Thursday, April 15, 2010

Transport woes in Singapore.....

Without the recent spike in COE prices, the cost of car ownership and usage in Singapore was already the highest in the world. Given the sharp reduction in number of COEs and recent stock market surge (which I discussed here) , the recent hike in COE is probably just the beginning of further increases. The temporary solution for those who need a car is to go to the 2nd hand market to get one - this market will tighten up and prices here will also rise as more people hang on to their cars for longer periods instead of switching to new cars. As the COE rises, it will start pricing out more and more people who really need cars. The COE creates unhappiness by allocating car ownship to those who are wealthy enough to pay for it instead of the people who need it most. The problem is further compounded by Singapore having the most unequal distribution of wealth among developed countries and a for-profit 'public' transport system. The primary goal of the public transport is to generate profits to pay dividends for its shareholders while meeting 'standards' laid out by the PTC. There is no incentive for public transport operators to make quantum leaps in service quality because they have shareholders to please and shareholders want higher profits which translate to more dividends.

In a recent report, the PTC says it sees greater improvements in QoS (Quality of Service) in its latest report for June to November last year[Link]. This is measured by the number of non-compliance to a set of service standards laid out by the PTC. I think very few people who have to endure the sardine packed buses and armpit smelling experience will agree with the findings. Besides, real personal experience, it is hard for commuters like myself to dispute the PTC - but note that the PTC only looks for compliance to standards not measurement of comfort i.e crowding on the buses and MRT. Few or none on the PTC depend on public transport system to get to work. In June 2008, I switched from taxis to buses/MRT when the last taxi fare hike resulted in my taxi fares to work (and back) to surge to roughly $55 per day [my blogpost on the taxi hike here]. Before the switch, I took taxis to work everyday for 7 years so my 1st experience taking the bus/MRT after I switched in 2008, I could see the accumulated changes in service quality over a 7 year period. The first time I got back onto the bus/MRT, I was simply overwhelmed by how crowded they had become. Many people taking public transport may not be aware because the squeeze on our buses and MRT occurred incrementally over months and years....many Singaporeans also experienced greater stresses at the workplace, and rising cost of living may have switch their minds off to the other deteriorating aspects of our quality of life. Goh Meng Seng showed a few months ago that the service capacity fell far short of the expansion in population[Link]. You can go through is numbers to see the problem.

For those with longer memories, I would like to show you something else.

Remember these? These are bus tickets from the 1980s. In those days, you don't have to bring your EZLink or exact change when you board the buses. Besides the driver, there was another person working on the bus - the bus conductor. After you got on the bus and sat down, the bus conductor would come to you to collect the bus fare - if you had a $5 note, no problem, you would get change. He would then punch a hole in the ticket to indicate which stop you got on and hand it to you. What has these tickets to do with our public transport system today? If you're old enough, dig hard for some old memories. See the truth is the bus conductor could never do his job if the buses were packed like sardines - he had to issue a ticket to everyone before the next 1 or 2 bus stops otherwise the passenger would get a free ride. While the buses in those days did not have air-cons like the modern ones, they were rarely as packed as today's buses during rush hour. It was only possible to pack buses like sardine cans only after automatic ticketing was introduced in the 90s and bus conductors were relieved of their jobs. These bus tickets remind me how much the pace and quality of life has worsened in Singapore over the past few decades.


Anonymous said...

In the 80s, only 2 over million people. Even if there were foreign talents, they were mainly Malaysians. You could hardly find a PRC Chinese, India Indian, Mynamar, Pinoy etc.

Now what's the situation? Even Nepalese, Africa Africans and Russians also have. From the whole wide world. Can even go to 7 million if they want to.

Anonymous said...

The difference between 1980 and 2010 is succinctly expressed in this advertisement - 不在乎天长地久,只在乎曾经拥有

Anonymous said...

Just a side note, I somewhat realised that the reason that LKY insist that they pay themselves and their men by the hundreds of thousands is not because they wanted to ensure a corrupt-free government.

It was because LKY has realised that you can actually BUY LOYALTY. It shook me when I realised it today.

Anonymous said...

The government's decision to privatise the so-called public transport companies is a big mistake. But they don't care as they cannot relate what communters have to go though.

So long as these listed companies are profitable and shareholders get their dividens, the govt will continue to dress up statistics to flasely reflect that s'pore public transport is 'world class'.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering if the Authority can mandate that each household(base on address) is allowed only one saloon car?

LuckySingaporean said...

anon 11:10,

It has been suggested that another category based on those with needs - families, handicap, etc be allocated via balloting. However, that will complicate the system and the PAP will never inconvenience themselves.

Other suggestion is to allow family nucleus one car through bidding and those who want a 2nd car put in a different category.

One way is to at least allow those with disabilities to ballot (families too bad). But this will never happen because the PAP govt does not even want to press for concessions on the public transport. Imagine a blind person, it is already so tough to take the public transport - yet the PAP refuse to press for a small concession for this small group on public transport system.

The current system benefits the PAP the most as it brings in the most revenue. Singaporeans' needs are secondary to why must the PAP inconvenience itself to try to meet your needs?...They won't..will never...until...

Anonymous said...

Ironically, it is actually faster for you to cycle to work than taking >1 leg of SBS, MRT due to the ridiculously long waiting/travel times for SBS/MRT.
Cycling 7km costs 35 minutes. Cycling 14 km costs 1 hour. Most people lives on average 14 km away from their workplace, Singapore is only 40km east to west.

Think about this, it takes you 1 hour on average by public transport, why not cycle instead?
For safety, you should try to pick the cycling tracks along the major drains/parks, otherwise cycle slowly/carefully on the sidewalks whenever you see pedestrians.

This way, you save yourself:
1) ridiculously long waiting times for SBS/MRT, 2) ridiculously overcrowded SBS/MRT, 3) ERP, 4) Road Tax, 5) CoE, 6) Parking Charges, and 7) Gym membership!

Of course, when you are taking the family out, that is a different matter. The above is meant for yourself only.

Anonymous said...

"It was because LKY has realised that you can actually BUY LOYALTY. It shook me when I realised it today."

Ah Lee papa and his 80 thieves.

Anonymous said...

Simple life pleasures for me...

Watched first World Cup in 1986 - free
Watch FA Cup and Milk Cup Final in 1984 - free
Telecast of NBA finals used to be free
More recent movies via Ch 5 and Ch 8 in the 80s - free
Spending $3.50 or $4.50 for a movie during the 80s - still think it was not too expensive then as compared to the present, even though presently I am earning my own keep
Can find open fields or courts to play free soccer or basketball, now soccer fields must be booked in advance. Basketball courts are not even maintained properly with no nets.
Arcades were banned in the 80s and the games cost 20 cents then. Compare to the present.

However, the main thing is still television which is the main entertainment for ordinary folks. Re-runs and hardly any sports entertainment are available unless you can pay.

Well, I guess that is what is meant by advancement and progress...

xl said...

anon 12:43,
Yes is faster to cycle for short distances.

Problem is most people's perception of cyclist as poor man. Most have no idea that cycling like 1mrt distance is faster than walking to station, waiting, alight & walking to destination.

Another argument is sweat. Well, when you walk you will inevitably sweat too. Cycling at a leisure pace in many cases is better than walking under the sun to station/bus stop.

Anonymous said...


Did you read about the Lim family's problem about parking FOUR (4) cars in their Condo over the last few days?

The COE only serves the RICH and not Needs.

LuckySingaporean said...

anon 16:28,

Precisely my point. A lower middle class father who, say has a child with disability may not be able to send his child for regular hospital treatment but the son of a rich man can have one for dating.

Anywhere else in the world where there are no COEs both needs can be met. However, when you cannot meet both needs, other govts will prioritise the 1st and not simply allow money to dictate allocation which ultimately leads to great unhappiness.

Anonymous said...

I doubt the people in LTA will ever understand. Take my case as an example.

Both of us are working and we have two kids. We stay near the west (cheaper housing when we bought - as per MBT advice, don't be choosy) while my in-law stays near the city.

This year, my first kid is in primary school while my second one is still in child-care.

Everyday for the past 10years, we have been driving up & down and leaving my house before 7am (dark, before sunrise) and reaching home around 9pm (dark again, after sunset). My job also requires me to travel, so half the time my wife has to drive them herself.

So, is my car a luxury or necessity item?

Can you imagine taking PUBLIC TRANSPORT with 2 kids? What time must we leave the house now? 5am??? Reach home 10pm???

Now you know why our country birth- rate is low?

Anyone in similar situation as me?

Anonymous said...

No wonder the number one mantra in Singapore is "Get rich or die trying"

This is because, for all the right or wrong reasons, only when one has money can one have privilege and power.

Anonymous said...

When we talk about let the market decides, we are talking about resources allocation. The higher the demand the more expensive it is, as supply is low.
Hence, it deprives people who need a car or letting lower income family to own a car.

A very good example, the foreign exp of my company lives here, each owns a car. Company pays for their car. They took up licenses, COE just like other foreigners taking over the job/opportunity to study in uni / own a flat that a local can have.

Probably when our population goes up to 6.5m, the roads will be occupied mostly by foreign exp.

I still think there is a need to have an alternative voice in the parliament. There are too many yes men in the parliament.

So, do you think the govt takes care of the local? You draw your own conclusion.

Anonymous said...

There is a solution that would benefit all of us.

Imagine we divide the land into economic regions that compete with each other.

People can choose which region to live and work in.

If one region doesn't give us the best service and pay, nobody chooses it, so it goes out of business and the land is given to one of the better regions.

Now lets say one region improves service.

Your region would have to give you better service too,
so it could stay in business.

This is competition and it works.

Right now, countries compete with each other to produce stuff as cheaply as possible,
which means you either lose your job to someplace
that works cheaper,
or you don't get paid as much as you deserve.

This is a race to the bottom.
Everybody loses.

Regions would start a race to the top,
and everybody wins.

Regions have to give you better pay and benefits
and everything else, to compete and stay in business.
They are competing against each other to serve you better.

The benefits go way beyond money.
Everything in the region would get better, because it has to, so they can stay in business.

You would have a higher quality of life,
more freedom, and more fun.

Regions are for the people,
since it is the people who decide which regions stay in business and which regions don't.

In practice, people will not need to move,
since all regions will get better.

Just the possibility of going out of business
is all they need to stay good and improve.

There are a lot of details that are needed
to make this work, but it is all worked out.

Each region is run by a different organization,
so they have to compete with each other to
give everybody a better life.

It is a concept similar to retail stores.

If one store doesn't give good sales prices,
or a good variety of products,
then nobody shops there because there are better choices.

In this case, every region is run by a different company
or other organization, and they compete to do
the best job for you.

You could literally shop for the best region that gives
you the best pay rates and the best quality of life,
more freedom and fun.

Competition doesn't work with the type of cities and towns we have now,
partly because there is very little local control.

Most rules are national or international.

Also, if people move out,
the land stays with the same system and
its faulty economy; nothing changes.

There is no real competition, no new systems.

Its the same race to the bottom, and it isn't going
to get much better unless we adopt this
new system of competition.

Regions would have local control.


Regions fall all over each other to do the best job for you.

This means that you get more fun and more money
if we switch over to regions.

That was from the chapter on regions.
Read the whole thing free online here:



I have some very interesting ideas on how to make it work.

This could be the most important thing you ever do, that
could benefit you and everybody you care about.

Please tell me here on this forum, what you think of this.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lucky,

It is always a joy to read your blogs and learn a lot about how the powers that be run this country - the good and bad of it.

You remind me of the books I once read: Confessions of an Economic Hitman and Confessions of a Bangkok Private Investigator.


By the way, I'm not voting for Mah and since he screwed up and the rest of his team has not prevented that, knowing they could have; I'm casting zero votes for PAP this coming election. I'll vote for Reform, WP, SDP or even Goh Meg Seng if they're contesting in my constituency. And I don't care why the rest thinks of it.

Anonymous said...

'While the buses in those days did not have air-cons like the modern ones, they were rarely as packed as today's buses during rush hour.'

Hi, i need to point out that when i was studying in DHS, i took the no. 40 to school. it was a one-entrance bus and there was no door. whenever it was packed to the brim, i found myself hanging on the bars swing around as the bus driver drove madly and making sharp corners. i remembered several times when i was the last one to get onto the bus; i was staning on the entrance steps, with both hands clutching the rail, instinctly reacting to the rough jerks and sharp corner turns... those were the days.

Seeing the bus ticket which lucky post, esp the '10', brings back great memories... does the bus number 10 go to NUS nowadays?

Anonymous said...

Anon 15/4/10 10:11

"Just a side note, I somewhat realised that the reason that LKY insist that they pay themselves and their men by the hundreds of thousands is not because they wanted to ensure a corrupt-free government.

It was because LKY has realised that you can actually BUY LOYALTY. It shook me when I realised it today."


Who in their right minds will not be willing to sell their soul for that kind of money? Either take up that offer or have your number taken down to be send to oblivion. If that is the scenario, one cannot even refuse.

Gentlemen said...


Once again, you seem not to understand how the game in played by PAP.

Let me elucidate it a best as I can.

Before the elections, PAP will, as usual promise you the world. They'll throw even cash to buy over your insults. I remember someone here who was upset about being called DAFT by a dying 88-year-old man who can barely walk, let alone run.

Before elections, they will promise you that they'll build a bridge even when there is no river flowing beneath it.

BEfore elections, they WILL TELL YOU WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR. Let me repeat this as it has happpened one too many times. THEY WILL TELL YOU WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR.

After the elections...should I even continue...?

Anonymous said...

PAP is in the business of designing psyches.

They first seek to implant in you a systemic virus called inferiority complex.

Once that virus is in your head, they'll tend can call you DAFT, cheaper, faster and better. PAP has reduce the Singaporeans to a commodity, a thing.

Once you reduce another person to a thing, there's nothing short to stop you from exploiting them.

"Cheaper, faster and better.." describes a thing nor a person from our champion Singlish speaker Lim Swee Damn Suay.

Anonymous said...

Anon 19:48, I like the way you think. Cool! Thumbs up on that!

Anonymous said...

When r u sinkies ever going to learn or understand?

All your woes are caused by that cursed woman who lost $58b & more!!!'

the gahmen is agresssively sucking from u ordinary ppl by increasing utility bills, introducing gst, increase public transport fare while reducing frequencies, increasing Coe prices, erp & etc. At the same time deny citizens from basic human rights benefit or giving u substandard benefits.

There is a big hole in the gahmen pocket and they need to fill up that hole.

Who caused that big hole? And y is that cursed woman still sitting up there?

Go figure! Sometimes it's the person who wears skirt that

Anonymous said...

No.You are wrong.The source of our woes is becos we chose PAP as the ruling party. Complain all you can here but end of the day , you still choose PAP.

Anonymous said...

Mr Lucky

The good old days of the 80s are gone.
Lets be objective.
SMRT is an operator. SBS is also an operator.
They are doing a decent job.
Its the ministry of transport that has been sleeping on job. Terrible planning.

Please remember the majority of your readers are of limited intelligence and anger easily misplaced.

As for folks whining about ferrying their kids to in-laws. Grow up. U are embarrassing.
Folks with disabled dependents I can understand. We are possibly the only civilized nation that does not provide real subsidized public transport (eg taxi) to the less fortunate.

But what to do? Singaporeans voted for it. Or allowed a walkover. And I dun see the great Lucky Tan available a opposition candidate any time soon.

Anonymous said...

Mr Lucky

Seems like Ur precious messiah Mr Obama is interfering with Goldman Sachs doing God's work.

Is he smoking pot that his boys are bringing home from Afghan?

Anonymous said...

woah, an elitist......

Anonymous said...

Anon 16/4/10 23:04

"Please remember the majority of your readers are of limited intelligence and anger easily misplaced."

Your post does not qualify you as a person of unlimited intelligence. In fact you do not have any wisdom at all for labeling others as having limited intelligence. Most likely, the majority of readers will label you as a Moron.

LKYcalledmeDAFT said...

Anon 23:04 said:

"Please remember the majority of your readers are of limited intelligence and anger easily misplaced."

I don't blame you really for condescending others and then patronising Lucky's blog. I don't really as I know very well you learnt that fucking arrogance of yours from PAP's LKY, isn't it?

Who was it who called other Singaporeans DAFT? As is the ruler, so is the ruled.

So we vote for more and more PAP seats, don't expect moral refinement in our behaviour anytime soon. You're always a commodity - cheaper, faster and better.

Anonymous said...

Anon 23:04,
Who are you to commend that parents driving the kids around should not be whinning? Looks like you are yet a parent and i am glad. I hope you will be the last of your kind. Moron

Anonymous said...

The sincerity of the Government to control vehicle growth CAN EASILY AND EFFECTIVELY BE ACHIEVED BY BALLOTING(DRAWS) OF COEs with a reasonable administrative fee.

Method using price bidding is clearcut for profitting as the motive and purpose of vehicle population growth could be ACHIEVED and fulfilled WITHOUT HAVING TO RESORT TO THIS METHOD.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lucky

Just pass by elevated mrt station today..

Saw the gantry setting up liao

I guess with the coming price drop is a smoke screen..

There could be an increase very soon when the full gantries for all elevated stations are up.


FB said...

I believe the money invested for the ticketing equipment aka Ezlink, can hire enough bus conductors to last the the operating lifespan of these equipment more than 10 time over.

eastpaw said...

"The COE creates unhappiness by allocating car ownship to those who are wealthy enough to pay for it instead of the people who need it most."

My question for you: how would you operationalize level of need? I wish car ownership could be based on necessity rather than fiscal capacity too, but is it a realistic dream?

The one-car-per-family idea seems meritorious at first blush, but would that actually increase the number of cars on the road? It would be silly to give everyone a car but simultaneously allow gridlock. What are the current ownership numbers and how would they change if your idea were implemented?

Also, what about people with special needs? You mentioned the handicapped, but what about, say, autistics or unmarried salespeople? How about a nuclear family with multiple salespeople? And are there others who "need" cars who would not be readily identified? How would you fairly weight the need levels of the various groups or, worse, individuals?


"The primary goal of the public transport is to generate profits to pay dividends for its shareholders while meeting 'standards' laid out by the PTC."

This one I agree with. It still makes no sense to me that a public transport system should be profit-oriented, especially in a country with increasingly crowded roads. Does anyone have a reasonable explanation for this?

On the other hand, would people who don't need cars still buy them if our public transport system were improved? How much better does it need to get before car ownership control becomes unnecessary?

I doubt making our buses and trains a million times better would on its own completely solve the crowded road problem. Nevertheless, even if disconnected from this issue, it seems strange that a public necessary should be given over to the governance of money-minded corporations.

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