Monday, October 4, 2010

Showing signs of stress

A picture of the Singapore Skyline, early in t...Image via WikipediaFor one, I myself will agree to some inconsistency in the MRT line: authorities do say that they have increased the frequency of trains, resulting in shorter waiting time: 5mins to  2/3mins. My experience indicates a repugnance: when the waiting time is short, say 2/3mins, train usually stop in the middle of the track from that station to the next. And even when the interval lengthens to 5/6mins, train still stops in the middle of the track.


1. Short interval means previous train haven't cleared out of the next station, so next train has to wait, unfortunately, in the middle of the track. In my experience, that will be at least 1 stop, to as many as 3 stops, resulting to about 3/4mins. Total: 3mins + 4mins = 7mins.

2. Long interval means a train has terminated at the next station, and is reverted to travel back. So to give time for the other train to make the switch, your train has to stop mid-track. give it 3mins, and your total time becomes 8mins (6mins + 3mins = 9mins).

Then you say, which one is the lesser evil?

Tabitha Wong

The public transport system needs to improve

Friends from Singapore always complain about how crowded Hong Kong is compared to back home. Put them in an MTR station during rush hour and they look like deer caught in the headlights as people jostle them left, right and centre.

Crowded? As I type now, I am looking over the sea to the mountains and there is no one in sight. In the town, only one stray dog has braved the afternoon heat to venture out.

Former Housing and Development Board and Urban Redevelopment Authority chief executive Liu Thai Ker recently said Singapore could easily support up to 7.5 million people.

He joked that, if needed, there were still the islands of Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong.

Well, he must certainly be joking.

Consider the figures: Hong Kong is already considered one of the most densely-populated areas in the world, with 7 million people squeezed into about 1,100 km of land. The population density as at the middle of last year was 6,480 persons per sq km.

Everyone talks about how crowded Hong Kong is but, believe it or not, there are more people fighting for elbow space in Singapore.

The Lion City, with a land area of 710.3 sq km, now has a population of 5.08 million. Last year's Government statistics show that Singapore has a population density of 7,022 people per sq km.

And already the transportation system is showing signs of strain.

The last time I was in Singapore, I noticed there were signs proudly displayed saying that the frequency of MRT trains during peak periods was 3.5 minutes.

Three-and-a-half minutes? That's three-and-a-half times less frequent than MTR trains in Hong Kong.

Here, trains arrive every minute during peak hour - you don't have to rush to squeeze into the doors because you know there's one coming soon. Sometimes, one train has to wait at one station because the one in front hasn't even had time to leave the other station.

The trains are longer too: Trains on the MTR Island Line all have eight compartments, compared to only six on MRT's East-West and North-South lines.

No wonder the MTR trains can move an average 3.7 million passengers daily.

Singapore's Land Transport Authority has stated that, by 2012, there will be 22 new trains plying the North-South and East-West line. So in two years' time, it announced, waiting time will be reduced to between 2 and 3 minutes, from the current 2.5 and 4.5 minutes.

Good news, but even so, that is still twice as slow as the MTR train system.

For Singapore to house up to 7.5 million comfortably, people must spread out - and maybe repopulate Pulau Ubin.
Not everyone can work from home. In order to get people to move out of the city centre, there has to be great public transport.

This is where Hong Kong is one up on Singapore. Not only does it have faster trains, it also has a wide-variety of public transport: Train, bus, taxi, tram, ferry, even helicopter.

My daily commute, for example, involves a bus, a ferry and a train. The greater variety of choices enables me to live far from the madding crowd but still get to work on time.

The ferries don't have to contend with rush-hour traffic so there's no need to make allowance for traffic jams or road repairs.

The MRT may be running to capacity but a lot more can be done to improve Singapore's transportation system.
River taxis may be a solution.

The Singapore River goes from the Central Business District up to River Valley, offering an alternative route for after-hours drinks.

The Kallang River has an even better course, from the CBD all the way to the heartlands of Toa Payoh, Bishan and Ang Mo Kio - almost duplicating the route of the frequently jammed CTE.

So if there were a river taxi service, people might be able to step off a pier at, say, Ang Mo Kio Ave 2, and get to their office in One Marina Boulevard without the stress of rush-hour traffic or overcrowded trains.

The boats will have to be fast and air-conditioned, of course. So those lovely designer suits do not get creased.

Tabitha Wang wonders if it will be possible to take a river taxi down Orchard Road during the monsoon season.

From TODAY, Voices - Friday, 17-Sep-2010:
Showing signs of stress

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