Taken for a ride

Leong Sze Hian

In 2009, public transport operators offered a 3 per cent rebate to commuters.

Since 03 July 2010, this rebate no longer applies.

In its place, distance-based fares were introduced. The PTC said:

[The] PTC decided to implement the full 2.5% fare reduction allowed by the fare formula this year. As a result, commuters as a whole will pay 2.5% less than they would have had to.”

Is this true? It was reported that distance-based fares are projected to result in 34 per cent of commuters paying more and 3 per cent paying the same. Even some of the 63 per cent projected to have fare savings may actually save less than the 2.5 per cent “formula” savings.

Didn’t the PTC say “commuters as a whole will pay 2.5 per cent less”? The 3 percent rebate was restored while the “fare reduction” in the fare formula this year was only 2.5 per cent.

Does this mean that in fact all commuters will be paying 0.5 per cent more, instead of 2.5 per cent less?

Since for the first time in the history of the Fare Adjustment Formula, the result is a 2.5 per cent reduction due primarily to the decline in average wages last year, if not for the change to distance fares and rebate restoration, wouldn’t everyone be paying 2.5 per cent less instead?

Or in other words: if not for the rebate restoration, everyone would only be paying 0.5% more.

Instead, now we have some people paying 11 per cent more, with two-thirds paying less – according to the Public Transport Council’s projections.

Paying less – really?

As to the benefit of allowing the maximum number of transfers to be increased from 3 to 5, I wonder how many commuters make journeys that require more than 3 transfers.

The Distance Fares Calculator available from 15 June is rather strange as it only allows one to calculate the new fares for trips that have at least one transfer.

Whenever one tries to calculate a single trip fare effective from 3 July, the error message, “Please add at least one trip before computing the fare”, appears.

Also, the fare calculator does not allow one to compare the old and new fares. Why is this so?

Anyway, I managed to find out that for myself, my typical bus 73/93 transfer journey from Serangoon Gardens to Queensway will increase by 11 per cent from $1.50 to $1.67, and a feeder bus journey will increase by 3 per cent from the current $0.69 to $0.71.

Despite the three per cent transport fare rebate last year, SBS Transit’s operating profit increased by 32 per cent, from $47.1 to $62.3 million, from 2008 to 31 December 2009.

For the first quarter of 2010, its operating profit was $19 million. At this rate, its operating profit for the whole year may be about $76 million ($19 million times 4 quarters), which may translate to yet another increase of 22 per cent over 2009.

For SMRT, its operating profit increased by 4.5 per cent, from $188.7 to $192.2 million, from FY2009 to FY2010.

With such huge increase in profits, what is the justification for the restoration of the three per cent rebate on 3 July, in conjunction with the 2.5 per cent reduction due to the new distance fares formula?

As to SMRT’s inability to increase the frequency of trains to minimise over-crowding, why was it able to add at least another 960 train trips during the Formula One (F1) weekend alone in September 2008? (CNA)

With regards to SMRT added 1,110 train rides per week, we should note that these additional train rides were gradually added over the last two and a half years or so.

Moreover, 1,110 train rides per week may mean an average of about 159 train rides per day. If the average train ride carries about 1,000 passengers, the increase in capacity per day may only be about 159,000.

After taking into account the increase in the population by about 410,000 from 2007 to 2009, the increase in tourist arrivals from 9.7 million in 2009 to a record 946,000 a month in May 2010, new MRT stations and line, and the reduction in bus services so as not to duplicate MRT services, how adequate is the addition of 1,110 train rides?


Picture from moeside.net