Public transport

Bus and train ridership hits new high

LRT patronage up 10.9% and MRT up 4.2%; bus passenger trips rise 3.7%; cab trips down

Bus and rail ridership rose by 4.1 per cent last year to hit a daily average of 6.9 million, a new record and the 11th consecutive annual rise since 2005.

According to statistics from the Land Transport Authority (LTA), LRT patronage led the growth, increasing by 10.9 per cent to 152,000 passenger trips per day. This was followed by MRT trips, which climbed 4.2 per cent to 2.9 million.

Together, rail ridership grew 4.6 per cent to cross the three million mark for the first time - more than double the ridership a decade ago.

Bus passenger trips grew by 3.7 per cent to 3.9 million.

The public transport ridership growth has come on the back of a growing population and more prohibitive car prices.

It has also been driven by more buses, trains and to a smaller extent, the opening of Downtown Line 2 in late December.

The chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, said: "I'm not surprised by the increase. I think it's quite apparent that there's been an increase in supply of buses and trains."

As at the end of last year, more than three quarters of a planned tax-funded fleet of 1,000 public buses have been put on the road.

Rolled out in 2012, the Bus Service Enhancement Programme was a response to burgeoning demand from a population spike that the two publicly listed transport companies, SBS Transit and SMRT, were not able to cope with on their own.

On the rail side, 12 new trains were injected into the Circle Line to grow the fleet to 52. Four were added to the North East Line's fleet of 25. More new trains are on the way for the various MRT lines.

Meanwhile, taxis, which are sometimes viewed as a cross between private and public transport, suffered a dip in ridership last year. According to the LTA, average daily cab trips fell by 1 per cent to 1.01 million.

ComfortDelGro spokesman Tammy Tan said: "As the rail network expands, it is not surprising that overall taxi ridership will dip."

But veteran cabby Tony Pang, 66, said: "It's more like a 30 per cent drop if you look at the period from last September till now."

Mr Pang blamed the situation on "third party apps" such as Uber and Grab. These companies have been tying up with rental car operators and suppliers to put out thousands of private cars catering to on-call taxi services.

According to LTA statistics, the rental car population grew by more than 50 per cent to 29,369 last year, which industry watchers attribute largely to the growing popularity of such services.

On that score, people are hailing more cabs - just not necessarily from the traditional operators, nor on the street.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'Bus and train ridership hits new high'. Print Edition | Subscribe