Saturday, June 23, 2007

Clobber 'em

I didn't know, until it was reported in Today, that SBSTransit Bus drivers gets "slapped, punched and even kicked". What is society coming to nowadays? Sure there may be occasion when you'd feel like figuratively 'clobbering' one or two of them, but to actually physically abuse them? That's going too far and is inexcusable.

Having said that, I must admit that I once got so angry with a bus that came so late that I shouted at the driver for being late. And it seems like a problem that SBSTransit can never solve in spite of the countless public feedback in addition to it being aired in Parliament. Often two of the same SMRT bus service would have passed before a single SBSTransit bus service would come by. This was what happened yesterday along Clementi Road. I had stepped up to the bus stop to wait for an SBSTransit bus service no. 151. That was about 6pm. The next 151 that came by (not the useless Express 151e ones) was 6.25pm - a full 25 minutes for a bus during rush hour. And that is assuming that a 151 just left when I reached the bus stop. In any case, I gave up and took the SMRT train - that's money into SMRT's pocket and money out of SBSTransit's. That is why, whenever SBSTransit wants to increase bus fares citing higher operating cost, I sniff at it. What they neglect to tell us is that they are losing ridership to SMRT because of their lousy service level.

But it appears that SBSTransit will NEVER improve the timeliness of its service unless one or more parties comes by, without government restriction, to compete with it head-on. It is not obvious that fares will increase. Competition tends to improve service while bringing the price down. And I don't believe for a moment that buses are late because of the traffic situation. Look, the bus is either late consistently, because jams happen consistently at the same time unless it is due to traffic accidents or unusual days, such as holidays, or they must be more or less on time, whether punctually or late. While bus lanes help, the primary problem with inconsistent service is because SBSTransit drivers are not trained enough to be punctual in setting off on time. Those who do so are the exceptions.

This is not surprising. Generally more people show up late than are either early or punctual. This applies whether we are talking about meetings, gatherings or wedding dinners. Why shouldn't it NOT happen with bus drivers? It would be a miracle if every SBSTransit bus driver can set off punctually, but then, that is where we need to resolve the problem. My sense is that, having lived and worked among them for well over 40 years, Singaporeans tend to have a very poor sense of timing. Before SBSTransit refutes me, I challenge it to conduct a 'mystery' audit at its bus interchanges on the frequency of bus drivers leaving late. They might learn a thing or two about improving its service level.

On the other hand, I have very little to complain about punctuality and availability of buses that are run by SMRT and, previously, by Trans Island Bus Service - TIBS. It would appear that SMRT bus drivers are exceptional. I wouldn't mind paying more for service that is more predictable.

Is it any coincidence that the Today report never mentioned SMRT bus drivers being wacked? Food for thought indeed.

Image source:

No comments :