Coincidence on Wheels

The past few days have been very interesting, primarily because of the uncanny coincidences which kept coming back at me up till just a few minutes ago, when I downloaded this file and updated by previous post. It may only be three instances, but I daresay that these three instances are three of the most interesting ones I’ve experienced to date. I’ll list them in order of when I experienced them, so here we go:

  • On Monday, Tuesday, and today, I took the same bus running under Service 184 from Ngee Ann Polytechnic to Clementi Station. I know this because, on all three days, the bus I sat on was a trailer bus with the plate number “TIB 854E”.
  • This morning, I took a train to Tampines to catch the shuttle bus to Ngee Ann Polytechnic. I know I took the exact same train home from Clementi Station in the evening because, on both trips, I was sitting in carriage number 1009.
  • The file I downloaded just now has the name “SBST_FullYear2007.pdf”. In Ngee Ann Polytechnic, the Storytelling & Storyboarding module is abbreviated as “SBST”.

I also experienced something interesting (very probably coincidental) when I took the train back home yesterday. At some point during the train ride, a flying insect the size of a capsule (as in the medicine) flew into the carriage I was sitting in and landed on quite a few people before it got flicked onto the floor. I decided to have a little fun with it by seeing if I could manipulate its movements through concentration and eye contact, and I was successful…to some extent. The insect moved in the opposite direction of where I wanted to manipulate it to go. For instance, when I tried to manipulate it to go left, it went right. When I wanted it to go backwards, it went forwards instead. I had fun for several minutes until a lady had the sense to stoop down and catch it with a piece of tissue paper.

Finally, notice that everything above is related to public transport. I’m now wondering if this is a retribution from a higher power because I used to think that tunnel wires were artistic…

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An Entirely Different Light

Last Thursday, when my lessons ended, I realised just how brand-loyal I was when I waited for (and eventually took) Bus Service 184 at the bus-stop opposite Ngee Ann Polytechnic for about twenty minutes. As you may already know, Service 184 is operated by Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT), one of the two companies in Singapore providing public transport, and better known for operating the North-South, East-West and Choa Chu Kang lines of the rail system in Singapore, even though they also run some bus services on the roads (such as Service 184) as well. The other company, SBS Transit, is the complete opposite, providing a majority of the public bus services in Singapore while also operating the North-East, Sengkang and Punggol lines of Singapore’s rail network.

Three bus services can transport people from Clementi MRT Station to Ngee Ann Polytechnic and vice-versa. Two of them, Service 52 and Service 154, are operated by SBS Transit, while the last one, Service 184, is operated by SMRT.

My second post on this blog lists my arguments as to why I would prefer to take Service 184 to Service 154. For those very same reasons, I would also prefer taking Service 184 to Service 52 as well.

On the Tuesday before that Thursday, I sat on a bus running under Service 52 with Vivian (we met on purpose, see, and I was running late) which was so poorly-ventilated that it would probably be cooler to walk on the roadside under direct sunlight. In short, the air-conditioning was broken, and there were no windows on the bus which could slide open. There and then, I was wondering what SBS Transit think they were doing, retrofitting non-air-conditioned buses and removing the sliding windows on these buses while they were at it (the bus we sat on was a retrofit). However, I was more concerned with making up for lost time, so I didn’t really give too much thought about it.

Then, on Thursday, I sat on a bus running under Service 184, and as usual, it was as cooling as a five-star hotel in there. The bus was also pretty empty as well, which was unusual considering that it was fifteen minutes into the evening rush hour. As I was sitting very comfortably on one of the seats near the front, I noted that many people who boarded the bus looked very grateful as they found and sat on an empty seat.

When I got off, I realised that I had just missed a train, and the next train was not supposed to be due for another nine minutes. I took it as is, and waited at the train platform for about three minutes…and, out of nowhere, a train pulled up which was heading for Pasir Ris, but it was completely empty! It took a while for me to guess what was going on: this train had just come out of the depot at Jurong East, and is very likely to be one of those fifty-plus trains which SMRT promised to add into the peak hour schedule. Usually, by the time a train pulls over at Clementi Station, there are no more seats left, but because this train was completely empty, save the driver, for the first time ever, I could be choosy about which seat I want to park myself on for the entire train journey to Tampines (you’ll know why I went there later; just keep reading). There were empty seats for three more stops, all the way to Commonwealth Station, and, just like what I saw on Service 184, many people who boarded the train at these stations showed expressions of gratefulness as they sat down. Even when the train passed through (and stopped) at every single station in the Central Business District (CBD), there was more than enough space for everyone boarding to stand or sit. On a normal train journey, everyone had to cram themselves in or wait for the next train.

After an hour, I got off at Tampines station – the stop before Pasir Ris – to deliver a packet of marshmallows I bought for that girl I know. When I arranged to meet her on Monday, she took the bus in the wrong direction, so I had to wait for one hour and fifteen minutes. Standing up. Not that I cared, since it was an accident and she was someone worth waiting for. This time, however, she took the bus in the correct direction, so I waited for only ten minutes. With the delivery done, I went home, but decided that, since I had a bit of time to kill, instead of taking the train from Tampines to Pasir Ris, then taking Bus Service 3 from there to the bus-stop at the foot of my estate, I chose to take Service 3 from Tampines Interchange itself. It may sound like a good idea…only that Service 3 is run by SBS Transit. As the bus left, I noticed that there were only two other buses running under the same service at the interchange bus-park. When I was younger, each bus service had at least five other buses running under the same service in the bus-park.

This time, the air-conditioning unit was perfectly fine, but the bus was crowded to the door at the third stop after leaving Tampines Interchange, and it stayed like that all the way back home. Before I did that, I always perceived that SBS Transit was not trying hard enough to provide a better public transport service, but this little ride, along with that ride on Bus Service 52 the day before, made me think otherwise. Perhaps it’s not because SBS Transit will not improve their service, but because they cannot. The more I thought about this possibility, the more I felt that it was the more likely reason, and, with this revelation, I completely forgot about getting all fed up with SBS Transit, and even started to sympathise with them a little. After reading Wikipedia, it’s not hard to see why.

Look at this…they’re making a net loss of $50 million per year. Compare with SMRT‘s net income of $39.5 million.

This, then, is probably why SBS Transit’s buses are poorly-ventilated occasionally, are infrequent and cannot compare to SMRT’s bus services. The thing about SMRT is that they are the largest rail operators in Singapore and they make huge profits from it. This is why they can afford to spend $5 million to improve their services. SBS Transit, on the other hand, cannot do anything as they are making a loss.

It’s a bombshell, I would say. Last Thursday, I had guessed that SBS Transit was making a loss…but I didn’t expect them to make losses of such proportions. This puts things in an entirely different light, if you ask me.

However, with a recent e-mail I got from someone who was kind enough to direct me to a real source, it seems that SBS Transit is making a net profit after all. This brings us back to square one: Why is it that SBS Transit cannot provide a service as good as SMRT despite having made a net profit?

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