Friday 27 May 2011

'Smooth'? Public transport not so picture-perfect

A minister taking the bus?

Maybe that crazy Harold Camping was right – the world has ended.

Maybe we’re now living in a post-apocalyptic alternate universe where cats chase dogs, “family man” footballer Ryan Giggs sleeps with strippers and millionaire Cabinet members have figured out how to use the ez-link card.

That's the only way I can explain the photo of new Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew reading a newspaper on a public bus that surfaced last week.

On the front page of the paper he was reading was a story related to the review of ministers’ salaries. The joke was that Mr Lui was switching to public transport in anticipation of a paycut.

Regarding the photo, Mr Lui wrote on his Facebook page: “The journey was smooth at that time of the morning.”

“Smooth” is how I would describe my baby-soft skin, that song by Santana featuring the lead singer from Matchbox 20 and a nice cold smoothie blending the two.

But a ride on a public bus? Unlikely.

My Facebook comment would more likely be: “Why do people insist on standing near the exits when they’re not alighting and block the way of alighting passengers? Because they’re inconsiderate idiots!”

I might or might not use the word “horrified” which was how MP Lim Biow Chuan described how he felt about waiting an hour for a bus last week.

At least Mr Lim’s experience more accurately reflects the waking nightmare that hundreds of thousands of commuters have to endure everyday.

Which is more than can be said of the Public Transport Council (PTC) review released last month (just before the election), which declared that both SBS Transit and SMRT Buses had met all of PTC’s Quality of Service standards. A perfect score.

Since then, Mr Raymond Lim has been replaced as Transport Minister by Mr Lui.

Perhaps PTC should raise its standards.


But what will most likely be raised later this year are the bus and train fares.

In January, PTC announced that it “has decided to defer this year’s fare review exercise to the fourth quarter of 2011 to coincide” with the opening of two more phases of the Circle Line.

“Fare review exercise” is , of course, code for fare hike – unless you expect the transport companies to look at the current fare prices and say: “Hey, we’ve made enough money for our stockholders. Let’s lower the fares as a surprise present for the public we serve.”


Here’s a suggestion: Instead of raising fares, do away with those annoying and futile commuter courtesy campaigns starring Dim Sum Dollies, Phua Chu Kang or other local entertainers.

I don’t want Michelle Chong as Barbarella urging me to move inside in her mock SPG accent anytime in the near future.

Take the budget for that and spend it on buying more buses and trains. If the sum is not enough, use the money that would be saved from the ministers’ paycut – sorry, I mean “salary review”.

Then maybe one day, all our bus journeys will be as “smooth” as Mr Lui’s.


- Unpublished

UPDATE: Lui says more buses a-comin'