Ever Listened to Commuters in The First Place?

When the MRT was first setup, I was curious about it. After a while, I noticed that it arrives according to the dictation, less than 4 minutes of waiting. Over the years, I’ve noticed that I have to wait for 7 minutes for the next train should I have the unfortunate fate of walking towards closing doors and risk losing my leg or arm.


After so many years, the fares have increased from 20 cents (I think) to 90 cents for 3 train stops. Now, I wonder if the price for 2 train stops will be $1.20 onwards since the price of oil has been rising despite the MRT not using any petrol, diesel or whatever liquid fuel for any matter. It uses electricity that is generated from the power station or somewhere.

The slogan for SMRT is Moving People, Enhancing lives. Is that what they are doing? Moving people alright but at what pace? Can we actually reach from one end of Singapore to the other end in 20 minutes using the train? No. I have tried and it took me 1.5 hours, the fastest was only 1 hour and 15 minutes. By car, it would have taken me 20 – 30 minutes provided that all the traffic lights are green and no traffic jam.

Crowded MRT station[via Flickr]

In what ways have our lives been enhanced? I see people blocking the whole stretch of the platform at popular stations like Jurong East, Outram Park, Raffles Place, City Hall, Bugis, Ang Mo Kio and Bishan. None of them will let me alight unless I’m using a long umbrella that is wet, using a large bag to barge my way through or holding a hot kettle. All these are during peak hours.

Crowded MRT inside train[via Flickr]

I’ve met different people in the trains such as telling others to move into the middle of the car, inconsiderate people taking up floor space, loud music that not everyone enjoys, non-existing announcements of the stops, loud or soft announcements of the stops, people eating and drinking to their hearts’ delight and many others.

I have even had elderlies rushing into the train to grab that available seat they have already marked with their eyes. Another elderly lady attempted to poke me with her umbrella despite a lot of people alighting. It’s very rare to see someone giving the seat to an elder or pregnant lady.

World class transport means that it’s supposed to be efficient. It does arrive on dictation, after 11 minutes of waiting. It shouldn’t stop violently due to some other train still at the station. Signals should be given way ahead. Or have they until the driver belated sees the red light?

If the price of the rides have to be increased, service such as waiting time should be improved. It isn’t reasonable if the price increased but the cleanliness and waiting time standards have gone down the drain.

There should also be transparency such as delays that don’t let others speculate about suicides on the tracks. Speculation is to be expected if there is train delays. Don’t just state that there will be a delay and sorry for the inconvenience caused. It can’t quench the cat’s curiosity thirst.

Finger pointing isn’t even needed. Just facts and transparency. I thought going for interviews state that as employees, we should own up to mistakes? Commuters don’t really care much about how long the inquest for such incidents will take, just that they need a solution to their transport problem.

All these factors determine why we are taking the public transport. Increasing the taxi fares don’t help because everyone is trying to earn more money. Everyone is out to win, not lose. While the buses have less graffiti, the waiting time still needs to be improved.

Taxis are there to provide a more personalised transport mode. Buses are there to provide a general mode, albeit more than the train. Trains are there to get us to the general area. Changing between trains and buses are common, it’s how much of a hassle.

If you have to change from bus to train to bus just to get from Seng Kang to Tampines or Bedok, what mode of transport would you choose? How long do you think the public transport will take? 20 minutes? 50 minutes or even an hour?

Are the commuters’ voices being heard in the first place? Are the ones stating all the changes and implementing them taking the public transport at the same time as those commuting to work? Do they even know?

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10 comments on “Ever Listened to Commuters in The First Place?

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  2. *clap clap*

    Very very well said; I have been having the exact same opinions for a very long time.

    The problems the public transport sector faces comes from it’s three players: the companies, the government, and more importantly, the people, who have been trying long and hard to push the blame away and point the finger at the other two players in this field.

    Allow me to touch on the companies first. Between SBS Transit and SMRT, I can only see SBS Transit doing what it can to improve the quality of public transport, but there’s still room for improvement. I’m not expecting prefection, but I don’t want to hear about NEL breakdowns every few months either. The politeness and professionalism of most of their bus captains are good, but why are there still some who skip bus stops even though you give clear indication that you want to board or alight? Granted, that (and other such service laspes) doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen. Forgetful? Ignorance? Stress? I don’t know, but SBS Transit could, and should, do more about these problems, such as investing more in training programs for their staff.

    As for SMRT, I have given up all hope in them. “Moving People, Enhancing Lives”? To me, it’s more like “Stopping People, Ending Lives”! Instead of investing more into real bus routes for their areas of responsibility, they are instead introducing unwanted or unnecessary bus routes in all the wrong places. Premium 531 from Simei? SMRTLink from Dhoby Ghaut to Chinatown and Little India? Give me more trunk routes in Yishun and Sembawang instead! And why is a large chunk of Choa Chu Kang still devoid of even a single bus route? And while the quality of MRT trains take steps backward (Where is the electronic in train route information on the newer and refurbished trains? What’s with the pukesome new announcements?), MRT stations are stuffed with massive white elephants in the form of shops, shops, and more shops (lol Dhoby Xchange). Is this what the commuters really want? Or do they really want more movement space within the stations, and enchanced safety features such as platform barriers to prevent people from falling down the platforms and getting killed by their trains instead? And while SBS Transit has bought in hundreds of new buses, what is SMRT giving us? Old buses from two decades ago and broken, creaky, cockroach-infested buses? What is the current boss doing and thinking of? Is she even aware of the core business of SMRT anymore? Or, to her, has it gone to the dogs?!

    As for the government, kudos to them for starting to finally wake a bit from their long slumber, dreaming of a “world-class” transport system, in the form of the new public transport master plan from L.T.A.. Yet, it still remains to be seen if the authorities are really sober now, especially with their blunder with the new taxi ruling withing the city area (i.e. taxis can only pick up from taxi stands in the city area). This utterly brain-dead, untested, rushed ruling probably caused enough grief to regular taxi commuters in the city area to fill the world’s oceans. Granted, I was not one of the people affected by this blunder on L.T.A.’s part, but if L.T.A. hasn’t learnt from the mistakes of this incident, chances are it’s going to be eventually repeated in some area that will affect me. Until the people within L.T.A. learns to live on the ground (if you get what I mean), such out-of-touch incidents are likely to repeat themselves.

    And now, for the people themselves. Behind SMRT, this particular group is possibily the worst offender for making Singapore’s public transport system the unpleasant system it is. I have enough of kiasu commuters, I have enough of the pushing, I have a phobia of rush-hour trains, I’m sick and tired of seeing and hearing all sorts of the ugliest behaviour on buses, trains, and taxis, and I honestly can kill myself from all the complaints and finger pointing from this group. Yes, I’m part of this group, but I don’t belong to those rude, glaring, inconsiderate, loud-mouthed, loud-MP3-playered group of commuters (O.K., I admit: I used to be rather inconsiderate, but that’s the past now). The list of their ugly behaviours could probably suck up evey piece of paper and every byte on every computer on this planet, combined. Yet, when either the government or the companies urge us to be more inconsiderate, what do we do? We shout back at them, tell them that it’s not our problem, refuse to admit we are part of the problem, start pointing fingers, hypocrisy, blah blah blah.


    Of course, understandably, part of the reason why some commuters point the fingers back at the companies and government is precisely because part of the problem lies on their shoulders. But, in this case, we are trying to dump 101% of our responsibility on them, when it’s all too clear, for too long a time now, that we are a large part of the problem.

    Is this part of the Singaporean attitude? Refusing to admit being at fault to mantain a delusional “perfect” image?

    Right now, I wonder if the Singaporean government is actually waiting for us to fix ourselves either as part of their solution, going forward, for a true world-class transport system, or before bringing in more improvements and fixes for the system. Either way, unless and until the day the people admit that they have to bear part of the responsibility of making a genuine world-class transport system, this vicious cycle will just repeat itself for years, if not decades to come.

    I know this is a very long comment, as if my life depended on it, but coming from a life having used public transport even before learning to walk, and vowing to swear off private car ownership due to it’s cost and the ugliness of Singaporean drivers here, and having been fed up into outer space over the service quality of SMRT, I feel like I really need to say what needs to be said eventually.

  3. Edit:

    “…Yet, when either the government or the companies urge us to be more inconsiderate, what do we do?…”

    My bad, I mistyped considerate as inconsiderate over there. My apologies.

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  5. Ever taken the London Tube, the Paris Metro or the NY Subway? My experiences tell me that the SG MRT is by far the most reliable, efficient and cheapest mode of transportation across these cities.

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  7. But, but we have a world class transportation system, as we are told.

    So, we should have standards like the first world’s transportation systems. Complaints, are always common in any first, second or third world’s transportation systems, be it major or minor.

    When you feel the inconvenience caused by our world class transportation system, you are simply being short-changed by this so-called world class transportation after forking out a lot of money of it. If the service providers and the government care about dividends or profits, then we as users of the system should be asking for better service and efficiency since they are going made a lot of money out of the users of the transportation system.

    It is not wrong to ask for better service, as we are paying for it. If you cannot deliver as promised, then do not ever call yourself world class. We will feel better if we know that we actually have a third world transportation and we can expect bad service and poor efficiency as they are part and parcel of a third world system.

  8. The problem with SMRT is that it is owned by Temasek who has to squeeze the blood out of the commuters in order to make up for fuck ups like Merrill Lynch.

    Many of you have the illusion that SMRT is accountable to the commuters. This is wrong. It is privatised and its only purpose is to obey its masters, the good people at Temasek who probably don’t even have to use the MRT. The proper time and place to cause problems for SMRT is to raise hell during its shareholder meetings.

    There is another misconception that rising oil prices should not affect MRT. This is wrong. Electricity, don’t forget, is generated using fuel.