Why It Matters

Fare move to ease congestion

The Public Transport Council (PTC) announced on Monday that as part of its annual transport fare review, weekday train trips before 7.45am will cost up to 50 cents less from Dec 29.

This is part of a bid to reduce peak-period crowds on the rail network here.

While the move - which will benefit the 10 per cent of rail commuters who already start their journeys before peak hours - is laudable, it remains to be seen whether the discount will be sufficient to encourage more commuters to change their travel patterns.

After all, despite offering free trips to commuters travelling to 18 stops in the city before 7.45am, the existing pre-peak trial saw only 7 per cent of travellers making the switch to travel earlier.

Similar schemes by Hong Kong's MTR and Metro Trains Melbourne saw the number of peak-hour commuters decrease by 3 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively.

Singapore's Off-Peak Pass scheme - which allows adult commuters to have unlimited bus and train rides during off-peak hours on weekdays and all day on weekends and public holidays for $80 a month - attracted only 13,000 people, or less than 1 per cent of the 7.2 million bus and train commuters here.

Still, as MRT ridership continues to increase - hitting more than three million rides daily last year - any attempt to reduce the peak-hour crowd must be encouraged.

 
 

Having the bulk of commuters packing the trains for just a few hours - while there are light loads the rest of the time - is both resource-intensive and inefficient, as PTC chairman Richard Magnus said on his blog recently. Moves to reduce peak-hour congestion must also go in tandem with other Land Transport Authority initiatives that incentivise bicycle use and flexible working hours.

As Singapore moves towards its car-lite vision, easing peak-hour crowds will not only make for a more comfortable ride for passengers, but it will also ease the strain on the Republic's growing rail network.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2017, with the headline 'Fare move to ease congestion'. Print Edition | Subscribe