the problem.

Kok Hwa Siang

Letter Two

Ease overcrowding with frequent, reliable bus services

THE aim of encouraging commuters to move farther to the rear of buses is to create space for more commuters to board (“Change bus design to change behaviour”; Dec 22).

Commuters are reluctant to move in because they want to avoid having to force their way through the crowd to get to the exit door when it is time for them to alight.

The reason buses are overcrowded is due to the unreliability of the bus arrival times. As a result, commuters would not want to wait for the next bus and would reluctantly board an already crowded bus.

If commuters are assured that the next bus would arrive punctually at the indicated time, most would not mind giving a crowded bus a miss.

We are informed of the frequency and approximate arrival times of buses via text messaging, which unfortunately is often inaccurate.

I have personally avoided boarding a crowded bus, in the hope that the next bus would arrive within the expected 10- to 15-minute interval, only to be kept waiting. More frustrating is the fact that often, two buses of the same service would arrive later at the same time and both would be almost empty.

If bus operators can provide information of the exact arrival time of buses at bus stops, it would certainly go a long way in minimising overcrowded buses and easing the frustration of commuters.

Henry Lim

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8 thoughts on “Brilliant ideas: LTA do take note!

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 4 Jan 2013 | The Singapore Daily

  2. It will help but nowhere near enough. For one, if you have travelled on MRT trains you will notice how crowded it is these days even during ‘off-peak’ hours. I doubt car owners will trade their personal space in a car for the squeeze on the MRT. And how many mini-buses need to ply the roads to be convenient and comfortable? Bear in mind that even after the $1b subsidy by taxpayers, buses sometimes take more than 15 mins to arrive and are so packed that you have to wait for the next one.

  3. Uncle/Auntie Sporescores, if Hongkong can use mini buses (n trams to some extent) to link up its MTR network with housing so effectively, donch c y SG can’t. Anyway, we won’t know till we try.

    No harm in having a few pilot projects. If G nudges the transport operators (be they bus, taxi or MRT) to give the idea a try, I’m sure some will jump to it. 🙄

  4. WE should replace 50% of taxi’s to minibuses with 8-10 seating capacity. These minibus drivers should get a reasonable salary and they will drive the people to and from MRT stations. Other tweaks can include going into CBD with at least 8 people onboard, etc etc.

  5. Brilliant idea too, uncle/auntie KAM! Only let’s not get over ambitious –yet. If only we can persuade G to set the ball rolling say with one rally of mini buses for a group of private estates to ONE mRT station. The taste of the pudding is in the eating.. so my 2013 wish is to see the mini bus idea come into testing for the Newton station (selfish B that I am) 😆

  6. Only reason it works for HK is they have higher frequency MTR with longer carriages. In SG if you speed the crowd delivery to the MRT stations it would cause more overloading and breakdowns of our already unreliable MRT system.

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