Sunday 22 August 2010

Forget the movie, I want to bitch about the MRT

So I was taking my mother to the recent Phua Chu Kang movie “gala” premiere at VivoCity.

Unless she leads a secret double life as Angelina Jolie, I believe it was the first movie premiere she had ever attended.

I thought she would be excited about meeting the actors like PCK star Gurmit Singh... okay, maybe not Gurmit Singh, but being a Channel 8 viewer, she had once mentioned that she thought Henry Thia was funny.

But, noooooo, all she did was whined about how she now has to pay more to ride the MRT.

I couldn’t believe it. My movie premiere was being upstaged by the new distance-based fare system.

Of course, my mother isn’t the only one unhappy with the new fare system implemented last month.

Enough people complained that it was brought up last week in Parliament where Transport Minister Raymond Lim defended the distance-based fares by citing studies by the Public Transport Council (PTC), but conceded that some people, particularly senior citizens like my mother, have to pay more.

It didn’t help that the train operators have admitted to numerous instances where commuters were overcharged by mistake. I think the people running our public transport system have a serious credibility problem.

Year after year, the PTC releases a report about how the quality of our public bus services is getting better.

PTC members have obviously never waited 40 minutes for a bus in the rain before. And when the bus finally comes, you can’t get on it because it’s packed tighter than a sausage filled with ground human meat. Mmm ... sausage.

Every few years, there will be a bus, train or taxi fare increase, and the PTC will be there to justify those increases.

At what point did the PTC become an apologist for the transport companies rather than an advocate for commuters?

I would go so far to say that more people hate the new fare system than the PCK movie.

You can always choose not to watch the PCK movie (like I have), but many people like my mother and me) can’t afford not to take public transport.

But of course, it’s unlikely we will return to the old fare system despite the criticisms. As in the previous fare increases, the storm will eventually blow over and we will learn to live with the new fares.

That is, until the next time they change the fares again and the cycle starts all over.

By then, I can take my mother to the premiere of Police & Thief The Movie.

- Published in The New Paper, 22 August 2010