Dear All Singapore Stuff,

The message seems to be: as long as you improve, even if it is by an insignificant amount, you deserve to get the huge incentive you were originally promised.

According to the Straits Times, SBS Transit was awarded $710,286 while SMRT was awarded $345,714 for improving punctuality on 11 and 7 bus routes respectively. That’s about $58,700 per bus route, the equivalent of what an average Singaporean would earn in one year. It’s a grotesque waste of tax payer’s money for improvements that affected so few routes. Most of us won’t even enjoy the benefits from this.

According to the operators, the difference between actual and scheduled waiting times was reduced by between 12 and 36 seconds and they seem to be pretty proud of this achievement. But it’s barely an accomplishment worth a million dollars. All it means is that the arrival of buses will be slightly more predictable, not that buses will get less overcrowded. In fact, about 66 per cent of people interviewed said they didn’t feel that buses were arriving more frequently.

And what does a 12 second improvement mean when buses usually bunch up and take 30 minutes to arrive during peak hours? It means absolutely nothing. If the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is really interested in fixing our public transportation problem, and not just dishing out taxpayers’ monies to the public transport companies that refuse to put more buses on the roads, it should come up with a better way to measure improvements.

Giving out $1 million for these non-achievements is not going to solve any of our problems. It just makes LTA look like an incompetent regulatory body that is more interested in appearances than in achieving real results.

As our population continues to grow, thanks to the PAP’s population target, even more people will be taking buses. This means that the real issue here is bus frequency and whether or not these buses are being overcrowded. This is the most pressing issue. If we can put enough buses on the road, there’s no reason why buses will be delayed and be unable to reach their destination as scheduled. It is not as if bus drivers frequently sleep on the job or purposely drive slower.

It may even be dangerous to pressure bus drivers to rush to their destination to meet targets and earn the extra bonuses. The solution isn’t to try and squeeze more out of each driver, especially when they are already overtaxed. The solution should be to put more buses on the roads and plan better routes. But to do that actually requires some careful analysis. Simple solutions like the $1 million incentives are easy to implement but they don’t really do anything. It’s time for LTA to wake up its idea.

Ronald Chan
A.S.S. Contributor

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