Lower-income households will get more support for their public transport needs after the Government announced a $6 million top-up to the Public Transport Fund to support this year's Public Transport Voucher Exercise.
A record total of 450,000 vouchers, worth $50 each, will be available to these households. This is up from the 300,000 vouchers, worth $30 each, set aside last year.
In addition, one in five households will be able to qualify for public transport vouchers, up from one in 10 previously, following revisions to the eligibility criteria.
The measures aim to help buffer the impact of increased public transport fares on needy commuters.
"The Government will ensure that sufficient assistance is available for commuters in need," the Ministry of Transport said in a statement yesterday.
It said that the public transport vouchers will also benefit eligible lower-wage workers and persons with disabilities.
Under new guidelines, which the Transport Ministry said makes more residents eligible, households with monthly income - from all sources - of not more than $1,200 per person can qualify for the vouchers.
Sources of income could refer to regular employment income, or income from rentals and pensions.
In contrast, under the 2018 Public Transport Voucher Exercise, only households with an income of $1,900 or below, or per capita income of not more than $650, are eligible for the vouchers.
The 2018 exercise, which commenced on Nov 12 last year, will remain open for applications until the end of this month.
The next cycle with the $50 vouchers will start from Nov 11 this year and end on Oct 31 next year.
Those who qualify for the vouchers can apply for them at their local community centre or club.
Mr Ang Hin Kee, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC and deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, told The Straits Times: "My primary concern is with workers who may have to deal with higher costs.
"This has been mitigated by higher transport voucher quantum and eligibility."
Lower-wage workers will also get a 25 per cent discount off adult fares on public transport, up from 20 per cent.
The Transport Ministry said this will help keep average fares for them below 2015 levels.
Transport economist Walter Theseira said the way the fare increase was buffered for needy commuters suggested a move towards differentiated fares.
Associate Professor Theseira said: "The idea behind differentiated fares is that people who have the ability to pay will pay a bit more. And for those more vulnerable groups, the fare increase will be held down more.
"This is a good idea because we only have so much money to subsidise the system, and it makes sense to spend more of the subsidies on more vulnerable commuters."