Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew has told Singaporeans that regular temporary closures of the metro system will be the new norm. Shutdowns will occur on weekends for maintenance and reconstruction.
As Singapore’s metro system ages, such work will become inescapable.
Lui has promised that careful planning will go into these planned shutdowns, yet something tells me they are going to go about it with tunnel vision (double entendre intended). They are likely to focus mainly on providing signs and bridging shuttle bus services to move passengers through the disrupted sections. Your typical Sunday outing will soon look like this:
You will get annoyed. Nobody likes to make a five-segment journey, even if you have been notified in advance.
Continue reading ‘Time to demote some gods from the altar’
Published 27 February 2012
urbanscape and environment
This is a follow-up article to PAP government in messy affair with new sweetheart. The earlier article focussed on the government’s muddleheadedness and the mess that it is creating in terms of accountability. In this note, I wish to outline a better way of subsidising bus transport.
I accept that the “user pays” dogma is incompatible with our public transport objectives. This is a criticism I have of the government’s starting philosophy, which they themselves now recognise as unable to meet public objectives. Nonetheless, they do not want to disown their earlier philosophy, so they seem intent on keeping the structures they created under the “user pays” scheme — the sectional monopolies and the two government-linked “private” companies, each with split objectives, not quite sure whether they should focus on rail or bus — while showering them with subsidies. These would be sweetheart deals opaque to public scrutiny; creating the worst of possible outcomes.
Continue reading ‘How to subsidise buses’
My earlier article on the proposed S$1.1 billion give-away to SMRT and SBS Transit, our two public bus companies, was, truth be told, rather rambling. I was trying to cover too much ground. A comment by Yuen has motivated me to try to re-state my case, this time in a more succinct way. Further down, I will provide a more direct response to his comment.
In six points, my thoughts on this matter are:
Continue reading ‘The S$1.1 billion question — let me say it again’
For decades, the government claimed to be faithfully wed to Self-reliance. Users must pay the full cost of services, otherwise Singapore will slide into the purgatory called a “welfare state”. At the same time, corporations charged with delivering those services must ensure they run a lean outfit, and what better way to ensure that than to subject them to the discipline of the market, the thinking went.
And so bus services were corporatised (“privatised” they call it — though how accurate that term is, we shall see) and told to sink or swim on their own.
Now rumours abound that the government has left the marital bed, and is having an affair with a new sweetheart called Subsidies.
Continue reading ‘PAP government in messy affair with new sweetheart’
The cynic will say, “See, I knew the government would ram it through, regardless of public opinion.”
Saturday’s Straits Times carried the news that the go-ahead has been given for building a day-care centre for the elderly within the void decks of Blocks 860 and 861 in Woodlands (Straits Times, 11 Feb 2012: Plans for Woodlands eldercare centre to proceed, by Janice Tai). Two weeks ago, news had erupted that residents in the area vociferously objected to the plan. Reported objections ranged from the loss of communal space, to fears of traffic congestion and the inauspiciousness of having the old and dying in the area.
Continue reading ‘Government fights lonely battle for eldercare centres’
The Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, bemoaning Singaporeans’ anti-social littering habits is “currently exploring some technological solutions,” reported the Straits Times, 17 January 2012.
I wonder what they’re thinking of. Perhaps more closed-circuit cameras located all over the city? Perhaps extensive deployment of face-recognition software?
But why resort to such costly solutions — beside the question of intrusiveness — when a simpler one is available?
Continue reading ‘Keep Clean campaign to return’
Clementi is the worst place to start from when going downtown, as I recall from a news story a month or two ago. Tampines also figured in the hellish-commute stakes. A figure of 20 minutes was mentioned, increasing to a little over 30 minutes at peak hour, if my recollection’s any good.
The times sounded too good to be true — 30 minutes is hell? – and I did a double-take. Only on re-reading the article did I realise it was about driving. The study did not refer to the proletariat that had to rely on public transport.
Continue reading ‘Share with public all data on bus service standards’
Published 20 December 2011
urbanscape and environment
I think there should be two committees of inquiry rather than one. The question of technical lapses that led to the massive train breakdowns last Thursday and Saturday are completely separate from that of crisis management. Committees of inquiry, while usually led by a judge, need to have enough experts in the necessary fields to be effective. If we try to give a single committee a double-headed mandate, it would mean having fewer technical experts on it in order to accommodate crisis management experts. Either that, or make the committee unwieldingly large.
Continue reading ‘Train breakdown calls for two committees of inquiry, not one’
The chief talking point this weekend would certainly be the breakdowns in our metro network. There were three this week.
First, the Circle Line came to a halt between 06:00h and 06:40h Wednesday morning, with partial service for the next four to five hours. Full service resumed only around 11:00h. Many people were late for work; huge crowds built up at various stations.
Then the North-South Line seized up at 18:56h on Thursday evening, with even bigger crowds affected. Four trains stalled completely, and in the train stuck near Dhoby Ghaut station, about a thousand commuters were stranded in dark, warm and stuffy carriages for about 40 minutes before they were led down to the tracks to walk all the way to the station through the tunnel. About the half the North-South Line, from Marina Bay Station to Braddell, was down for hours; full service did not resume until the next morning.
Continue reading ‘Breakdowns and breaking points’
Published 24 November 2011
urbanscape and environment
I count myself lucky that I usually do not need to go downtown during the early morning rush. However, thrice in the last two weeks, I had an early appointment. On one day, it was raining, on the other two days, the sun was out and I didn’t want to break into a sweat walking to the metro station. So I waited for the feeder bus.
The rest of the story does not need much telling. Suffice it to say, on all three mornings, I quietly grumbled to myself: What’s the point of boasting about trains running at 2-minute intervals if feeder buses take 10 - 15 minutes to arrive?
Continue reading ‘Additional public transport capacity: hard to estimate benefit’