Friday, 21 June 2013

Public Transport Then and Now - Buses and MRT

Bus services were not so frequent in the 1980s.  On top of that, all buses were non air-conditioned.  On hot days, when the buses stopped for passengers to board and alight, and at traffic lights, the heat could be unbearable if there was no wind.  On rainy days, it was even worse! If we closed all the windows in the bus, it would be very warm and stuffy especially if the bus was very crowded. If we did not close the windows, you would get rain splashing into the bus.

In the past, we had to bring enough coins to take a bus.  For students, we had the student bus card to enjoy concessionary bus fare. We could also purchase the bus stamp from the bus company at $12 or $15  to enjoy unlimited rides for that month. I used to think how nice it could be if we could use the bus card even as adults so that we do not need to bring so many coins. My friend said that was not possible.

When the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) started operation in 1987, we started to use a fare card when taking the MRT.  They also came up with a stored value fare card that could be used on MRT trains. Later on, SBS and Trans Island added the machines so that we could use the stored value fare card on the buses. This fare card system enabled passengers to enjoy some rebates when switching between MRT and buses or switching between a few buses during a journey. Passengers just need to slot the card into the ticket machine, press the correct bus fare amount and a bus ticket would come out. 

Now, the stored value fare card is replaced by the ez-link card which is also a cash card. We just need to tap on the machine when boarding the bus and tap another time when alighting.  Then the correct bus fare will be deducted from the ez-link card. No bus ticket will be issued. We no longer have to remember the correct bus fare to various places.  We no longer have to worry about paying less than the correct amount of bus fare and get penalised by the bus ticket inspector. Most importantly, we no longer need to carry many coins to take buses.  This system turned out even better than what I could have hoped for. The only thing we need to remember, of course, is to top up the ez-link card when it is low in value.  Passengers can still pay for their bus fare by using coins and dollar notes if they forget to bring the ez-link card or when their ez-link card have negative value. 

Students are now issued a student smart card which acts as an ez-link card to enjoy concessionary bus fare.  This smart card and ez-link card can also be used for admission into public swimming pools etc.

Now, all the public buses are air-conditioned. Bus services are more frequent. Of course during peak hours, there will still be delays due to traffic conditions. There are now more MRT routes to many parts of Singapore. Public buses and MRTs are still very crowded during peak hours. That is one problem that nobody has been able to fully resolve.

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