Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I took the MRT from Dhoby Ghuat to Yio Chu Kang at 10 p.m. The train was packed and was standing room all the way. Even at 10 p.m.

During the off-peak hours in Taipei, I was able to find a seat for most of the journey. In Singapore, it is difficult to get a seat even late at night.

What is the difference? In Singapore, the regulators and the public transport council do not care about the comfort of the passengers or the waiting time. The ministers and top civil servants do not take the train. SMRT wants to increase their profits to the maximum.

In Taipei, the government is more accountable to the people. This is the benefit of a more democratic and free election.

Tan Kin Lian


  1. I've had girlfriends in Japan and Taiwan. They all have their own private cars, but don't drive to-and-from work during peak hours. They took public transport (bus/MRT) for work. They use their cars like our weekend cars, i.e. off-peak on nights out and weekends. I notice many Japanese and Taiwanese do that. Car price is cheap and home parking is free. However, the cost of office building parking is prohibitively expensive (except for the few senior executives allocated reserved lots), so they don't drive to work. This culture may account for the sardine jams during peak hours, but relative spare capacity during off-peak hours. In Singapore, most people who take public transport during peak hours still have to take public transport during off-peak hours. That should be why peak and off-peak hours can be equally crowded here.

  2. I agree with Mr. Tan views. Quite sad really and I have been tolerating crowded trains for a long long time.

    I took public transport everyday and I can tell you its not a comfortable ride when its crowded. It gets very cramped during peak hours and during off-peak hours, waiting time can be long. Anything between 4 to 6 mins. As a result, the off-peak trains can be crowded too.

    Given the increase in population, why didn't the SMRT increase the frequencies of the trains?

    I will give a rating of 3/10 for the SMRT system. More room for improvement to be a world class public transport system.

  3. The public transport system is another area (besides health care) that Taiwan fares better than Singapore. However, the Taiwanese pay higher income taxes -- 40% for someone who would otherwise pay 17% in Singapore.

  4. Dear Mr Tan

    I totally agree with you. The current govt basically only treats S'poreans as tax generators...and anything found to be a financial burden to them they would create new rules to make S'poreans bear themelves...

  5. Well thats why i recommended SMRT as a stock to own.. But on a serious be fair. How does one remedy the sardine packed situation?

    In my opinion, i dont think its fair to say that SMRT or the government do not care about the people's comfort IN REGARDs to the mrt train ride. I mean the infrastructure is already built, height and width is quite difficult to change. Its quite difficult to change the volume of the train. How about the frequency of the train? I do think they have upped the frequency and its rather good already given that there should be a safe distance between the trains.Hmm...i really cant think of a solution for SMRT to change.

    Rather i think one solution is for employers to be open to the idea of allowing workers to work from home. I mean seriously..there are some jobs that can be worked from home.

    Secondly, why must so many companies be from 9-6 or 8-5? Is it a need to? How about 3-9pm? I dont know...just a random thought.

    Thirdly, i am not xenophobic and i fully understand the need for immigrants due to our falling birth rate and the fact that Sporeans dont like to do menial jobs. Maybe the government can be more selective on the immigrants if they are not already (i dont know). Too many people in Singapore already!!!! Arrgh.

    Ok my basic point is...dont blame SMRT or the transport regulators. There are other factors.
    I think SMRT has done a very good job. Yeah i am their shareholder ...

  6. I am surprised why there aren't hundreds of thousands of angry MRT commuters petitioning online? If the private corporation model doesn't increase efficiency and lower the price then the government should take over the bus and MRT companies. Nationalise them. Singapore is too small for competition in this industry to benefit from competition. It's more like a monopoly and a market-driven system. Mr Tan should start another round of campaign in Hong Lim Park to petition for improvements in the public transport system, as it affects literally millions of Singaporeans' daily life. It's more important than Lehman Brothers' minibonds which affected only a small group of investors' interests.

  7. Why blame the Government. We, the voters, are paying for it. We voted them in.

  8. REX comments,

    I thought it was rather extreme view to state that "in Singapore, the regulators and the public transport council do not care about the comfort of the passengers or the waiting time".

    I believe they do care - but they make wrong decisions many times and don't know how to manage mistakes, and they have incredibly poor PR styles which irritates the consumer.

    However, this is different from "do not care".

    Examples. To solve the problem of crowded trains they dismantled many seats in MRT trains to make way for standing passengers. This is like cutting the top of the blanket to cover the feet, sort of robbing peter to pay paul logic. Then they also increased the train frequency - which technically increases the risk of collision. Then they also iniitated the huge project "Circle Line" which is opening soon.

    Probably all these solutions may not work very well, given the small size of singapore and the sudden population explosion orchestrated by the govt. aka. Foreign Talent.

    The positive way for the government and SMRT is to have open dialogue with citizens in the issue of improving transport options. In this internet age it is so easy to establish dialogue. The worst way of doing diaglogue is through Straits Times, it is slow, unproductive and constrained by the media policies to protect the government.

    In summary, i opine that the government and MRT does care for these issues, which are really very difficult to solve. Anyone with good solutions should be allowed to discuss at top level with them. But they will never be able to humble themselves to listen to suggestions, for in so doing, they will lose face. This is very important to asian culture actually.


  9. Actually it depends on whether SMRT is more socially responsible or more profit oriented. If there is no regulations to ensure the role of SMRT, which to serve the public by affordable fares and providing satisfying service, then it will just simply choose to be profit oriented and for the shareholders' interests. In a capitalism society, this is very reasonable. And this is also why shareholders like SGDividends do as much to defend it so that profit could be maximized and therefore the profit will go into just a few persons' pockets ;) (slaughtering the public and few capitalists benefit from it without much hassles).

    IMHO, it really boils down to whether government wants to play the role of the regulator.

  10. We have gone down this road many times. Feedback, petition, blogging etc. Are the authorities paying attention?

    If not, then why are we doing it over and over again?

    There should be a more transparent way of elevating major citizens' concern to the authorities and this should include followup.

    One example: i) Petition on web.
    ii) Establish the number petition
    iii) Submit to relevant authority.
    iv) Publish reply from authority.
    v) Moderator close petition if satisfactory resolve else leave it in the blog.

    Imagine if you have 1 petition a month, there will be 12 in a year. If each petition has >1,000 names and stuck on the blog for months and months without a reply from the authority, then it is a reflection of the MP or minister incharge of that department. Maybe this is a good feedback for PM to do his appraisal on his cabinet as well as the justification of their $$$million salary.

  11. I think one way to ease the over-crowding problems during peak hours is to do away with the concept of a central business district where thousands flock to every morning, and depart from every evening. In the past, we needed a CBD because centralising the different businesses and corporations within a specific district helps to lower the cost of doing business with one another (e.g. communication, travelling, etc). Today, with technologies have rendered some of these reasons invalid.

    Can we not conceivably have a model where different towns have their own little industry-specific CDB that can co-exist with residential, recreational and commercial entities? So for example, businesses dealing with freight, aviation, air travel can be locted around Changi where the airports and its related facilities are. Southern Singapore can house maritime, tourist-related, educational and research, etc. Western Singapore can house manufacturing, industrial production, etc. Northern Singapore can house logistics and supply chain, etc. I think there can be a logical way to group.

    People who worked in specific industries can be encouraged to live within the towns. Another upside to this model is the more uniform spread of the price of residential housings.

  12. In the first place SMRT being a public transportation shouldn't had been privatised.
    It is the government's duty to serve the people. It should be a non profit organisation.

  13. I am also a shareholder of SMRT, and frankly am delighted with the generous dividends half yearly, but I have stopped taking their trains and buses, as I found myself having flu frequently due to overcrowding. Now I use the family car frequently as my health is more important, and i live within the vicinity of the stations. I agree this sardine-packed situation must changed, and am willing to receive lesser dividends to improve situauion.
    But will the LTA and SMRT listen to small people like us who do not earn million dollar pay? We just have no say at all.

  14. The government washed their hands by privatising SMRT. Now you cannot blame them because SMRT being a business equity it must make profits. SMRT should not have been privatised in the first place.

  15. Well with the new mrt lines opening, things will get better. eg the circle line, downtown line. Commuters can bypass the main interchanges and this will result in less crowded trains. They are trying but there's always room for improvement.

    Anyway, they just realised theres a logjam at jurong east and started building a another track to ease it. haha. 20 years too late.

  16. I agree with with the view of - if nothing happens nothing happens. Someone needs to stand up and make a stand, for us, for all of us.

    Else, its just plain talking. But again .. in this country .. who's gonna assumed the role of a Indian Chief?


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