Wednesday, November 08, 2006

To sit on a potatoe is bliss

Public transport in Singapore is a political hot potatoe. Was in the past, still is today, and still waiting for a satisfactory resolution of the issues. How do we improve bus services? The waiting times and long journeys are oft cited ways of improving the situation. There is another, related, target that I think all public transport companies should strive for - no standing in buses.

Why should anyone have to stand in buses when the fare paid by everyone, seated or standing, is the same? It is not just a matter of posture, really. In a bus, when you stand, you need tremendous physical strength to stay standing. You need strength in your hands to hold the handle-bars (and reach too, to reach those bars), strength in your arms and legs to ensure that you keep steady as the bus turns left and right, and an even greater strength on the feet to avoid ending up floating in the air. Standing in a moving bus can indeed be a physically, if not mentally, challenging ordeal.

I suspect that if this mentality of having to make full use of all standing space in the bus persists, bus services will never improve and may be the root of many of the complaints about bus services. Buses will come at long and unpredictable intervals because the bus company supremos will view a half empty bus (i.e. all passengers seated, non standing) as sub-optimal. Do these supremos know how long it takes people to board a crowded bus and just as long to disembark? Those who take public buses day in day out, like me, will know. Those who don't can only live in their spreadsheet bliss of ignorance.

It will certainly cost more, but I think people won't mind paying more if the service is excellent. Current transport executives just cannot and would not understand this.

So if you want people to start taking the bus, give them a seat first. Its as simple as that.

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