Sunday, May 19, 2013


Singapore is a very small city-state with a land area of approximately 650 square km.  Being a small city-state with high population density, Singapore has one of the best public transports in the world. Due to scarcity of land, the expansion of road would not suffice the mobility demands for the increasing affluent and urban population. Hence Singapore government has always considered public transportation as a priority mode of transportation. Along with developing public transportation infrastructure Singapore government implemented some of the key actions such as road pricing and vehicle quota system (VQS). The aim behind these actions is to promote public transportation among people. VQS controls the vehicle population growth on the roads. Multiple taxes and charges are levied for owing and driving a vehicle that make cost of ownership too high. These policies have helped to divert the commuters to public transportation. In this blog we will discuss the public transportation options in Singapore and the goals that have set up by the Singapore government to make existing public transportation more efficient.
Public transport in Singapore is mainly land-based.  This includes bus, MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), Light Rail Transit (LRT) and taxi. There are two operator companies SMRT (Singapore Mass Rapid Transit) and SBS (Singapore Bus Services) that run the operation and maintenance (O&M) of the rail and bus fleet. There are seven private Taxi operators in Singapore with a total of more than 25,000 taxis. Most of these companies have to meet the LTA’s (Land Transport Authority ) quality of service standards to receive their Taxi Operator License (TOL). Developing infrastructure for transportation is responsibility of the Singapore government and thus operator companies concentrate on the O&M of the fleet, maintaining their profit with affordable public service. 

MRT is a popular public transportation mode. As per LTA (2013) everyday over 2 million people travel by MRT. Presently MRT covers a network of 142 stations and is still in the phase of expansion.  Operation of MRT began in 1987. The ridership of Singaporeans on MRT has increased ten fold since 1987. Today more than 60% of Singaporeans use MRT as a mode of transport to satisfy their daily needs. MRT runs on the electricity, is faster way of transport away from the traffic congestion. In 1999 Light Rail Transit (LRT) began serving as a feeder mode to MRT, bus and taxi. LRT is smaller in size than MRT and leads a driverless automatic train. Majority of LRT run through the residential areas. Over the years LTA has implemented various decisions to make public transit better and use of light rail is one of them. Especially running through residential areas, LRT not only serves as a feeder mode to the MRT or bus stations but can also help in satisfying first and last mile connectivity. As LRT runs through the residential areas, it is equipped with mist boosted window glasses i.e. whenever LRT runs through dense residential areas, the windows of the rail become opaque to protect the privacy of the people. Recently North-East line began rail service which is fully automated and underground covering 20 kilometers span serving 40 stations. North-East line is Asia’s first fully automated underground operated facility.

The bus and taxi complement rail transit and provide another mode of travel. Although expanding road infrastructure is not feasible considering limited land area, to meet the expected travel demand, making infrastructure better by technological advancement is considered to make bus transport faster. This includes use of EZ cards over magnetic cards for boarding in the bus. EZ cards can be used in the trains as well. Boarding time has reduced by half since the use of EZ cards. This has contributed in making boarding and overall travel faster. Apart from EZ cards in 2005 LAT launched full day bus lane scheme which will lead to increased bus speed.  To keep bus transport cheap and affordable buses are exempted from paying ERP (Electronic Road Pricing) charges, which can be higher if the roads are congested.

Singapore government has been proactive and responsible in planning policies towards public transportation. The transformation that bus and trains have gone through over the years is admirable. Public transit demands have changed over the years, initially struggling with quality and now with the increasing population demand. In the Master Plan (2009) Singapore has set up very ambitious goals for future. By 2020 LTA expects 8 out of 10 Singaporeans to live within 10 minutes walking distance of a MRT or bus station. As pet LTA more emphasis is given on improving and expanding rail lines to get more people off the road and in the trains. By 2020 the rail coverage is expected to double in size as that of today.

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