Transport in Singapore

February 10, 2008

In recent months, much has been said about the (increasingly deplorable state of) transport systems in Singapore, as compared to previous years. Also, there has been a lot of talk on what we can look forward to in the future.

Firstly, an increased number of ERP gantries (some of which are being placed at ridiculous locations such as in the Toa Payoh heartlands – notice how the authorities are somewhat evading the touchy topic by giving extremely non-commital replies to complaints about the issue. Replies such as “This is a necessary measure so as to curb the rise in…” tell the public nothing at all – instead they should focus on the “How” of the issue and dwell more in depth as to how residents will not be shortchanged.

Secondly, higher ERP rates, especially during peak hours, so as to reduce congestion on the roads and to coerce more people into utilising public transport and to leave their well-groomed trusty vehicles behind in their own car parks, failing to acknowledge the fact that this will eventually lead to more congestion on public transport itself. (But of course, people are obsessed with the age-old antediluvian idea that Singapore has a ‘world-class public transport system’ to acknowledge the flaws which have started to show up.. No wonder, while I find that the recent MRT disruption was handled properly on the ground, what with the numerous shuttle buses catered to shuttle affected passengers, people were nonetheless left bewildered as to what the entire issue was until they managed to catch the news on television that night)

Thirdly,  the LTA is in the midst of testing and developing a world-first GPS-based ERP system, which charges commuters based on how much they “contribute” to congestion on the roads in ERP-activated areas (factors include the length of time spent on the roads as opposed to being parked in some carpark somewhere within the CBD), tentatively slated to be up by 2010. This would mean that the flat rate system currently adopted will be abolished.

Next, the government has announced plans to accelerate the expansion plans of the MRT, which is definitely a good thing as it will cut travel time around the region. (Of course, the downside is that with all the costs in maintaining a larger network of MRT lines, we are bound to be faced with a further hike in MRT fees?)

The following shows an artist’s impression of the future MRT-LRT network. (Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_Rapid_Transit_(Singapore))

Future MRT-LRT Network
* Click to enlarge

Meanwhile, SMRT and SBS will be implementing measures to ease congestion on public transportation, through measures such as increasing the frequency of trains, especially during peak hours (a move which SMRT has announced was to take place on 4 Feb 08), as well as revising the frequency of buses on the roads (which is an irony all by itself as wouldn’t more buses, while it means good news for the commuters as it eases congestion on the buses itself, add on to the congestion on the roads?).

Mr Brown recently posted an article on his blog www.mrbrown.com, titled “There is a reason that MRT train feels less frequent and more crowded…”, which is worth reading.

My personal opinion? The SMART announcement which SMRT made regarding the increment of train services on 4 Feb 08 doesn’t seem to have made any difference. Prior to 4 Feb, at least on the East-West Line, the waiting time for trains for peak hours is about 2-3 minutes, while it is 7 minutes for off-peak hours. Even after 4 Feb, there isn’t any improvement made to the waiting period for trains, while trains are as crowded as usual during peak hours.

SBS and SMRT personnel (especially those ‘with rank’) allege that they understand the actual situation on the ground, using some statistics they gather from who-knows-where, to boost up their claims to make them sound more credible (or laughable,. you decide). But I doubt they actually have even a pea-sized inkling of how the situation actually is, on the ground, and how horrible travelling on public transport has become, in comparison to the past.

You know what? I think they themselves do not travel on the public transport they govern, driving their own flashy cars to work.

PS: If anybody of importance is reading this, I would like to make an appeal to increase the frequency of bus service 518, especially during peak hours on weekdays and weekends. It is exceptionally frustrating when the company charges so much, since it is after all, an express service, but people on the bus are packed like sardines most of the time. Whatever happened to travelling in comfort?

*Written by aR

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I admit that I have not been a regular follower of the case of Dr Amit Kumar, the Indian doctor-cum-kidney kingpin who is wanted in five Indian states for illegal kidney operations (in a nutshell, his business allegedly involved holding unwilling peasants at gunpoint, forcibly leaving them with no chance but to part with their kidneys, as well as the lure of poor peasants with ‘high-paying jobs’, only for them to find out later what it entails)What really caught my eye in the front-page article on The New Paper yesterday (9 Feb 08), was the ludicrous manner of how Dr Kumar gave his name away. Don’t get me wrong, it is great that he got arrested as it’d probably mean a giant step forward in the investigations in putting a halt to all these illegal operations. It is just that I am amazed by the sheer absurdity over the nature of his arrest.

It is absolutely laughable. Apparently, even being in this desolate jungle resort somewhere in the Himalayas away from his home, his family and erm… kidneys, his survival instincts does not exactly involve lying low, as he capers with eagerness to “know how the local press was reporting his case”.

Wearing a hat and sunglasses as a form of disguise (which itself ought to ring alarm bells as I doubt anybody will actually wear a hat and sunglasses in a hotel lobby in the Himalayas; where did he think he was, in Phuket?), he borrowed the Himalayan Times from the hotel front desk to pore over the news, promptly clipped the front-page story on the global manhunt for him, before returning the tampered copy to the front desk clerk whose suspicions got aroused and called the police. (The story goes on – upon his arrest, he attempted to bribe his way out..)

What baffles me is the entire absurdity that with all his riches (and doctor certification to boot), he did not have the sense to purchase his own newspaper copy which he could have the freeplay to do whatever he’d like to it. Probably working with the assumption that other people do not have their own minds and observations?

On a heavier note, the flourishing kidney trade around the world is something which ought to be urgently looked into by governments of nations where such illegal trades are rampant. The dangerous nature of the work aside, as it may very well lead to complications due to improper sanitation and processes (An assumption made here, but seriously, how clean can a back alley operation be?), there are several other questions to be asked. What sort of human rights are being advocated when its own people are being forced into operations which they want no part of in the first place, by people who are attempting to take the law in their own hands? What sort of economy is being set in place when this scam will play a role in the whole ‘rich-become-richer, poor-become-poorer’ situation? What sort of healthcare services are being implemented when nothing much is being done to tackle the demand for organs when it blatantly does not meet the supply – I’m sure dangling health incentives and benefits such that people will willingly donate are some possibilities to look at into curbing the problem?

*Written by aR