SINGAPORE - Ridership on trains has fallen by 80 per cent since the coronavirus outbreak started in late January, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Monday (May 4).
The drop was four times that of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) crisis, which only saw demand fall by 20 per cent when the Sars outbreak was at its worst, Mr Khaw said on Facebook, after visiting Bishan MRT station earlier in the morning.
"One upside is that it allows us to observe safe distancing," he added.
Trains, train stations, buses, bus stops and interchanges are now marked with safe distancing stickers and standing spaces and seats that should be avoided have also been marked out.
But ridership is expected to increase as circuit breaker measures are eased in the coming weeks and more Singaporeans start to take public transport again as they resume activities at their workplaces.
This would make safe distancing very challenging, especially during peak hours, Mr Khaw said.
"We will need everyone's help to manage and flatten the peak-hour demand - employers should continue to stagger working hours and encourage telecommuting. Donning a mask on public transport is absolutely necessary, as in Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul, Spain and many other cities. And if you are unwell, please stay home."
Mask-wearing remains compulsory on public transport and will help to minimise transmission even after the circuit breaker period, when ridership goes up and safe distancing is compromised.
On April 6, a day before the circuit breaker measures kicked in, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that public transport ridership had halved since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in January.
In mid-April, LTA said daily bus ridership nosedived by more than 71 per cent and train ridership by 75 per cent compared with before the pandemic.
Trains and buses are also running at lower frequencies due to lower demand.
Based on LTA's statistics for 2019, an average of 3,592,000 trips were made daily on trains and 4,099,000 trips on the bus.
Combined, they pushed public transport ridership to yet another record average of 7,691,000 trips a day in 2019.