Sunday, August 2, 2009

Fast commitment

SBS Transit, the local public transport company that runs most of the country's bus services throughout the island nation, and SMRT, which runs a smaller fleet of buses, have committed to get its buses to set out from its interchanges every 10 minutes or less during peak hours. This is an improvement, so it says, on the 13 to 15 minute interval currently in place. Yeah, sure. Show me first before I go ga-ga over the proposed improvements. No use just saying it, doing it is the proof of the pudding, as the saying goes.

Why am I sceptical? Well, I have been taking public transport all my life, and I have always said, even today, that SBS Transit, in particular, has not got its act together schedule and punctuality-wise. No matter what has been done - bus-lanes, satellite tracking, automated ticketing, you name it, has never solved the gripes of most commuters - bus' arrival intervals. Mr Charles Chong, when speaking to some new immigrants in his Pasir-Punggol Constituency in June this year, remarked that they are thankful that buses come in under 30 minutes, unlike (spoilt?) Singaporeans, who complain even about a 15 minute delay. Well, Mr Chong probably doesn't take public transport. Otherwise he would know that a 30 minute interval means that the arriving bus will be so crowded already that few can board it - making the effective waiting time 1 hour - if the bus company has its way.

Yes, a couple of new buses will help, but ultimately, the promise is only as good as the ability of its 'bus captains' to keep to their schedule. A longer than usual toilet break can throw the most finely-tuned schedule into disarray. Has SBS Transit and SMRT scheduled some spare 'bus captains' instead of just increasing the fleet size? Until it realizes that people are the weakest link in the whole scheduling thing will true change for the better come about. And it doesn't need investments in more new buses or satellite links. Why make people pay for things that do not solve the problem?