Passenger boarding SMRT bus 190 only after 13 tries

From ‘Video of commuters who boarded SMRT after 13 tries goes viral’, 19 Oct 2013, article by Lee Jian Xuan, ST

A video filmed by a frustrated passenger who claimed she was unable to board SMRT bus service 190 after 13 tries has gone viral online. The edited eight-minute footage has drawn more than 16,000 views in four days. Most of the buses were packed, while some did not stop. The video showed commuters trying to board via the back entrance as the front was too crowded.

YouTube user Galaxnite, who uploaded the video, said that she and other passengers had tried to board at Thong Teck Building near Scotts Road, on the evening of Oct 4. She told The Straits Times that she takes bus service 190 regularly to get from her home in Choa Chu Kang to her workplace in town.

“The incident tired me out physically and mentally,” said the commuter, who identified herself as a 29-year-old graphic designer.

…SMRT said on its Facebook page last night that it had been alerted to the overcrowding on bus service 190. The transport operator noted that its buses were crowded, especially on Friday evenings, and said that it would continue to monitor the situation closely.

Last year, SMRT were penalised for allowing bus 925 to exceed the ceiling capacity of 95% during peak hours. Like 190, it also served Choa Chu Kang residents. The excuse given by SMRT then was that they had faced a shortage of drivers during the December period. The fine? $100. Just for comparison, SMRT declared in a recent report that fare revenue rose by 2% to $213.15 million for Q1 this year. Which brings me to question the effectiveness of punitive fines since SMRT directly profits from trains and buses being packed to the brim and can afford the occasional pittance because commuters have NO other choice. Someone needs to highlight that overcrowded transport isn’t as trivial as the fines make it out to be. In the video, the bus nearly drives off with someone’s arm caught between the backdoors. The articulated bus design is supposed to cater to the disabled, and not disable people.

Loading of buses falls under the category of ‘Operating Performance Standards‘ according to the Public Transport Council (PTC) website. I’m not sure how one determines if a bus is 95% full, but it’s unlikely to be the case for some of the 13 buses since some passengers in the back refused to budge. A bus could be HALF full and you would still be unable to board because of these people, the bus driver not doing his job, or on rare occasion if there’s a bloody python in the back of the vehicle.

PTC and SMRT could blame their customers, the driver or the Singapore Kindness Movement for the dead space, but such responses wouldn’t be so outright ridiculous if LTA hadn’t run a survey recently that tells the world how delightfully gracious passengers we are. For example, 96% of us say we would move in for others to board. The key word here, of course, is ‘SAY’, like how the authorities SAY they will monitor the situation CLOSELY, only for fares to rise again despite our complaints of poor service. More money for the swear-jar budget then. A more meaningful survey should have investigators stationed at busy bus stops and OBSERVING, not polling people just to get the answer they are SUPPOSED to give anyway.

lta_poster_3_21-08-2013

Under the PTC’s category of Safety, one finds ‘Accident rate’ (less than 0.75 per 100,000 bus km per month), and it’s puzzling why a bus exceeding 95% of its capacity i.e overloaded isn’t also classified as a safety hazard here. Why is ‘loading’ a separate ‘deliverable’ from ‘safety’, and if a bus that exceeds its specifications for safe carriage compromises passenger lives, how do we explain the measly $100 fine? If bus 190 didn’t exceed the 95%, arrived at the right intervals, but didn’t do enough to pack the sardines in, would SMRT even be punished in this case?

Kudos to Galaxnite for sacrificing 2 hours of her time to capture a disappointing snapshot of the state of public transport and commuter behaviour today. Whatever the intentions of her filming consecutive buses, you can’t deny its impact. I probably would have given up after missing the fourth bus, but I’d also have to weigh the tricky odds of not being able to catch a cab (all pre-booked!), taking the MRT (only for it to suffer a train delay due to a track fault!) or switching to bicycle (get knocked down by heavy vehicle!). Considering all the above, a good bet to getting home in one piece and before daybreak would be to trek 14.2 km for 3 hours from Scotts Road to Choa Chu Kang via Bukit Timah Road. If you’re a brisk walker you could probably reach home by the time the 15th bus comes around.

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