The recent transport fare review has focused on concessions. That helps some of the population, so we guess it’s not bad. If by “not bad” you mean fixing one problem out of a whole highway-collision worth of issues. We like to imagine the authorities are taking it slow; resolving one issue at a time, like pulling blocks out of a Jenga stack. They must be, because these three issues haven’t been addressed:
And also, most Singaporeans ride in giant chauffeured limos. Real news.
Why Concessions Alone Don’t Cut It
One reason for fare hikes is to cover the new concessions, as we (apparently) agreed:
“The majority of respondents (60.7%) felt that the cost of concessions in general should be shared by full-fare-paying commuters and the Government.” – Today, Wednesday 6th November 2013
But just maybe, the raised fares should be funding something else instead.
See the thing is, affordability is not one of the bigger problems. According to Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew:
“Wages over the past few years have gone up at a much faster rate than fares, which means that fares have actually become more affordable for the average commuter. This is an important point that I like to emphasise: public transport fares for the average commuter have become more affordable, not less.” – Channel NewsAsia
So if that’s the case, why are we pumping money into concessions, instead of:
- Improvement in Transport Quality
- Improving Income for Public Transport Operators
- Better Synergy in Public Transport
1. Improvement in Transport Quality
These days, it’s not so much an aisle as it is a landing strip for face planting on the ground.
You know what scares Singaporeans about a 6.9 million population? It’s not so much the actual number.
Let’s imagine our infrastructure is solid. Our buses and trains aren’t overworked to the point of breakdown, and you don’t need a case of anorexia just to fit in the first train. Public transport is comfortable, mostly without a hitch (like Singapore in the mid ’80s).
I’m pretty sure there’d be less grumbling about 6.9 million people then.
As long as our infrastructure (of which public transport is a key part) keeps up, we’d be less nervous about more immigrants. As is, we can’t help paying attention because service and ride quality are getting strained.
Maybe instead of funding concessions (remember, the Minister already said fares are affordable) why not buy a few more buses? Put more cabs on the road, get some newer trains, etc.
There’s no point charging me 20 cents less for a ride if I’m going to end up walking down an MRT tunnel again.
2. Improving Income for Public Transport Operators
Dear Bus Company:
If you can afford to pay your former CEO around $1.4 million a year plus stock options, you shouldn’t whine about giving bus drivers a $25 raise. That just makes you look like the punchline of a Mr. Kiasu comic strip.
Now that’s said…
I wonder if authorities could convince transport companies to pay their drivers more? That may actually be better than concessions.
Call it enlightened self-interest. I don’t relish the thought of being in an enclosed vehicle with an angry guy who’s three inches from striking, and two inches closer than that to the accelerator. We’re already at the point where it’s possible to be in a bus accident three times.
(I shouldn’t have to defend the theory that more money = better performance. There are 80 people sitting in a Parliament house who never let us forget it. Since they believe it so much, let’s see them apply it here).
3. Better Synergy in Public Transport
How are cheap toothbrushes like Singapore’s public transport?
Answer: They both have trouble with hard-to-reach places.
There have been baby steps toward more feeder buses, express services, etc. But we can still improve connectivity, especially in less mature estates. There are places in Lim Chu Kang and Choa Chu Kang, for example, where the trip to the MRT still feels longer than a bad marriage.
Hey, maybe if we traded concessions for making trips to the MRT easier, we’d also lessen the inflationary impact of train stations on resale flats!
What are your thoughts on the recent fare changes? What else would you like to see improved?