The roads are getting awfully crowded these days. Eco-conscious folks, the government and a whole host of other well meaning folks will have us believe that we should endeavour to use public transportation. A short and unscientific poll of my friends revealed that we all generally agree that more people should switch to public transport. Unfortunately, by more people, we really meant OTHER people.
And that got me thinking. Why do most people drive if they can afford it? Can public transport ever become a close enough substitute to driving?
With that (dangerous) thought in mind, I decided to leave my trusty ride in my campus carpark and take a short bus ride to and from Orchard to run some errands. It wouldn't be that bad, I reasoned. After all, I had my iPhone loaded up with mp3s to entertain me and the bus would take essentially the same route I would take if I were driving. I would save on ERP and exorbitant parking fees. It was looking like a sure win proposition.
In the end, I caught a ride from a pal who was passing by Orchard and took a bus back to campus after I was done. That bus ride revealed the gap between public transport and driving. First, the bus took forever to come. The signboard told me it would take 5 minutes for my bus to arrive but 20 minutes later, there was still no bus. Next, it was 3pm but the bus got more and more packed! Strange, for a non-peak hour bus ride. The longer travelling time was compounded by the jerky driving style of the bus driver. It seemed like an eternity!
And, in the process I guess I got my answer. Despite repeated claims of a world class public transport system, it is still nowhere near driving. And it probably will never come close until some radical changes are implemented.
Here are my suggestions on how to increase utilization of public transport in Singapore:
1. Nationalise the public transport companies and measure performance by non-financial metrics like passenger comfort and punctuality
2. Make public transport cheap, cut-throat cheap. Half of the current price would be about right. The subsidy will be funded by ERP & COE.
3. Increase the frequency (by quite a few times)!
But I know that my suggestions are unlikely to be implemented in the near future. So until then, I am sticking to driving until I can no longer afford to.