On Singapore Public Transport in General

As some of you might already know, travelling long distances is tiring and fairly boring. I, for one, have to travel three-quarters the width of Singapore to get to Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), which is somewhere near Clementi, from my house, a nice little flat at the west end of Pasir Ris. I’ve done this many times even before I started attending my full-time diploma courses at the polytechnic. However, I do see some interesting things and note some interesting events here and there, and my trips to and from NP over the past week have been unusually eventful.

Let’s start with last Thursday, 10 April 2008, which was NP’s School of Film and Media Studies Freshman Orientation Day. When it ended, I took an MRT train back home. While the train called in at Outram Park station, I heard the train operator’s voice come over the intercom. He appeared to be addressing someone in particular, so I assumed that he was talking directly to someone who had pressed one of the train’s Emergency Call buttons located at the side of every train door. As we, the passengers, waited, I saw someone dressed in Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) uniform running past the carriage I was in. I took it to either be the train driver or one of the station staff. The details were never made clear to me, but considering that the train doors had difficulty closing, I guessed that someone had his or her foot stuck in the gap between the station platform and the train. In any case, that incident alone took five minutes or so. This is a huge amount of time lost considering that trains normally do not stay at station interchanges for more than forty-five seconds. The train driver was driving at a slightly higher speed for the rest of the journey up to Tampines station (fourteen stations; one hour’s travelling time)

On Monday, 14 April 2008, I took a train back to Pasir Ris after my lessons ended. Either because the train driver was told to do so, or because he just wanted to play with the laws of physics, he apparently killed the engines on purpose while the train was travelling from Tiong Bahru to Outram Park. This means that the train was only travelling through its own inertia, so when the train finally called in at Outram Park Interchange, it was travelling so slowly, you could almost count every single person on the platform.

On Wednesday, I met up with a secondary schoolmate of mine named Vivian. We arranged to meet up and go home together since our lessons ended at the same time. The weather was bad that day – not terrible to the extent of pissing with rain all over Singapore, but still pretty bad – and it was raining fairly heavily in the east. We don’t know what happened, but as the train we were sitting on approached Bedok station, it slowed down and stopped completely for several minutes. Eventually, it started moving again, but with excessive slowness and jerky movements. Then, the train driver’s voice came onto the intercom, telling us that the train we were on was terminating at Bedok! Obviously, something had gone wrong with the train and it had to be…err, emptied. Even with everyone, save the driver and a few SMRT staff, out, the train was literally limping out of the station, moving in a stop-go-stop motion every few seconds, and every other train behind it was delayed by several minutes.

Just a few hours ago, I took a train to NP. When I got off at Clementi Station and went to the bus-stop, I saw something very interesting.

It\'s an LTA ETA HUD!Another view of the ETA board.

I hope the pictures aren’t too small…

Praise the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for doing us a great service. It seems that they’ve put up a digital board at the eastbound bus-stop outside Clementi Station, listing the estimated time of arrival (ETA) of all the buses which call at the bus-stop. The first column (green numbers on the left side) are the individual bus services which call at the bus-stop. The next two columns indicate the ETA of the next two buses running in the service, listed in minutes. When a bus is due, the orange number in the middle column changes from a two-digit number to “Arr”, which I guess to mean “Arrived”.

Let’s take bus service 154 as an example. The next available bus running under this bus service arrives at the bus-stop in four minutes, while the next bus immediately behind that one arrives in thirty-eight minutes. The data provided in that board is inaccurate, however, and should not be taken as the gospel truth. Look at service 184. Although the ETA of the next bus was 11 minutes at the time I took the picture, the bus actually arrived two minutes later. When I boarded it, the board STILL showed that the next bus was scheduled to arrive in nine minutes!

…somehow, that “Arr” on the board reminds me of pirates…

Let me now focus on two specific bus services, 154 and 184. These, as far as I know, are the only two bus services which you can take from the eastbound bus-stop outside Clementi Station to NP. I do not understand why most people want to cram themselves into a bus running under service 154 instead of taking a bus running under service 184. I take both, and I would rather take 184 any day.

Let’s start with service 154. Buses which run under service 154 are either a single-floor bus or a double decker. The time interval in between each bus is about ten to fifteen minutes. Most buses which run under this service are very old, on the order of about ten to fifteen years’ old, so the dampeners on these buses are pretty worn out. In other words, the ride is as bumpy as hell!

Now let’s look at service 184. Buses running under this service are ALWAYS a two-carriage contraption which I dub a “trailer bus”. These buses are extremely long and aren’t exactly the newest public buses running, but they are as well-ventilated as a hotel room. Each of these buses also have a nice little heads-up display showing the name of the next bus-stop. You’d probably think that a twelve-meter, two carriage transport is as slow as a tortoise. You’re terribly mistaken. I can guarantee you that sitting on a bus running under service 184 is about as fun as being in a racecar. These things go like a bullet and stop like someone changing from fifth gear to first gear. What really stumps me is that, despite this, the ride isn’t nauseating at all! And guess what, the route of service 184 is shorter and cheaper than service 154. This afternoon, when I was at the bus-stop outside Clementi Station, a bus running under service 154 came first. Seeing everyone cramming themselves up that bus and knowing that a cheaper ride should be coming soon, I decided to give it a miss and wait for service 184. A couple of minutes after that bus left, a bus running under service 184 arrived, which I boarded (the same bus which should’ve arrived nine minutes later according to the LTA’s ETA board). And then, we were on our way. The bus driver drove like any other bus driver driving a bus under service 184 would. While the bus I was on pulled over at a bus-stop midway through the journey, a bus shot by. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was service 154! Shortly after, 184 left the bus-stop and played a game of catch with service 154, tailing it like how a tiger stalks its prey. Then, the opportunity to overtake came. How was it possible that a bus twelve metres long could accelerate past a bus half its length? It WAS possible…because 184 did it two stops before NP! I do not know why service 154 was travelling at about 20 km/h on a road with a speed limit of 60 km/h, but it certainly was travelling very slowly. When 184 arrived at NP, it was almost a full minute ahead of 154, and it took like…what, ten minutes, to travel about six kilometres of open road? That’s how fast a bus running under service 184 is. In addition, excluding any transfer rebates and assuming that you are paying the adult fare, a ride from Clementi Station to NP on service 154 costs $0.89. A ride from the same departure point to the same destination on service 184 costs $0.22 less. This may not sound like a lot, but if you take service 184 from Clementi to NP at least once a day, you could save a lot of money over the course of a year.

The only issue I have with service 184 so far is that, occasionally, the bus does travel slowly. Apart from that, I’ll say that I’m very satisfied with the bus service in general.

There’s something else I should’ve looked at back at Clementi Station, but no matter. Imagine my surprise when I saw that Top Gear was being sold at the small shop built at the bus-stop there…


1 Comment

  1. M_M (This is Wei Ning) said,

    25 April 2008 Friday at 5:49 PM

    HEHEHE that board is retarded. It’s never accurate and is pretty much useless. They should have funneled our tax money for better uses…. :/



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