Sunday, August 30, 2009

Telecommuting is a trend for the future

Telecommuting, i.e. working from home, is getting to be popular. It has it positive and negative points. Employers are finding it difficult to manage the productivity and performance of the teleworkers.

Read this report.

An alternative arrangement is to encourage people to work close to their home, to reduce the time taken in commuting. This will require a change in tax and other policies that now tie people down to a fixed home and discourages them from moving their home to be close to the place of work.

Employers should also change the practices and choose workers who live close to the place of work.

Friday, August 21, 2009

US Immigration Form - Moral Turpitude

A visiter to the US was stunned by this question in the immigration form, "Have you been convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude"?

He could not understand the term "moral turpitude". What is covered under this definition?

Like most people, he was focusing on the wrong matter. He need not worry about the word "moral turpitude". He only need to focus on the word "convicted".

Has he been convicted in court? If he has not been convicted in court, and that applies to more than 95% of the population, he can answer "no" to the question without feeling any sense of uneasiness.

If he had been convicted in court, he would have known what the offence was. Most likely, it would have been a traffic offence, or littering or other type of minor offence. If it was involving "moral turpitude", he would have been told, and it would have been a more serious offence.

Lesson: Think out of the box. Do not focus on the wrong things. Do not focus on the difficult matter, when you can focus on the easy matter.

Quote from Dr. Goh Keng Swee
Dr. Goh Keng Swee, who was a former Deputy Prime Minister, economist and the architect of Singapore's economic development once said, "You do not need to describe an elephant. You will know that it is an elephant when it charges straight at you".

Public Transport Guide - cum Directory ($6)

Public Transport Guide

$6 only

Handy and light

Designed like a street directory, with
MRT, bus stops and services numbers.
Easy to locate any road or place

Click here to see a sample page of the Guide.

A must for regular users of public transport

Order here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bus arrival times

Land Transport Authority is spending money to improve the bus arrival time. There was no mention about the cost. It seems that the arrival time will only be displayed in about 50 bus stops, representing only 1% of all bus stops in Singapore.

I believe that the same budget can be better spent in a different technology. Each bus should transmit its number about 300 meters to the next bus stop.

The number of the approaching buses can be shown in a large electronic display. Elderly people with poor eyesight do not need to strain their eyes to see the number of the approaching buses.

There is no need to show the arrival time, because the buses run at schedules of 5 to 15 minutes. Hence, the maximum waiting time is 15 minutes. It is better for the bus to be punctual rather than to state the time of arrival.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hassle for Travellers

I find it a big hassle to go through the hassle that the authorities in many countries impose on travellers, including people who make short trips to their countries.

Examples are:
a) Immigration forms asking for a lot of unnecessary details
b) Difficult to fill in the forms, due to bad spacing
c) Duplicate forms for immigration and custom control
d) Health declaration forms, in the wake of H1N1

It is clear that the authorities do not have any use for the information that is being asked. They hardly look at it. Even if the information is not entered correctly, they do not bother.

I do not know why they wish to impose the unnecessary hassle on the travellers, as they really want to encourage tourism into their country. It seems that one department is acting against another department.

Although Singapore has less hassle for travellers, I find that visitors are still required to fill up a form to collect tourism statistics. It should be possible to collect the statistics from other sources, rather than to complete a detailed form.

These hassles come on top of the security checks that are imposed on travellers. Perhaps the department in charge of tourism in the respective countries should coordinate with their immigration, custom and health departments, to see what is really necessary and useful.

Confusing Cab Fare Structure

Published in St Times Online

SINGAPORE'S transport system is among the best in the world, but its taxi fare structure is bewildering.

Not only is there a multiplicity of surcharges, but there is also no standard flagdown rate. The average passenger is happy to take a standard taxi but often has to pay a higher fare because the first taxi that comes along is a Mercedes or another model that charges a higher flagdown rate.

There should be a standard flagdown rate for all regular-size cabs.

Jairam Amrith

The Singapore Government believes in the free market. They believe that taxi companies should set their own fares and cannot collude to fix a standard fare. (Look at the action taken against the bus companies running services to Malaysia).

The Government's views is misguided. Public services, including taxi fares, must be regulated and standardised. At this least, this should apply to the "standard" taxi service. Taxi companies can operate "premium" services and fix their own fares. Give the choice to commuters to call for a standard taxi service. All taxi stands should operate on the standard fare.

I believe that this is a practical approach.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Too many advertisements

There are too many advertisements in our trains, buses and stations. These advertisements obstruct the information that is needed by commuters to find the right bus or train platform. It was clear that the operators were more interested to earn revenue than to provide a service to the commuters.
During the current recession, the advertisements have reduced, but they will retain when the economy recovers.
I hope that the transport operators and regulators realise that the primary purpose of public transport is to provide a service with comfort and convenience, and that making more money should not be the key driver.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Platform Number

As more train services are introduced in a station, it is important to go to the right platform. The train stations in most countries display the platform number in a large hanging sign at the platform. The traveller will hardly miss it

The platform number in MRT stations in Singapore is not well displayed. One has to search for the platform number. It is sometimes displayed in a small sign on the pillar, sometimes in a standing sign and sometimes above the door in underground stations.

On many occasions, I had to search for the sign, with some difficulty. After some effort, I usually find that it is a small sign and not well located. It seems that the planners are embarrrased to display the sign and try to hide it.

I hope that the MRT stations will show the platform number in a large sign that is elevated above the platform. Make it so obvious that most people will not miss it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New ez-Link cards

A few months ago, I read that the Government was spending several million dollars to change to a new ez-Link card. I suggested then that this money need not be spent. I saw little value in introducing a new card, considering the cost of changing all the readers in the train stations and buses and replacing the millions of ez-Link cards carried by commuters.

Several weeks ago, I received a letter enclosing a new ez-Link card and asking me to get the new card validated at a MRT station.

I made several attempts to get the new card validated. Many MRT stations do not have a ticket office that provide this service. The ticket office in the stations with this service are open during certain hours. I finally managed to validate the new card after at least 5 attempts.

I asked the ticket staff on the purpose of the new card. She said that can be used as a cash card. Currently, it is only recognised in NTUC Fairprice!

It seems that we are spending a lot of money and effort for so little benefit. What a waste of public funds.

Tan Kin Lian

High cost of car ownership

The insurance companies claimed that there are more accidents, due to more cars on the roads. This has caused more claims and increase in premium for motor insurance.

Motor insurance premiums increased by 27% last year. It is likely to increase by another 15% this year. The hefty increase of 40% over two years far outstripped the inflation rate. This increase in premium is excessive, considering that the economy is now in recession.

The public should think twice before buying a car. You do not enjoy the use of the car, due to congested roads, no parking space, ERP charges, high petrol prices and now, high insurance premiums.

It is better to use public transport, such as the MRT or buses. It is easy to learn how to use public transport. I recommend the Public Transport Guide, available at Popular Book Stores, for a price of about $7 (inclusive of GST).

If you need private transport for the special occasions, take a taxi. What you spend on the occasional taxi rides is much lower than the fixed cost of owning a car.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Taxi without drivers

About half of the cost of taxi fares goes to pay the taxi driver for his service. If an automated taxi, without a driver, becomes into operational, it may be possible to reduce the cost of taxi fare to half of the current level.

You get the convenience of private transport, at a much lower price. This may be possible soon, and can make a radical impovement to the transport system.

Automated Taxis

For several months, I have been promoting the concept of an automated taxi (i.e. without a driver) providing local transport within a town to bring residents to the town center or the train station. This vehicle is powered by electricity stored in a battery. An automated taxi, shared by many commuters, is a better concept that private cars operated on electricity.

Yesterday, I was surprised to learn about the European CityMobil project that aim to achieve the same goal, and had been ongoing for some time. I also learned about the CyCab developed by INRIA of France, that is almost ready to introduce a vehicle that works along the line that I envisioned (although they thought about it much earlier).

Read this brochure on the CyCab project and watch this animated video. It is exciting. I hope that the Land Transport Authority of Singapore will use its $20 million fund to try it out here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

CyCab Urban Vehicle Concept

I received this report about a driverless cab. The concept is similar to what I have in mind.

Saturday, June 13, 2009
There have been a number of driverless urban vehicle concepts that aspire to make transport in the future easier, but the CyCab is the one nearest to production. Formulated by French company INRIA, the system uses real-time kinematic GPS to determine its exact location and move to the desired destination. The real-time kinematic GPS used by the cab allows for accuracy to within a centimeter and also happens to be used by cruise missiles.

This concept vehicle will be able to keep track of obstacles in its path and road markings, and each vehicle stays plugged to the internet to keep in contact with like vehicles, and use this information to avoid snarl-ups. CyCab is not quite ready for mass production, but it should see some uses in the near future. In November 2009, ULTras, the British version of the CyCab will appear to be used to transport passengers from Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

More information can be found here: