More S'pore residents take trains and buses to work, fewer drive to the office: Population census

According to the census, 57.7 per cent of employed residents here took combinations of the bus, MRT or LRT to work in 2020. ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN

SINGAPORE - More people here are taking trains and buses to commute to work while fewer people are driving to the office compared with a decade ago.

At the same time, the proportion of residents who take only taxis and private-hire cars to work has risen over the same period, population census data released on Friday (June 18) showed.

And while there has been increased connectivity, those who take the bus or train took longer to get to work.

The census - conducted once every 10 years - surveyed 150,000 households in 2020. It focuses mainly on Singapore's resident population, which comprises citizens and permanent residents.

The data on commuting trends here centres on the usual mode of transport that residents use to get to work and school. It does not account for temporary arrangements made due to Covid-19 restrictions.

According to the census, 57.7 per cent of employed residents here took combinations of the bus, MRT or LRT to work in 2020 - up from 54.6 per cent in 2010.

This includes situations where workers drive or cycle to nearby MRT stations before taking the train, although such instances have decreased in the past decade.

The share of those who relied solely on a car for their work commutes dropped from 24.8 per cent to 21.1 per cent, while the proportion who travelled only by taxi or private-hire car increased from 1.3 per cent to 3 per cent over the same period.

The share of residents who used other transport modes, such as motorcycles and private chartered buses, also fell over the past 10 years.

About 9.8 per cent of residents said they do not need any transport to get to work, up from 7.5 per cent in 2010.

The Department of Statistics (DOS) told The Straits Times that respondents were also allowed to pick transport modes such as cycling and personal mobility devices.

Those who relied only on these modes were not listed separately in the census report as the sample sizes were small.

The census also showed a shift towards using the MRT or LRT for work commutes.

Using the MRT or LRT with a transfer to or from a public bus was the dominant mode of transport in 2020 at 25.7 per cent, up from 17.7 per cent in 2010.

The DOS said this shift is in line with the expansion of the rail network, which has grown from about 160km to about 230km over the past decade.

Since 2010, two new MRT lines, the Circle and Downtown Lines, have opened and the North-South and East-West Lines were also extended.

New stations were added to the Punggol and Sengkang LRT lines and the first stage of the Thomson-East Coast Line opened in January last year.

Distance fares were also introduced in 2010.

However, despite the increased connectivity, the median travelling time to work increased from 30 minutes to 37 minutes for those commuting by public bus; and from 40 minutes to 45 minutes for those taking only the MRT or LRT.

Those who used MRT and bus or LRT and bus clocked 60 minutes, up from about 50 minutes in 2010.

The corresponding travel time by car was 30 minutes - the same as 10 years ago.

There were also increases in median travel time for most students.

This was especially so for secondary school to university students, the bulk of whom rely mainly on public transport to get to school.

The DOS said the longer travel time on buses and trains was likely due to longer travel distances.

It cited surveys conducted by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in 2008 and 2016, which found that the average public transport travel distance to work rose from 10.3km to 12.1km, and from 7.8km to 8.5km to school.

One factor could be that more people now live farther away from their schools and workplaces. New MRT lines and longer trunk bus routes could have also enabled more people to take longer journeys via public transport, the DOS said in its report.

The census also found a slight drop in the proportion of residents living in one- and two-room public flats who took combinations of the bus, MRT, or LRT to work.

This share fell from 71.6 per cent in 2010 to 69.5 per cent in 2020.

Instead, more only drove or only took taxis or private-hire cars to work.

For employed residents living in landed property, the majority continue to drive to work, although the proportion reliant on their cars fell from 59.6 per cent to 52.9 per cent.

Meanwhile, workers living in condominiums and other apartments are now less reliant on cars. The proportion of those who only drive to work fell from 50.3 per cent in 2010 to 39.3 per cent in 2020. A larger proportion, 44.8 per cent, now take the bus and/or train.

The 2020 census also collected data on how residents from different areas travelled to work and school.

LTA said the latest findings are encouraging and will help shape its plans to achieve 45-minute commutes to the city and 20-minute commutes to towns via walk-cycle-ride transport modes by 2040.

With more business nodes and industrial estates to be built outside the Central Business District over the next decade, more jobs will be brought closer to homes, it added.

Significant enhancements to the transport infrastructure, including transit priority corridors and continued expansion of the rail network, will encourage more people to commute to work via public transport, it said.

Singapore University of Social Sciences transport economist Walter Theseira said what is of greater concern is that the use of non-motorised transport such as bicycles does not seem to have improved.

On the increase in travel time to work on buses and trains, Associate Professor Theseira echoed what the DOS said in its report - that this could be due to improved connectivity, which encourages people to take up jobs farther away, and population growth in outlying areas, rather than public transport here getting less efficient.

Prof Theseira added that census data alone is not enough to assess whether improvements to the public transport system have worked out.

Policymakers also need to look at other things, such as whether commuting habits are different across income groups. He said: "More need to think about transport equity even as we improve public transport and go car-lite."

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