Commuters a little happier with public transport, but perceptions on reliability slip: Survey

Commuters felt that bus services were less reliable in 2022 than in 2021. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE – Commuters were marginally happier with bus and train services in 2022 than in 2021, according to an annual poll by the Public Transport Council (PTC).

In the survey covering 5,029 commuters aged 15 and above, the PTC found that 92.7 per cent were satisfied with public transport services, with a mean score of 7.8 out of 10. This compared with 92 per cent and a score of 7.8 out of 10 in 2021.

The poll, which counts any score above six as “satisfied”, found that satisfaction with waiting time improved the most, with a 4.1 percentage point gain, followed by customer service, with a 3.5 percentage point gain.

Reliability, however, slipped by 0.5 percentage points – dragged down by a 2.4 percentage point drop in bus service reliability, which was partially offset by a 1.5 percentage point rise in MRT service reliability.

Perception-wise, the percentage of commuters who felt that public transport had improved in the past year fell, with 68.5 per cent voting yes, compared with 71.3 per cent in 2021. There were slightly fewer bus commuters who sensed an improvement than train commuters.

Meanwhile, a similar poll for people with disabilities – covering a smaller sample of 537 commuters and their caregivers – found that the mean satisfaction score rose from 7.2 in 2021 to 7.6 in 2022.

Although their absolute scores were lower than the scores given by other commuters, these travellers – and their caregivers – were much happier with public transport than in 2021, compared with their able-bodied counterparts.

The poll found that 91.6 per cent of them were satisfied – a 7 percentage point improvement from 2021, with a mean score of 7.6, versus 7.2 previously.

Dr Zafar Momin, an adjunct associate professor at the National University of Singapore Business School, noted that while it was “good” that the mean satisfaction score had remained “consistent at 7.8 since 2019”, the 92.7 per cent satisfaction rate is low when compared with earlier years.

“Singapore has one of the best public transportation infrastructures in the world, and it would be interesting to probe further as to why the portion of satisfied commuters is not higher,” he said. 

But he was heartened by the score for commuters with disabilities improving from 7.2 in 2021 to 7.6 in 2022. “This is a critical area that needs continuous improvement, as a larger portion of the population is ageing,” he added.

Singapore University of Social Sciences associate professor of economics Walter Theseira said 2022’s improvement was “in line with the general cessation of Covid-19 restrictions, and improvements in the manpower situation due to restored land connectivity with Malaysia and other sources of staff”.

Commuters were not surprised to learn that buses had scored worse on reliability than trains. Senior accountant Lionel Tan, 33, said: “The waiting time for buses can be very long – sometimes 15 to 20 minutes. And there is often bunching, with two or three of the same service number arriving at the same time. The bus arrival app is also sometimes not accurate.

“Except for the last few days, the MRT’s reliability has improved, compared with years ago when breakdowns happened often.”

Communications executive Bessie Tan, 61, said long waiting times for buses during the morning peak period were a particular bugbear. As for trains, she said she had no major complaint except that “the older stations need to be spruced up”.

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