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Found 36 results

  1. SiLangKia

    Public Buses of Yesterday

    We all have relied / are relying on public transportation to get around our sunny little island. For most of us, before getting that driving license, the 2 door Mercedes (front door+back door ) used to be our mode of transport growing up. Was reading up on the different types of public buses in Sg and realised that we used to have a much less homogeneous range of public buses in the past, so I'm just posting a few to bring back memories and keep them alive! Do feel free to add on and share your fond memories of the buses in your life, and the memories associated with them :) Mods please merge if there's a similar thread thanks, tried to find but can't 1. Starting with my fav, which I have taken alot (being a 90s kid) : Mercedes-Benz O405 This was used by both SBS(1989-2011) and SMRT(1994-2016) in various body types: TIB832Z, Hispano Carrocera Bodywork (last SMRT O405, retired in sep 2016) SBS O405, Duple Metsec bodywork 2. Volvo B57, introduced by SBS in 1979-1983 (New Zealand Motor Body) These ran till 1996, and was one of the common sights in the 80s and early 90s 3. Albion Viking EVK41L , in the 1970s when SBS was first formed Some units were first registered as early as 1967 onwards under the Hock Lee bus company, ran till 1987/88 before it left sg roads 4. Mercedes-Benz OF1413 ,1967 onwards source for above pic: https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnoram/6073688117 Ran till around 1993, early buses were first registered from 1967 under the Green Bus Company 5. Leyland Atlantean AN68/2R , 1977 onwards Ran till 2001, one of the first few double decker buses introduced in Sg, one in the pic is with Alexander L bodywork, registered sometime in 1982-1984
  2. SINGAPORE — The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has awarded a contract totalling $1.03 billion for the Bulim and Sembawang-Yishun bus packages to Tower Transit Singapore (TTS). The five-year contract will start progressively from the second quarter of 2021. If TTS were to perform well over the period, the LTA has the option to extend the contract term by another two years thereafter. TTS currently operates the Bulim package, consisting of 29 bus services running from Bulim Depot. It will continue to manage Bukit Batok and Jurong East bus interchanges. The Sembawang-Yishun package, which is currently operated by SMRT Buses, consists of 27 bus services. These services will operate from the new Mandai Depot, which will be handed over to TTS by next month. TTS will also manage Sembawang and Yishun bus interchanges. The tender for the two bus packages was called on 29 November 2019 and bus operators had the option to bid for either bus package or for both packages. Affected SMRT employees of the Sembawang–Yishun bus package must be offered a job by the incoming operator, at employment terms that are not worse off than before the transition. Since the move to the bus contracting model, Singapore’s bus industry has benefited from the entry of two new operators, TTS and Go-Ahead Singapore, the LTA said. “This has created more job opportunities for bus workers and levelled up the industry, where the bus workforce now enjoys better working conditions as well as employment terms and conditions.” Meanwhile, National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) Executive Secretary and Radin Mas MP Melvin Yong said NTWU will work closely with SMRT and TTS to ensure that all affected workers will have a smooth transition. “The Union is committed to work with the different public transport operators to take care of our bus workers and create a safe working environment for them.” https://sg.news.yahoo.com/tower-transit-singapore-awarded-1-b-deal-to-operate-bulim-sembawang-yishun-bus-packages-122556850.html Seems the bus services operated by SMRT getting lesser and lesser.
  3. Thaiyotakamli

    Man argue with bus captain over mask

    Who is right here? Is this mask legal?
  4. chitchatboy

    BMW M2 Competition crashes into bus stop

    Most of us must be cursing and swearing when the alarm clock rang this morning, as the weather was perfect for sleeping in thanks to the morning thunderstorm. We have almost no doubt that the BMW driver in the following photos must be really angry with himself too! The following photos have been in circulation around social media platorms since the morning of 13 May 2020. Not much is known about the cause of the accident but the it did occur to us that this crash happened between Kallang Road and Geylang Road. The wet roads caused by the rain in the morning might have caused the BMW M2 Competition driver to lose control. With more than 400bhp going to the rear wheels, this is one very 'driftable' weapon...
  5. A Gojek passenger has shared on Facebook that a driver kicked him out when he realised that he was not getting a tip from his passenger! Joseph Lam, the Facebook user who encountered this bizarre incident recounted this incident in which he had touched down at Changi Terminal 1 and human traffic was heavy at the airport. Naturally, that lead to a surge in prices of private hire services. Happily after 10 minutes, he managed to get a driver with Gojek for $14 that was headed towards Tampines Street 34. Upon getting in the car, Mr. Lam felt that something was off with the driver. Below is an extract from his Facebook post. Driver: 3 persons travelling? Us: Yes *light laughter* Driver: Welcome back to Singapore Us: Thank you Driver: Does that entitles me to a tip? Us: Awkward laughter Me: I can give you 5 stars rating Driver: 5 stars rating is of no use for Gojek, useful for Grab though Us: Well, different platform, sorry to hear about that. Driver: Grab surge is $21 for a trip to Tampines now, so it will be nice if you can leave me a tip. Do you mind? Normally I will suggest my clients to leave me a tip of $3 if they don’t mind. Do you mind? Following this, Mr. Lam did not answer, choosing to believe that the driver would not mention it again if he was ignored. However, the driver repeated the question and Mr. Lam had no choice but to reply that he minded. Now here's where things started getting serious. Driver: Well ok if you do mind, I guess I will have to drop you at the nearest bus stop. Me: Dude you serious?! Driver: Yes, because I asked if you mind tipping me and you said you mind. So do you mind me dropping you off here at the middle of the road? Me: You f*ing serious right now?! Driver: I don’t want to force you to tip me, so I will drop you off at the nearest drop off point and you can try using grab. The driver then proceeded to drop Mr. Lam and his passenger off at a bus stop near the airport (20 Airport boulevard) after canceling the ride. After all the bags were unloaded, the driver reminded Lam that everything said has been recorded before remarking "Cause I know who really needs a ride now. Good luck my friends! " Naturally, netizens were supportive of Mr. Lam and condemned the driver for flouting LTA's Private Hire rules. For those who are wondering, there is a rule whereby the termination of a chauffeured private hire car, or requiring a passenger to leave a chauffeured private hire car, without reasonable excuse, before the passenger is conveyed to the destination, can result in a fine of $200 and 5 demerit points. Gojek's Response As of press time, Mr. Lam has responded by stating that Gojek has responded as his post has gone viral with more than 3,000 shares on Facebook. Gojek has since suspended the driver and has tried to do some form of service recovery but Mr. Lam has refused, claiming that his intention was not to gain anything from this incident but simply warn friends and family of such ridiculous extortion and threats. You can read more of Lam's updates below.
  6. This should be interesting: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/on-demand-public-bus-services-from-dec-17-as-part-of-6-month-trial
  7. SINGAPORE - Bus driver Saw Cheong Seng did not pay much attention to a bag that a passenger handed to him on Friday morning (May 10) while he was driving service 63. He gave it a quick glance and saw stacks of paper inside, which the 59-year-old thought were betting slips. But after he completed his round at the Eunos Bus Interchange, the senior bus captain was stunned to find the bag had two stacks of $100 and $50 notes, each several centimetres thick. The money in the bag added up to $39,602.10. The passenger, who handed the bag to Mr Saw at around 8.40am at the bus stop across the street from the Outram Park MRT station, had said another passenger had left it behind. Mr Saw gave the bag with the money to the interchange manager. The money was subsequently handed to the police, a spokesman for SBS Transit said, adding that a police report had been made. Mr Saw, a bus driver with the company for 13 years, said he wanted to make sure every cent was returned to its rightful owner. "I would not be able to sleep tonight if I took this sum of money that does not belong to me," he told The Straits Times in Chinese on Friday evening. "I would feel troubled if my passengers are not able to get back their lost items, especially their money." https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/about-40000-left-behind-in-bus-driver-hands-it-to-police
  8. Benarsenal

    Public transport to go cashless

    Surprised nobody start thread yet on this... http://www.sgcarmart.com/news/article.php?AID=17435 Next time cannot bring out coins to take bus liao...
  9. with the ramp up in bus services and number of buses, hopefully this can be part of the redundancy for people in case MRT breaks down... Billion-dollar Bus Service Enhancement Programme completed with 1,000th bus added to fleet http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/billion-dollar-bus-service-enhancement-programme-completed-1000th-bus-added-fleet "SINGAPORE — The government’s billion-dollar Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP) that was rolled out in 2012 to tackle bus congestion and long waiting times has wrapped up, as the 1,000th government-funded bus and 80th new bus service planned under the initiative hit the road. The five-year effort translated to a ramping up of bus capacity for about 70 per cent of bus services – or 218 out of 309 basic services – either through the deployment of higher capacity buses or the operation of more frequent bus trips, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Saturday (Dec 6)."
  10. Yesterday was in a bad mood due to CO being *ahem* un-cooperative in the morning as we need to rush down to Changi by 9am. Later, I was at Tampines Mall with CO and after shopping there, she wanted to go Ikea Tampines. Being new to that area in Eastern part of Singapore, I look up Google map and memorized the direction given. Drove out Tampines Mall and supposed to drive along to avenue 9 then 12 before heading to TPE but ended up turning left somewhere and drove straight into Tampines Bus Interchange. Was finding it strange at first when I noticed people queuing up orderly and buses everywhere. Then it struck me! "Shiiit! I'm in the bus interchange! HOLY MOLY!" I yelled. Soon a couple of buses started to turn in and the first driver wad stunned like vegetable. We started looking at each other...loss for words. I waved an apologetic gesture and he waved back, pointing ahead and waved right. Took off and managed to drive out. Ehhhh . . . the question is, any bro out there did this stunt before and will I get a warning letter or what? Should have taken public transport yesterday, damn moody and not being my usual self. HAIZ! . . . . noob.
  11. The school bus driver thought the 11-year-old boy had fallen asleep in his seat. But when he tried to wake the boy upon reaching Maris Stella Primary School yesterday morning, the Primary 5 pupil did not respond. He was later pronounced dead at the KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH). The New Paper understands the boy was on his way to school when he became unresponsive. The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) received a call at about 6.55am yesterday and sent an ambulance to the school. Police received a call around the same time yesterday asking for help "at 80, Bartley Road". UNCONSCIOUS They found an 11-year-old boy unconscious when they arrived and he was taken to KKH, "where he was subsequently pronounced dead at about 8.46am," their spokesman said. TNP understands that the boy was living with his grandparents and a maid here and that his parents were overseas when he died. An SMS that was circulated around Maris Stella Primary yesterday informed all of the incident and asked them to pray for the boy and his family. One parent, who declined to be named, said the boy had a fever on Mondayand was sent home early. He said: "The school principal spoke to his class and told them about the news. We heard he was an only child and his parents are currently out of the country." Mrs Woo Soo Min, principal of Maris Stella Primary, said in an e-mail to TNP that the school was "saddened by the passing of one of our students". "We are in touch with the family and are providing assistance and support to them during this difficult time. We are also providing emotional support to affected staff and students. As the police is investigating this case, we are unable to comment further," she said. Police are investigating the unnatural death. Correction note: An earlier version of this story said TNP understood that the boy's parents were overseas at the time of the incident. Family members have told media that the parents were in Singapore. The story has been corrected. - See more at: http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore-news/maris-stella-pupil-11-dies-school-bus?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook#link_time=1472604456 Really sad.
  12. SINGAPORE — SBS Transit bus captains who are Singaporeans or permanent residents (PRs) will be able to earn about S$3,460 a month under a new salary package, about 15 per cent more than before, the public transport operator and National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) announced on Thursday (June 1). Under the new salary scheme, new Singaporean and PR bus captains will start with a monthly basic salary of S$1,950, higher than the current S$1,775. Together with a new reliability incentive, overtime and other perks, the drivers can hit a gross monthly salary of about S$3,460. Male drivers will have two weeks of paternity leave and all drivers will get free travel on all trains and basic bus services, free annual health screening and S$500 of flexi-benefits. SBS Transit’s revised salary package will benefit close to 10,000 employees, of whom 6,500 are bus captains. The company hopes to attract more Singaporeans and permanent residents. NTWU executive secretary Melvin Yong said the revised employment terms are timely and sets a good example in the fast-growing industry, which on Sunday saw the new bus contracting model begin operations. Under the new model, the Government pays fees to bus operators operate bus services, while it retains the fare revenue and owns the buses, depots and fleet management system. Two overseas operators, Tower Transit and Go-Ahead, clinched tenders for the first two bus packages and Tower Transit began the first phase of its rollout on Sunday, taking over nine services from SMRT. http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/sbs-transit-announces-higher-pay-sporean-pr-bus-captains Anyone interested??
  13. Read on zaobao this vintage STC Nissan Diesel bus was found abandoned at a scrapyard for years. The authorities spent 6 weeks sourcing for parts and restoring it. The axle and wheels are the hardest to find. This vintage bus will be featured in a bus exhibition next month. Didnt know this 1960 bus still exist in singapore! pic credit to busesingapore
  14. Here’s an article by Mr David Mason, an ‘ang moh’, who lives and works in Singapore for several months a year. He’s been here for so many years that he even remembers what public transport was like in the days before the MRT was built, and when there was no air-con on public buses *gasp!* Singapore’s come a long way, now there’s integrated transport hubs, sheltered link ways. And much of our public transport system now cater to those who are less mobile, e.g. wheelchair accessible public buses, green man plus which gives more ‘green time’ to seniors and those with disabilities. Our public transport system isn’t perfect and there’s the occasional hiccups, but compared to many places around the world, it’s really still ‘very good’. Source : LTA Facebook
  15. http://singaporeseen.stomp.com.sg/singaporeseen/get-inspired/nsf-told-to-leave-bus-after-failing-to-pay-fare-then-comes-across-a-life-saver What an embarrassment to the bus company! These soldiers protect our livelihoods and free will. What is $1-2 in respect to that??
  16. A 17 year old Malay teenager stole a private bus at Woodlands Industrial Park E3 yesterday morning at 9am and took the bus for a 155km joyride around Singapore - CCK, AMK, Toa Payoh, Yishun, Boon Lay, Whampoa, Telok Kurau, East Coast Park, Jurong East, Corporation Road, Kian Teck Road and Bukit Batok. An employee of the bus company only discovered the bus missing at 2pm. Luckily the bus has a GPS installed and the location of the bus tracked down very quickly. The bus was eventually recovered at a bus stop along Bukit Batok. . News from xin ming 17岁少年涉嫌偷窃私人巴士“环岛游”,驾了巴士6小时,全岛东西南北都走透透,从兀兰先后经过宏茂桥、东海岸、文礼、裕廊东等区,“环岛游”将近155公里,最终才在武吉巴督落网! 这起事件发生在昨早9时,地点是兀兰工业区E3的一家私人巴士车厂。涉嫌偷车案件的是一名17岁的马来少年。 据了解,少年早上9时从兀兰车厂出发,沿途经过义顺、宏茂桥、黄埔、直落古楼、东海岸公园大道、大巴窑、蔡厝港、文礼、顺利、武吉巴督、兀兰、裕廊东、建德路、企业路,并最终停靠在武吉巴督中路的巴士站。这旅程相信至少有155公里长。 记者联络上驾驶这辆巴士司机卓先生(55岁)。他告诉记者,他下午2时要出车到小印度发现巴士不翼而飞,于是立即通过全球定位系统(GPS)寻找巴士行踪。“我发现巴士在裕廊一带的建德路出现,和老板各自开着私家车找失窃巴士。” 完整报道,请翻阅09.03.2015《新明日报》 Real life GTA!
  17. Angcheek

    Bus can just stop its service ?

    Like that also can ??????????? 天理何在 ! [media]https://www.facebook.com/therealsingapore/videos/977106289001205/[/media]
  18. Here's why: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=949025948475954&fref=nf
  19. I want to get this off my chest. Why do people not move back in the bus? As a frequent bus traveller, I want to explain why it is not so easy to move back. If you look at the below picture, you realise this is standard for SMRT buses. So why do people not move back? 1) With no space to put the foot under the chair, it is impossible for people to stand behind the other when standing at the back. Hence, people can only stand in a single file. Unless they are very small. 2) With the upraised end at the end, people cannot stand on it safely when the bus is in motion. From the outside, it does appear that the people do not move back. 3) With the curve at the back, it appears from outside that people are not standing closely to each other when in reality it is not always the case. It just appears that there is a distance between the standing passengers at the back. It is true there are inconsiderate jokers around but the design of the bus is not helping. Recommendations 1) Widen the standing space at the back 2) Have an overhead compartment like the tour buses so thart people can put their backpacks, haversacks and briefcases on it so that there will be more standing room overall. A lot of the space is taken up by the backpacks, school bags and so on. I am writing this to SMRT also but tot of posting it here as well. Will update on outcome
  20. LifePro_Tips

    Yishun Bus Services

    Yishun Bus Services Corporate Services We provide limousine services for VIPs, corporate functions and important meetings held in Singapore. Our vehicles are maintained daily to deliver the best experience for your important guests. Important Events Got a wedding coming up, scheduling Singapore City Day Tours, or are you a school teacher organizing excursions? Let us know and we have the best transport for important occasions as well. Scheduled Transport We have the most reliable, comfortable and fully air-conditioned buses and mini-buses for your company’s daily or hourly transport needs. Contact us and we will send a person to talk to you. With our wealth of experience and commitment , we promise to fulfil your exacting transportation requirements to provide value-added services . We guarantee a convenient and comfortable ride to your destination , whether planning trips for business or for pleasure. Travel with us now ! Feel free to contact us for a quote or for more information. Yishun Bus Services 280 Woodlands Industrial Park E5 , #01-03 , Harvest@Woodlands , Singapore 757322 Tel : 6734 7260
  21. Ender

    Bus with AutoPilot

    Think this high tech bus in bohleh land. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=778227252241050
  22. Turbonetics

    Bus Drivers' behaviours.

    Hi everybody who is reading this,Iam positng here not really to complain but to hear your voice regarding bus drivers on our roads. Recently,i noticed that bus drivers like to horn and high beam especially when I filter into their lane even though with a safe distant and speed and signal ON. Does any of u also notice this? and most of them seems to reluctant to give way too nowadays.Why are they doing this to purposely pissed off other road users? Let's hear from all of u and share your experience here.
  23. think he abit Kept on wanting to board the double decker bus, in the end damaged the wiper too...and stop another car beside the bus despite being pulled by 2 good samaritans to the side... Too many people nowadays liao...will SBS Transit ask him to pay for damages? https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=638142909590913&set=vb.289564517782089&type=2&theater
  24. ST_Opinion

    Paving the way for comfortable rides

    Events in recent years have underscored the need for Singapore to ramp up its transport infrastructure, as well as to rejuvenate what has already been built. Overcrowded trains and buses, long and unpredictable waiting times, and glitches in the rail system have been top grouses since as early as 2004. It did not help that Singapore's population grew by more than 30 per cent in the last decade to hit 5.4 million last year. Public transport ridership soared by more than 50 per cent over the same period to 6.36 million trips a day. Meanwhile, two major rail breakdowns in December 2011 brought into sharp focus the need for infrastructural upkeep on the back of fast-rising usage demand. The Government has responded fairly swiftly. But experts say a sustainable solution to managing public transport demand also needs measures such as increasing flexi-work arrangements, telecommuting or decentralised office hubs. On the capacity front, the Government is setting aside an estimated $2 billion to replace ageing parts in all the major rail lines together with rail operators. It is also in the process of rolling out a bus service enhancement programme - likely to cost in excess of $1.1 billion - which will boost fleet size by 20 per cent. And in January last year, it announced a slew of new lines that will grow Singapore's rail network to 360km - double its current length. This is on top of $60 billion of investments in place for ongoing projects such as the Downtown and Thomson lines. In all, transport-related projects may cost more than $150 billion. This is more than 40 per cent of Singapore's total foreign reserves last year, and seven times the 20-year transport infrastructure spending envisioned by a White Paper released in 1996. By any measure, it is a highly ambitious programme. The question is, will it be economically sustainable to go on ramping up capacity this way? This is especially when capacity is often designed to cater to peak demand, which is usually less than two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. Hence such a network tends to be "underutilised" for the rest of the day. Average bus occupation, for instance, is only 20 per cent. Transport experts have thus called for other measures such as promoting flexible working hours and telecommuting. Attempts to stagger working hours were made back in the early 1970s to ease traffic congestion. But the campaign never did gain much traction. According to a study published by the Manpower Ministry in 2001, flexi-time was practised by only 0.3 per cent of all private-sector employees. Telecommuting was even more uncommon, with a participation rate of merely 0.1 per cent. And those who work entirely from home accounted for just 0.01 per cent of employees. While more current figures are not readily available, there are signs that flexi-time is still not widely accepted. Last June, the Transport Ministry launched a year-long free-tra-vel initiative to encourage commuters to travel just before the morning peak, following a Travel Smart initiative rolled out in October 2012 to persuade people to shift their peak-hour travel time by 15 minutes. Response was encouraging initially, with around 9 per cent of peak-hour commuters travelling earlier. But this has since fallen to 6 to 7 per cent. Certainly, the scheme has potential for improvement - perhaps even without additional tax spending (the year-long free tra-vel initiative costs $10 million). In 2004, a study by the UK Strategic Rail Authority found that train overcrowding can be eased substantially by widening the differential between peak and off-peak fares. This means giving off-peak fare discounts or wai-vers, as well as raising peak-pe-riod fares. Not only does this help the operator maintain financial viability, but the shift of peak demand also reduces the financial burden of having to run additional trains during peak hour. Analysts suggest the savings here would more than cover the cost of providing free fares. However, adjunct Professor Paul Barter, who teaches transport policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, says there are limits to what flexi-time arrangements can do to flatten peak travel volumes. This is because there is "dynamic tension" between two things that people want: a regular schedule that gives them fixed times at home or with friends, and more comfortable travel. Because of this tension, people will modify travel patterns "even without the Government doing anything". And if there is less overcrowding during the peak period because some commuters have altered their travelling time, others will move in to fill the space freed up. Prof Barter, however, notes that flexi-time can contribute to shorter peaks, which range from "five to 10 minutes in Canberra to three to four hours in Jakarta". Also, if people were free to adjust their travelling time, "they would complain less", he said. He feels that many employers in Singapore "are more rigid than they need to be" in this respect. Indeed, a survey by the Land Transport Authority in 2012 found that the top reason for workers not telecommuting was that employers rarely allow it. And about 80 per cent of 1,500 people polled said they would take up flexi-work arrangements if these were made available. Finally, experts say a decentralised city is key to improving accessibility without increasing mobility. Even though Singapore had a decentralisation strategy since the 1980s, it has not gained much traction - until now. "There was a time when it was felt that having a big CBD (Central Business District) was good for the economy," recalls Prof Barter. "But I think it is better to have many sub-centres across the island." Now, several sub-centres are in the works, including Jurong Lake District, Woodlands and the Kallang Riverside. All these will allow more people to live near where they work, and work near where they play. Meanwhile, cities the world over are increasingly looking to "soft" demand management measures to spread out peak loads on transport systems. In 2008, Melbourne started offering free travel to commuters who arrive at the CBD before 7am. It led 23 per cent of commuters to travel out of peak hours. Monetary measures are not the only way to temper peak demand. In the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, London embarked on a public education and awareness campaign to prepare for the foreseeable surge in travel demand. The programme included reducing the need to travel, spacing out journeys, shifting to walking or cycling, as well as re-routing to less busy routes. The result was encouraging. Despite record ridership - London Underground, for instance, carried 4.52 million passengers on Aug 9, the highest in its history - the transport network coped well. Elsewhere, Abu Dhabi has spelt out a transport mobility management strategy as it prepares for a possible trebling of its population by 2030. It includes park-and-ride, car-sharing, flexible working hours, and telecommuting plans. All these are in place in Singapore, even if they lack scale. But things may be changing. Last year, the Urban Redevelopment Authority unveiled plans for a 700km cycling path network by 2030 - thrice the length of the current network. And URA chief planner Lim Eng Hwee leads by example: He cycles to work.
  25. ST_Opinion

    Public transport: No. 1 in the world?

    BIG Idea No. 2 is a no-brainer: Make Singapore’s public transportation No. 1 in the world. Why is it a no-brainer? Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur as well as Bangkok and Manila face the danger of more or less permanent gridlock with massive traffic jams. I pray and hope it will not happen, but I am also prepared to take bets it will. But even if our neighbours strangle their cities in this way, their countries will continue. Singapore does not have this option. If our city strangles itself to death with massive traffic jams, both the city and country will collapse. Good public transportation is therefore not an option. In Singapore it is a critical necessity. Unrealised potential FORTUNATELY, we have all the ingredients in place to create the world’s best public transportation system: money, meritocracy and motivation (the three Ms). We are one of the richest countries in the world in terms of financial reserves. We can pay for the best system. We also have one of the best civil services, if not the best, in the world. I know this well as several leading global scholars have asked me why Singapore does so well in public administration. Few other governments in the world can match the quality of minds we have in our Administrative Service. And we also have the motivation. For us, good public transportation is a matter of life and death. With all these assets in place, it was truly shocking to read in The Straits Times on Feb 13 that Singapore’s MRT system is average in the world in terms of system breakdowns. According to Christopher Tan, senior transport correspondent for The Straits Times, “breakdowns on the 125-year-old, 340km, 24-hour New York City subway average one every 260,000km operated. Singapore’s 25-year-old, 180km network breaks down once every 120,000km”. When I told a Harvard professor this fact, he was astounded. He asked me: “Should I be proud of New York or worried for Singapore?” What happened? How did we go from being almost No. 1 in the world in MRT systems to falling behind ancient systems like that of New York? What mistakes did we make? How did it go so badly wrong? And what can we do now to reverse this negative slide and move towards making Singapore truly No. 1 in the world in public transportation? A 2012 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that Singapore’s public transport systems ranked behind those of Toronto, London, Stockholm, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Please let me stress one point here. I am not an expert on public transportation. I do not have enough data or information to explain what went wrong. All this requires a massive study. However as an amateur analyst of Singapore’s public policies, I believe that I can point out three challenges Singapore will have to overcome to succeed in its goal of becoming No. 1. All three challenges begin with the letter C. Critical mistakes THE first challenge is conceptual. Public transportation is a public good, not a private good. However, when Singapore was at the height of its infatuation with the Reagan-Thatcher intellectual revolution, we believed that the private sector was better at delivering some public goods than the public sector. This may explain several critical mistakes. My friends in the civil service have told me one of the biggest mistakes we made was to privatise the Public Works Department (PWD) and sell it off. In so doing, we lost both the engineering expertise and a storehouse of wisdom about the maintenance of public works. I hope that some day somebody will try to recreate the old PWD we used to have. We may have also made a mistake in privatising the MRT system, handing over the operation to private companies rather than government departments. In theory, private companies are more efficient than government departments in delivering services. Since they are concerned about the bottom line, they cut costs well. However, private companies do not factor in “externalities”. Hence when the private companies cut down on the maintenance of our MRT tracks to cut costs, they did not factor in the “cost” to the Government’s credibility when the system began to break down frequently. It will literally, not metaphorically, cost the Government billions of dollars to recover this lost credibility. This explains why the Government has provided SMRT with $500 million to improve the maintenance of the MRT tracks. This, in turn, creates public confusion as taxpayers ask why their money should help the bottom line of private companies. There is a simple solution. We should consider making the Ministry of Finance the sole shareholder of all our public transport companies, just as it is the sole shareholder of many government-linked companies. Fresh approach needed THE second challenge is the culture of conservatism. Having invested billions of dollars in an extensive train and bus system, we have worked under the assumption that we can only “tinker” with an established system and not start from scratch. This is a very dangerous and conservative assumption. If we work under this assumption, we will be reluctant to look for structural defects in our current system and be equally reluctant to explore bold and radical moves. If we are going to succeed in our goal of becoming No. 1 in the world in public transportation, we have to consider radical as well as conservative approaches. Here is one radical suggestion: Organise a global competition to encourage universities, think- tanks and global companies all over the world to put forward a new blueprint for Singapore’s public transportation system. There is a lot of expertise out there. A $10 million prize would be sufficient to attract a whole slew of new blueprints. And $10 million would be a small sum to spend considering the billions we have to put in to deal with systemic flaws. The winners of this global competition could be announced when we celebrate our 50th anniversary next year. Social experiments THE third C challenge we face is “comprehensiveness”. Public transportation can work well only if its planning is well integrated into existing urban planning policies. Each limb of our national planning must support other limbs. Let me cite a few examples. First, we have to deal with the “car” problem. As I explained in my previous column, despite the many disincentives put in place to discourage car ownership and use, we have actually created an ecosystem which makes it more rational to drive a car than to take public transport. We now have to create a new ecosystem that discourages car ownership and use. For a start, we should encourage new road experiments to change behaviour. In the year 2015, as part of our 50th anniversary celebration, we should exempt all taxis from paying Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges for one year. The goal of this social experiment is to see whether Singaporeans will make the rational decision to leave their cars at home and take taxis into the Central Business District to save on ERP charges. At the same time, we will also discover whether this leads to a surge in the supply of taxis in the CBD. This increase in supply of taxis in the CBD could, over time, increase demand and use of taxis in the CBD. I don’t know whether this will happen. Nobody knows whether it will happen. This is why we have to try out bold experiments. The financial cost of giving taxis exemption from ERP charges will be peanuts compared to the benefits we will get if people leave their cars at home. A downtown HDB estate? SECONDLY, we should consider the merits of building a massive HDB estate downtown. A lot of land will be freed up when the Marina Bay Golf Course lease ends. Why not build a big HDB estate there? The obvious response will be that the land is too expensive. But the land will not be as expensive as the land in Manhattan. In October 2011, I visited Manhattan in my capacity as chairman of the nominating committee of the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize (New York subsequently won the prize in 2012). On this visit, the surprising thing I learnt was that Manhattan had a policy to ensure that it did not create an environment where only millionaires and billionaires could afford to live. Hence, even though the mayor of New York City then was a billionaire, Mr Michael Bloomberg, his administration worked hard to set aside land in this expensive midtown and downtown area for workers to live. Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Market Place Plan was designed to build and preserve 165,000 income-restricted units by June this year for 500,000 New Yorkers. It was the largest municipal affordable housing plan in American history. To some extent, this is what we did when we built the Pinnacle in Tanjong Pagar. We should now replicate the Pinnacle experiment in our new CBD. It is true that Singapore citizens who live in this CBD public housing will get a subsidy. However, if they use less public transportation to commute into the CBD, they will not be using the subsidies that are being given to every user of public transport. We will also enhance the social harmony of Singapore by giving less well-off Singaporeans a stake in the CBD. The third social experiment we can try is to build shoe-box garages next to every MRT station. The idea would be to allow us to walk out of an MRT station and rent a two-seater air-conditioned electric vehicle to take us across the last mile of our journey (and back). Clearly, our hot and humid weather makes it difficult to walk the last mile to our destination. Hence we have to create ingenious solutions to encourage people to avoid driving and take public transport. And soon we may have driver-less vehicles which will be able to do this job too. There are many ways we can make Singapore’s public transportation No. 1 in the world. If there is one country in the world that has the means and motivation to achieve this goal, it is Singapore. So why don’t we just get started?
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