NSmen given free rides for NS50

From ‘Make it easy for NSmen to take free rides’, 26 June 2017, ST Forum

(Elvis Zhang Haowei): As part of the NS50 celebrations this year, all individuals who have performed or are performing national service will be given free rides on public transport on Friday if they wear their uniforms.

While the intentions behind this initiative are certainly good, the execution on the day itself could present several difficulties. According to official instructions given by SMRT, NSmen who wish to take the LRT free should contact the station staff through the intercom beside the fare gantries, both for entering and exiting the station. At MRT stations, NSmen have to physically approach station staff, who will then open the gantry for them to pass through.

If participation is enthusiastic, the potential logistical nightmare is obvious. How will there be adequate staff at each station at any given point in time to deal with the many requests from NSmen? We will end up with frustrated uniformed men stuck behind long queues. 

Given the advent of the warmer months and the thickness of the uniforms, the frustration can only get worse.  Many NSmen may foresee the immense hassle and choose not to take part in the scheme.

It would then likely lead to lukewarm participation, throwing into doubt the sincerity behind the initiative. For effective execution, SMRT could consider reserving at least two gantries at each station for the NSmen’s entry and exit respectively; only a small handful of station staff will be needed to perform quick inspections and ensure that only properly attired individuals pass through the gantries.

Alternatively, SMRT could consider simply having a free travel day for everyone, which is rather appropriate in view of the reach of NS.

Even though not everyone in Singapore serves NS, the benefits are extended to everyone residing within the nation, regardless of gender or nationality.

Wearing a No.4 in public comes with a certain weight of responsibility. Muddy boots are a no-no, you can’t indulge in the basic vices such as chewing gum, smoke or drink alcohol. If a baby in the train is having cyanosis, bystanders look to you to save the day. If you take a seat and stare at your phone, some idiot will take a photo and complain about it on Facebook. God knows what would happen if you are found sitting down on the MRT floor – Someone may file a police report.

If you dress like a chow recruit on the train, passengers will instinctively run and hide, assuming that you stink after a day’s jungle training. In fear of contaminating the seats, you stand for the rest of your arduous journey from Tuas Link to goddamn Pasir Ris. Serving the nation forever alone.

Given the level of mental and physical suffering expected of a man in uniform, would anyone in their right mind don the No. 4 JUST for one day’s worth of free rides? Or pose as an imposter if they’re not actually NSmen? What’s the worst that could happen if you’re a non-NSman borrowing your buddy’s uniform for a free ride? You, *gasp* pay the fare, that’s what.

So yes, if you think about it, why reserve just one day (June 30) for NSmen to get unlimited free public transport if they wear uniform? Let’s salute our everyday heroes and give it to them FOC – or at least discounted rates – all day EVERY DAY, whether in uniform or in T-shirt and sandals. After all, they are practically volunteer train/bus marshals. If a fight breaks out between uncles over a priority seat, they’ll be there to intervene. If someone faints, they’ll attend to the victim. If some China national leaves a suspicious luggage near the toilet, they’ll tackle him to the ground with an anaconda chokehold. In fact, they are already talks of them being activated during a train breakdown to control crowds. I mean, you could stop paying THIS guy for his superhero services already.

Forget about reserved gantries. NS50 committee, if you’re serious about recognising our NSmen, please issue a special access EZlink cum credit card instead of crappy vouchers. Give the poor sod below something to look forward to after 2 shitty years of NS.


Drunk man arrested for kicking a bus in Serangoon Road

From ‘Man who kicked bus at Serangoon Road arrested’, 31 March 2014, article in CNA

Police arrested a 51-year-old man on Saturday after he tried to stop a bus and kicked it when the bus driver could not let him board. The video of the incident went viral after being uploaded online. Bus operator SBS Transit said that on March 29 at about 6pm, a Service 65 bus heading towards Tampines had pulled out of a bus stop in front of an Indian temple along Serangoon Road when a man rushed across the road from the right.

The man stood in front of the bus, obstructed its path and demanded to be allowed on board, despite the fact that the bus was no longer at the bus stop. According to SBS Transit, the bus was in fact already on the second lane of the road.

When the man’s request was refused, he proceeded to hit and kick the bus exterior and damaged the left rear mirror and the front wiper of the bus. Meanwhile, the bus captain called the Operations Control Centre, which then contacted the police for assistance.

A passer-by also came forward to assist by advising the man to get back on the pavement. The SBS Transit spokesperson added that as a result of the incident, the trip had to be disrupted for the 45 passengers on board. The man was subsequently taken away by police to assist with investigations. (According to ST, they ‘understand that the man was drunk’)

The video is pure entertainment and uniquely Singaporean from start to finish, with action, comedy and drama all rolled in one. Here are some of the best bits, with dialogue unsurpassed by anything Jack Neo’s Singlish script generator can muster.

0.25: ‘Eh brudder, brudder, don’t open lerh, I scared lerh’

0.28: ‘L*nj*ao la!’

1.25: THIS gesture


1.39: Drunk:OPEN!

          Driver: CANNOT! (LOL)

1.45: ‘Wah, Spiderman huh’?

1.49: ‘He’s marbuk (drunk) ah? Marbuk already’.

1.55: Drunk man swings on a windscreen wiper.


2.11: An Indian man steps in and takes a shove calmly, with a van passing close by. Thankfully, this being Little India, only 1 other man gets involved, though there were many bystanders watching the scene unfold.


2.37: This holy man on the extreme left, presumably from the temple nearby.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 6.37.16 PM

2.53: Indian hero saves the guy from being knocked down by a passing car. Even helps him up.

2.57: ‘Sibei Siao eh’

3.04: ‘His leg kena, his leg kena.’

Hilarity aside, the bus driver did the right thing not to be intimidated and allow the nuisance in, and luckily the man wasn’t strong enough to smash the glass door in, as a Chinese national did last year. Incidentally, that also happened around Little India, which has already been identified as a ‘powder keg’ ready to explode. Here’s what could happen if you’re drunk and on a bus:

If you’re drunk anywhere near a bus stop, you could fall asleep on the bus bay, get run over and killed instantly. Or you could lose your balance and fall before a bus, like what happened to trigger the Little India Riot last year. That’s not including he numerous DUI accidents and deaths as a result of intoxication.  All this despite recent curbs in alcohol licensing and tax increases, from a country that has banned adultery sites and chewing gum. It looks like alcohol and all its consequences, the laughable and fatal ones, are here to stay.

It’s a shame that this incident took place just days before the roll out of the enhanced security measures from the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Act. If it had occurred on April 1st (POATA implementation date), we’d have more to chuckle about, that being April Fools’ and all.


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.


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.

LTA should not try to be cool

From ‘LTA stickers a safety hazard’, 24 Dec 2012, ST Forum

(Albert Tye): THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) should not put up stickers in buses to remind commuters to move in (“LTA wants ‘move to back of bus’ message to stick”; last Tuesday).

First, the stickers pasted on the glass windows pose a safety hazard as they block the view, preventing passengers from being able to see danger approaching and reacting in time.

Second, cheeky commuters may twist the words, making light of the serious message it is supposed to transmit. The LTA should not try to be cool. Serious messages must be conveyed seriously and as directly as possible.

LTA wants you to wiggle in

LTA wants you to wiggle in

One of the stickers reads: ‘You’re such a DARLING. WIGGLE IN A TEENSIE WEENSIE BIT MORE OK?’ It’s one thing to praise a passenger before the desired action is even attained, it’s another to tease with gratuitous innuendo that sounds like it was written by the songwriter of the smash hit ‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’ (who’s probably already dead). It may be even harder to squeeze your way to the back because of the goosebumps afflicting everyone on the bus after reading this. Another sticker tells the moving passenger that ‘this trip ROCKS because of you!’ I’m on public transport, not a psychedelic MAGIC BUS. This is also 2012, not Wayne’s World.

Public service campaigns that rely on nerve-cringing politeness may be standard tactic of the Singapore Kindness Movement, but having the LTA dousing passengers with syrupy praise normally reserved for children or puppies is like a prison warden high-fiving his inmates for not trying to break out of their cells. We are spammed day and night by advertisers telling us we’ve WON! or it’s our LUCKY DAY!, which explains why most of us will turn a blind eye to such hollow ‘feel-good’ messaging. All the nice and cuddly words and fonts crafted by self-proclaimed marketing experts are nothing compared to the warmth of a smile or a thank you coming from a living, breathing person who has benefited from your random act of kindness, with or without stickers glaring in your face already telling you how ‘cool’ you are before you’ve done anything remotely useful for the human race.

It’s not the first time that we’ve been all sweet and funky about imbuing people with some basic manners. Phua Chu Kang once took a shot at it using rap as a medium, busting rhymes about a ‘happy journey’ in one moment then threatening with lines like ‘don’t you dare’ and  ‘excuse me while I give you a kick!’. Using a character like PCK to knock some sense into people who refuse to move is like throwing plush toys at a gatekeeper troll. Also, I don’t know how much damage you can incur kicking people while wearing yellow construction boots.

If PCK going ‘Hey you over there’ doesn’t work, you may try a softer cabaret approach, as the Dim Sum Dollies did in 2010 to get people to ‘move it, move it, move it inside’, with the hope that the use of multiple languages like Mandarin, Hokkien and Malay would get the message to sink into seniors’ heads. A Today writer in 2006 proposed a more practical design solution of having the exits at the back of the bus instead of the middle, but that would mean more people pushing against ‘traffic’ to alight from the front instead. In the 1980s, people were already suggesting taped messages to irritate people into moving in, the audio equivalent of a sheepdog. Some weary bus drivers have come up with more creative excuses for passengers, that ‘lai bin woo gui’ (Behind got ghost!). You could also apply the same saying to empty seats, beds, sofas or any unused space as consolation when no one really wants to be close to you.

The ghost won't let me move to the back

The ghost won’t let me move to the back

I think getting an assertive driver with the authority to drill his passengers into moving their butts and earn the awe, fear and respect of everyone else would be a more effective way of controlling behavior through embarrassment than some mildly chastising song-and-dance routine. Caretakers in museums, toilet cleaners, even some char kuay teow hawkers these days have become fiercer than most bus drivers I’ve met when it comes to controlling their customers. Bus CAPTAINS should start acting like one rather than letting office-dwelling campaigners waste everyone’s time and money on useless, unsustainable ‘gentle reminder’ campaigns. Otherwise they’re just workers driving a bus dropping people on and off quietly. That is until they gather illegally and stop work for days as part of some ‘industrial action’.

You don’t need big fancy stickers, come-hither slogans or an out-of-job Phua Chu Kang to make people behave on public transport. Simple, stern notices and a badass driver with a microphone would do just fine.

Alex Ong pushing an old lady off a bus

From ‘Man provokes Internet outrage after pushing elderly woman off bus’, 7 June 2012, article in ST

A man has come under fire from internet users after being captured in a video pushing an elderly woman off the bus along Upper Thomson Road. In a video uploaded by The New Paper on Wednesday, the young man, identified as Alex Ong, was seen in a heated argument with the woman before he pushed her at the bus exit.

Mr Ong said on his blog later that he was merely advising the woman that she should not press the bell at the last minute. He claimed that the woman shouted back at him and that in a fit of anger, he threatened the woman that she should ‘get off the bus’, or he would slap her.

However, he added that he had spoken to the police, and apologised to the woman, who he said accepted his apology. The man claimed that he was struggling with ‘psychological issues (obsessive-compulsive disorder, clinical depression, autism-spectrum disorder)’ and that he did not mean to hurt the woman.

Nobody has classified a ‘really bad temper’ as a disease yet ( or is there?), but if you have to pick a mental illness to justify rude and violent behavior you can’t go wrong with ‘clinical depression’, though the only victim that the most extreme depressives will attack is themselves and not old ladies on a bus. ‘Depression’ garners sympathy, more so than admitting ‘paranoiac schizophrenia’, because everyone can relate to it. Beat up taxi drivers in a fit of rage? Blame ‘clinical depression’ (and then appear on Star Awards a few months later). I’m just surprised bipolar disorder wasn’t evoked here. I’m no psychiatrist, but from the way angry people are citing mental disorders like plucking groceries off the shelf, it’s not surprising that they’ve become trivialised and regarded by many as lame excuses in Alex’s case.  What we do know is that he’s not a Tourette’s sufferer, from the surprising lack of profanity in his tirade.

Before the fancy names and acronyms, there was one Singlish term that embodies all 3 of Alex’s afflictions – ‘Siao!’.  But that catch-all term, too, has become politically incorrect, even if it’s first thing that comes to our minds before over-diagnosing it and sugar coating the parlance into ‘I can’t help myself, please symphatise’ mode. If he was indeed diagnosed with a trio of mental disorders, Alex Ong’s intolerance for people pressing the bell last minute may be a sign of his OCD, while the ‘autism spectrum disorder’ may explain his lack of empathy or patience for old people holding up the bus and breaking his ‘routine’. None of the above explains the scarf though – That’s just bad taste. It may be too early to judge if Alex is just being a total ill-bred bastard, notwithstanding the lengthy defence of his actions on Facebook, which suggests a high-functioning, marginally psychotic individual with a flair for ‘nobody understands me’ emo verse, blaming his environment for jolting a few screws loose up there. It could very well be a disease talking, or a reflection of what almost all of us in our most irrational moments believe when someone pisses us off – that ‘the other person started it first’, or that ‘the whole world is against me’. It’s called venting, and the whole blog universe is filled with angry, but perfectly normal, people with a bone to pick on everyone else except themselves. You could call it Alex’s ‘coping mechanism’, or ‘pacifier’. Or the trendy mental illness name dropping could be an elaborate, devious lie, in which case, all the more unforgiveable for giving autism-depression-all-colours-of-the-DSM-rainbow-spectrum  a bad name.

Some folks are speculating that this could be a ‘viral marketing’ hoax to promote the Kindness Movement, but even so, there’s no reason to bring mental disorders into the picture and risk stigmatisation of sufferers who genuinely need help. I wonder what ‘Mad Dog’ Glenn Ong has to say about this, after being slammed for his comments on why some people should be institutionalised, and here we have Facebookers telling someone that he deserves to be institutionalised for potentially causing grievous hurt.

Here’s a sample(no names revealed, I’m not Xiaxue)

I’ve seen the video. U shld be locked up and detained. No matter what sickness or whatever excuses u have, hurting an elderly woman who has caused u no harm at all is just so wrong.

if your soooooo mentally unstable and such a menace to the public i don’t think you should be allowed to roam free

Pushing people off buses shouldn’t be condoned of course, whether you’re a scoundrel or are prone to very severe bouts of crankiness, but recommending the strait-jacket in an asylum treatment is itself a pathological form of intolerance and meanness. Or maybe you guys just simply have a spectrum disorder of ‘nothing better to do’.

No MRT stations named after Indians

From ”Is there an MRT station named after a prominent Indian Singaporean?’, 5 Aug 2011, ST Forum

(MR DANNY CHUE):…Is there an MRT station here named after a prominent Indian Singaporean? At the start of the Japanese Occupation, Lim Boon Keng represented the Chinese community at the Syonan Memorial and Srish Chandra Goho, better known as S.C. Goho, represented the Indian community in Singapore in a ceremony in which all four main communities were represented. A road and an MRT station have been named after Lim, but none after Goho, which is a glaring omission. As well as a community leader as the president of the Singapore Indian Association, and a lawyer, Goho was an independent candidate who became one of the first of six elected legislative councillors in Singapore. He was also the legal adviser to the Singapore Traction Company’s Employees Union and had fought for the interests of bus employees. Perhaps a bus interchange should also be named after him.

There’s a Boon Keng and a Tan Kah Kee station, and others that sound like the names of prominent Chinese (Yio Chu Kang, Choa Chu Kang, Yew Tee), but no, there aren’t any MRT stations named after famous Indians. There are, however, references to Indians, like Dhoby Ghaut (washing place in Hindi) and, of course, Little India. Our Malay MRT stations include the two Bukits (Batok and Gombak), Tanjong Pagar (cape of stakes) and Telok Blangah (cooking pot bay), all names to remind us of our humble, rural origins or hilly places,  but not dignitaries of the respective races. When it comes to public buildings, although there’s the S Rajaratnam School of International studies at NTU, this is but one Indian- named building among a smattering of many others named after famous Chinese, public hospitals especially (Tan Tock Seng, Khoo Teck Puat, Ng Teng Fong).

S C Goho isn’t exactly a household name, but other than his involvement in politics and buses, he was somewhat of a saviour of fellow Indians during the War, setting up the Indian Passive Defence which put 25,000 Indians under its care (Mr S C Goho dies in Calcutta, 26 July 1948, ST). According to the complainant,  he doesn’t even have a road named after him, not to mention a bus interchange, the latter a consolation prize compared to having his heroic contributions to the nation commemorated in the form of an MRT station. Bus depots are constantly shifting locations, and are fast disappearing as distinct entities, being incorporated gradually into mega malls or engulfed by MRT stations themselves, which makes the writer’s suggestion as useful as naming this man after the largest cloud in the sky.

Even Indian poet and Nobel Prize for Literature winner Dr Rabindranath Tagore has a package of roads named after him: ‘Tagore Lane, Drive, Road and Industrial Avenue’, when he was really more of a global celebrity who popped by for a visit in the 1930s rather than a pioneer who got his hands dirty for Singapore, as was what I initially thought (Glimpses of Tagore’s paintings, 30 March 1984, ST). It’s like the modern equivalent of naming our roads after the Dalai Lama. As a lawyer it would probably make sense to name S C Goho after a Law school, instead of a amenity most commuters associate with long queues, noxious fumes, noisy chugging engines, blaring horns, smelly staff canteens and dustbins overflowing with cigarette butts. But first, to the history textbooks.

British buses are rattle-free

From ‘Rattled by rattling buses’, 24 Feb 2011, ST Forum online

(Ong Tiong Meng): LAST Thursday, I took SBS service 143 from UE Square to Scotts Road and back. Both the double-decker buses I was on rattled non-stop throughout the whole journey.

On Monday, I took service 64 from Sim Lim Square to UE Square. It was not a double-decker bus, but it rattled non-stop too.

I hope the Land Transport Authority monitors the bus services as the rattling reminds me of the old days when the buses were operated by private companies.

Perhaps we can learn from Britain where the buses are rattle-free and the drivers do not execute knee-jerk stops at bus stops to the detriment of senior citizens.

Senior citizens are probably more rattle-intolerant than the rest of us because any form of vigorous jiggling in their seats causes  their dentures to come loose and send a sound similar to a firing semiautomatic pistol resonating directly through their frail and hollow jawbones into their heads, so I guess they can be forgiven for making a fuss about  anything so disrupting as the incessant ticking of a clock,  the sound of newspapers fluttering under air-con or the swiping of fingers across a touchscreen. Of course it’s disappointing that our buses rattle, what good is a journey if it’s not as smooth and quiet as riding a cloud-mobile considering how much we pay for pubic transport, or that you can’t lean you head against the glass pane to grab some shut eye without suffering repetitive concussions? I mean, nobody should make us think that we’re sitting in a hunk of  assorted metal on wheels, and no one, elderly or not, deserves to have their daily commute turned into a mobile Stomp! concert. By all means, hire foreign bus drivers who don’t know what Ulu Pandan is even if they drive past the area everyday, let aunties hog empty seats with their market catch all they want, but please, for the love of God, let us have our rattle-less buses at least. This, amazingly for a country that boasts of first rate public transport infrastructure, has been going on for far too long, as seen in this letter below(16 Aug 1971, ST)