By: Leong Sze Hian

PTC reduced fares overall by 4.2%

I refer to the articles “Bus and train fares reduced by overall 4.2 per cent; fare structure to be further simplified” (Straits Times, Oct 27) and “PTC may call for standardised bus, train fares” (Straits Times, Oct 11).

The former states that “While falling energy prices in 2015 resulted in an allowable fare reduction of 5.7 per cent, the PTC decided to grant only a 4.2 per cent cut for prudence.

Remaining 1.5 per cent reduction rolled over to next year’s fare adjustment exercise

The remaining 1.5 per cent reduction will be rolled over to next year’s fare adjustment exercise, it said.”

Same fare, regardless of mode chosen

The latter article said:

 “It is clear that commuters prefer a simple fare structure. All public transport fares should be calculated simply, using distance travelled, regardless of the chosen mode and route, air-con or fan ventilation.
“… with the significant -5.7% quantum we are seeing this year, it certainly seems like an opportune juncture for PTC members to make a recommendation to standardise fares for all rail lines and bus routes.
He said the 5.7 per cent quantum may lead commuters to hope for a similar drop in fares, but added that it is necessary to balance the interests of commuters, operators and the “financial burden” of government expenditure on public transport infrastructure and assets.
“A fine balance is therefore necessary to ensure that our public transport system remains viable and sustainable in the long run,” he said.”

Why defer 1.5% to next year?

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Why did we defer 1.5 per cent (of the -5.7 per cent quantum) to next year, instead of reducing by the full 5.7 per cent this year?

Is this “significant -5.7 per cent quantum” – the highest ever expected reduction in the history of Singapore?

Changing the rules?

If so, is it not somewhat akin to trying to change the rules, when commuters may be expected to gain the most?

No more cheaper bus fares?

Will it translate into relatively higher bus fares, particularly in the future, vis-a-vis the old “differentiated based” versus the new “standardised” fare structure ?

If so, is it fair to the lower income of whom some may not mind taking a longer time by bus, because of possibly relative lower fares in the future, under the old “differentiated based on the type of journey taken” against the new “standardised” fare structure?

Similarly, is it fair to the elderly who may prefer a bus, rather than having to walk more by taking faster MRT/bus connections?

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Cheaper fare is a necessity for the lower-income?

I understand that in some countries – it may be cheaper to travel by bus, because a “lower fare by bus” may be deemed as a necessity for the lower-income.

The consequence of a “standardised” fare structure may eventually make bus fares relatively higher than otherwise in a “differentiated” fare structure.

Perhaps only the future will tell to what extent the new “standardised” fare structure may translate into relatively higher bus fares versus the old “differentiated based on the type of journey taken” fare structure.

Combining cheapest & more expensive into one-price?

To explain the above with an analogy – in any service – if we combine the cheaper choice with the more expensive choice – into a one-price only system – the cheaper choice may be in a sense – be lost forever.