The Great Singapore Transport Overhaul

The thinking behind the new Singapore public transport fares could have come out of the airline industry.

It places a premium on direct bus and rail services just as we appreciate the convenience of direct flights. So if you want to go to your destination without changing buses or trains, you will have to pay more. Think of it as the price of convenience.

I always travel cattle class. So with Google Maps on the computer screen, and bus guide in hand, I was trying to figure out what will be my options when the fares go up  in July.


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Say, I am at Novena and want to go to Yishun. I could take bus service 851 or board a train from Novena MRT station. They go all the way to Yishun. But I will have to pay more for the convenience. To pay less, I will have to get off somewhere along the route and change buses. There is only one railway line from Novena to Yishun.

So where do I get off? Ang Mo Kio, Khatib? 

"What a cheapskate!" you may say. I will save only a cent or two.

But that's not the point.

Think of it as thinking out of the box, stepping out of the comfort zone, adapting to new conditions, which our leaders are forever urging us to do. It's  in line with the new mantra: "Cheaper, better, faster."

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan said the other day how an American-style liberal arts education could make us more entrepreneurial. No need for that, given what we can pick up on the streets now.

The Public Transport Council is doing us a service by raising transport fares. They are designed to make us more street-smart.

So where do I change buses on my way to Yishun?

My eyes are beginning to glaze over the small print in the bus guide. I think I will check it another day.

See, that's the difference between meritocrats, who exploit opportunities, and their antitheses, who have problems.

That is why they get to get around in fancy cars while those left behind wait at bus stops.

But they are cutting down the waiting time for us strap-hangers.

Now we can hop aboard the first bus that comes along instead of waiting for the one that will take us directly to our destination.

We can change buses and trains up to five times without extra charge. Five transfers on a single journey! The very prospect makes me shudder. Who in his right mind wants to change buses or trains five times?

That's the old way of thinking for which I will have to pay dearly under the new fare structure.

It's not just a fare hike but an extension of the lifelong learning process being encouraged by our leaders.

The new, so-called distance fares are pay-as-you-go distance education designed to make us think cheaper, better, faster.

It's counterintuitive, penalizing the traditional preference to travel by the most direct route — a radical move to re-engineer commuter habits.

Is that why I am feeling like a lab rat?

This is a bold, new experiment for which I was never asked to volunteer.

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