Number one. Do not blame the workers. There was once a worker died on the tracks and we don’t want to relive that scar. What if they all protest, and it’s super pressurising. (Having worked in F&B, I sort of know how idiotic/demanding consumers can be)
Number two, really re-evaluate the nationwide constructions and roads. Right now, the people who stay in the West are working in the East and the people who stay in the East are working in the West. Imagine that happening in the early morning, there’s definitely gonna have some problems if trains break down… and it has already happened far too often this year.
I’m not a civil engineer and I don’t know the specs of how to fix a train fault. Tbh, we need civil engineers who are good in their field to actually get down and dirty. Your pay should be good, and your work should justify your pay. (Just like how we have high pay for politicians,… but perhaps their work does not justify the pay, imo. That’s another story for another day).
But what we can do is really re-analyse where people are coming from and going to. I’m sure there’s statistics on where people tap in and tap out. I’m sure there’s a start and end point where most people go to. And that’s where we’ll start.
What I mean is, improve our bus system. If our bus system is really reliable and on-time, people who drive cars don’t even need to drive cars. Perhaps the rich will still be able to buy lots of cars, but I haven’t think of a way to solve this issue of 1 individual-many cars sorta thing. It’s more of a “rich get richer, poor gets poorer”. If I’m able to solve it, can I patent my idea? (Well that’s why it’s hard to come up with a policy… and I’m not a politician)
Back to the bus system story. What if we pick two heavy traffic points e.g. Boon Lay and Jurong East. Jurong East is a place where diversions happen because we have NSL (red line). But people who take trains from Boon Lay do not always pick JE as their end points. So that’s where we should have the inter-regional buses. I kinda make it sound like Singapore is a huge country… well it is, because it takes super long to get from one end to another right?!
The idea is to have buses that leave once in 10-15 minutes, and that doesn’t even need to have a huge bus bay. What I was thinking was similar to the idea of NTU buses at Pioneer MRT. Sure, there can be a little congestion sometimes during peak hours, but that’s the point.
What are the buses’ routes? To be frank, we should target the full bus trip to be no more than 1.5hrs each, not including an individual’s trip to the starting point (so maximum, 2 hours journey) and the waiting time for the bus.
So based on commuter’s patterns (this one we have to ask SMRT how passengers pick their movements and destinations), let’s say we pick Jurong East, Bugis and Paya Lebar. The journey is mostly completed via PIE, and it might be very congested. But I can safely say that this journey can be completed within 1.5hrs. Of course, the stops should not be too near the train stations (because I noticed got so many jaywalkers/congestion), but near enough to the commuters’ final destination. It’s all about planning, really.
Another one… let’s pick a NSL one. I knew how horrible NSL can be because I studied in Anderson Junior College for… 5 days before I transferred to Jurong Junior College. Taking trains is frustrating for me, for someone who does not take trains since a very long time. (I have my own motorbike as well as working and studying in the West since I was born).
Choa Chu Kang, Lorong Chuan and Sengkang. These are really congested areas, especially on the BKE. Actually, we can make it Bukit Gombak (there’s a reason why, which I will mention later), Lorong Chuan and Sengkang, right? But like I said, let 1.5h be the maximum time taken from start to end. Furthermore, I think you can escape another jam on the BKE if it starts at Bukit Gombak. (just checked on Google maps, plugged it at 7AM). Honestly, I think that this is doable.
Plugging in RELIABLE real-time GPS on the buses as well as apps
Something that Singapore hasn’t achieved is having buses that are on-time i.e. PUNCTUAL. I know it’s hard and not many countries have achieved this feat considering the population density of the country. I honestly salute Japan because the public transportation is really on time. But that’s not an opportunity to diss Singapore’s public transportation system because this is a sign to really work on our weaknesses. That’s why we need reliable real-time GPS on buses and teach the bus drivers to pick routes based on traffic. That way, we can fully utilise roads to the max!! Of course, some routes, like the Gombak to Lorong Chuan, there’s only BKE, but the mini-mini roads… I’m sure you can choose those, y’know? Because we only have 3 stops – start, middle, end – the flexibility in routes is the highlight of this plan.
You NEED to TRAIN YOUR DRIVERS
I can’t stress the importance of this enough. I’m all ears for foreign workers because it costs lesser to hire them… But I’m gonna be frank, if they cannot be trained to suit local traffic then they are useless af. I’m not sure if I read this right, but Korean bus drivers have at a history of least 5 years in driving buses… because Korean traffic is SHITTY AF. Worse than Singapore! But they have that requirement, that means they have a taste of how traffic is like!! (tbh ah.. that’s my opinion, so don’t try and find fault with me if you feel different). I’m not saying Singaporeans cannot be trained either, but I would rather pay my drivers a higher rate if they go through training, GPS courses, safety courses and can actually.. drive and speak English (this is SO IMPORTANT!). We have quite a number of unemployed people. Give a nice package, I’m sure you have a whole lot of workforce to tap on. Plus, you can’t expect everyone to speak Mandarin, and I’m being honest here! Sure I learn Chinese because I’m trying to accommodate people who can’t speak English, but not everyone’s gonna be fine and dandy to do that. 😛
BOTTOM LINE: Yes, training is so so so important. The chairpersons should actually get to ground level and experience (without all the PR nonsense) how people travel on a daily basis to get a feel of how rushed and uncomfortable public transportation has become.
I take notice how NTU campus buses (the Green one) starts at Pioneer MRT. Take away NTU, and you’re left with boring Pioneer MRT. Only HDB residents dwell there, and the occasional jogger who wants to go to the Jurong West Stadium. There’s nothing much/significant, but if you put something important there, it will become a hub for something.
I circled those stations because I felt like those train stations are very heavily congested with people! But what if we bring that congestion elsewhere e.g. Chinese Garden, Gombak, Bedok North… I’m sure the congestion will become much much lesser 😛 Honestly, it is important to break this issue into regions rather than seeing the big picture. For example… the North Korean issue should be a regional issue. (ok that’s a long discourse but I hope you get what I mean).
Okay, as of 15 November 2017, this post is updated. I haven’t thought fully about this issue… ideas keep coming and going. I’d really love to hear your inputs on how to make our public transportation better! We are missing out on a lot of things, and suffering because of it. Just this morning, a train crashed into another, leaving 25 injured. My prof also came late to class by 45 minutes + half of the class still did not arrive. It’s crazy!!
There’s a limit to how many train lines we can add, and train maintenance can only happen when trains are not functioning i.e. at night. There’s only so much our engineers can do, but we can always make the roads utilised better. It’s a cycle, really, because if our buses are reliable, there will definitely be lesser cars and lesser train faults. Train faults happen because there’s not much time to assess the root of the problem. We still haven’t achieve the efficiency of the Japanese in terms of trains, but we can make our efficiency our own by really analysing how the population moves.
Also, make hitching a thing! I really like the idea of GrabHitch… I mean, some of my friends take grabhitch because of the unreliable train system and breakdowns do affect exams!
I will update this post as and when ideas come! Keep the comments coming aites!!