SBS Transit Hot
SBS Transit is one of the two public transport operator in Singapore offering taxi, bus and rail services.
I used to think on my SIngapore visits that the pubic transport system here was good. Compared to any capital city in Australia, yes. After all, in pubic transport, even Mumbai beats Sydney. Compare Singapore to Jakarta and KL? Singapore most definitely wins.
If you check on the net, Singapore does not even rank amongst the top twenty world cities in public transport terms: in Asia alone, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo and Taipei beat it hands down. Hong Kong sees over 90% of all journeys made on public transport systems. Singapore? Just over 60%.
It is when you stay here for a while that you realise its limitations. I prefer bus to train any day. At least you may get a seat on a bus. But only if it is an older bus. As with the latest MRT trains, new bus designs suffer from the idea that passengers can stand, not sit. I note that the designs for carriages in the latest MRT line will contain back rests rather than seats. The only seats will be for the disabled.
So what happens? A busload of sardines, held up with its own weight and proximity, jostles its way through the morning crush hour while you look in pity at the National Serviceman resting on the disabled seats after a hard day on Pulau Tekong. Or feel sorry for the tired student who needs to sit down to play his latest game craze.
If other cities can attract significantly higher ridership, why not here? Is it a question of frequency? Add more buses and you add more chaos to already congested roads. More MRT lines are being built. That will help.
One thing that might help is to introduce what Hong Kong does: small buses on local services, who operate without subsidy. It is worth a thought.
Meanwhile, it is a shame, as the rolling stock and buses are pleasant enough and definitely cool, though I have been on the MRT when the air con was faulty. Not pleasant.
Perhaps the powers that be need to loosen the profit motivator a little and consider tilting towards the public service instead.
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Singapore has few wonders. One might be the wonder of queues. The other might be the wonder of Hello Kitty. The lesser known wonder is SBS Transit buses.
It really surprises me, how it is almost always spot on. When I decide to walk home, many buses come. When I decide to take a bus home, there are none. It never fails to amaze me. Some might say, hey, there’s an app for checking when buses arrive. You don’t need to guess. That is when another wonder happens. Time-travelling. One moment the bus is 4 minutes away, the other moment it is 8 minutes away, another moment it is 3. Wow.
On the other hand, SBS buses are not all bad. The bus drivers help shift the wheelchair ramp for wheelchair disabled people efficiently enough The buses usually have sufficient seats for the elderly and disabled. . With the exception of during peak hours. At peak hours, as long as you get onto the bus, it does not matter if you do not get a seat. At peak hours, no one notices the poor auntie trying to get off the bus. At peak hours, buses will be crammed full with people, and often I need to wait for the next bus to come because I cannot squeeze on.
For people who have no choice but to travel during peak hours, this wastes a lot of their time. This is something that SBS Transit can improve on. For someone who takes buses almost everyday, I hope that SBS Transit will soon make some changes to benefit our community.
Inconsistent but Irreplaceble
I grew up in the era of non-air conditioned SBS buses and watched as the buses developed into the wheelchair accessible buses that we see today. While I must say that SBS Transit has come a long way in making buses available to everyone including the handicapped, I feel that much can be improved about their overall system.
SBS's IRIS (Intelligent Route Information System) is great, I use it all the time so that I get an idea when the next bus will arrive and that saves me from having to wait at the bus stop (when I could lie down on my sofa at home for 5 mins longer). Recently they installed real time panels at various bus stops around the island, but the information on these panels have been known to be inaccurate.
The newest fleet of single deck buses have lesser seats and elevated seating areas with narrower walkways, which I think makes it really difficult for more people to squeeze on during peak hours. What amazes me is that SBS is still unable to incorporate automatic wheelchair ramps , a feature that is so common in buses in America. And we call ourselves a first world country?
Other than these shortfalls, SBS has been commendable in maintaining their fleet of buses and I don't think anyone else can be as effective as them being the main bus transport operator in Singapore.
Everything is relative
I was talking to a Malaysian friend a few days ago. He told me Singaporean were funny people, Singaporean can queue from thirty minutes to one hour for a table outside the restaurants but will complain when they waited fifteen minutes for a bus. It is the other way around for Malaysian, they are used to waiting one hour for a bus.
SBS buses waiting time are relatively shorter than SMRT buses. For those more popular bus routes during peak hours, I had never needed to wait for more than fifteen minutes for a bus to arrive. If you asked a Malaysian, even SMRT buses waiting times are acceptable compared to bus services in Malaysia. So everything is relative, even buses waiting times.
Like they say, you win some, you lose some. Comparatively, the waiting times for SBS NEL trains are longer than SMRT trains.
SBS Transit, one of the public transport giants, with the other being SMRT Buses. I generally like their buses, but not the newer Mercedes Citaros. There seems to be no place to stand at the back, with the extremely narrow "walkway". The newer double decker buses, however, please me very much.
The overcrowding of buses should not be blamed on SBS Transit itself, due to the heavy influx of foreigners, which has come too fast for the bus operators to make any preparations.
There is another downside, which I think SBST can really improve on: their dispatching of buses. The buses are dispatched wrongly most of the time, with single-decker buses on lines that are often filled with people, and double-decker buses on lines that are close to empty.
Other than that, I generally think that SBST buses and trains are well maintained.
Good but could be better
I thank my lucky stars that the area I live has more SBS than SMRT buses. I tolerate SMRT but I actually like SBS a little. Can't comment on SBS's MRT services because I hardly take NEL.
I feel that SBS buses generally look cleaner, and have better air-conditioning. In fact, sometimes, one might even find it a little cold on SBS buses, but I think that is way better than the times I used to get soaked in sweat travelling to school and back in an SMRT bus.
While the waiting times for SBS buses can be improved, I feel they tend to be more predictable i.e. you don't wait too, extremely, excessively long before getting two buses arriving at the same time. And you also generally know which are the services that take a longer time to arrive, so you know what to expect. Although it's really depressing to know when you're in for a looong wait.
If waiting times improve, hopefully without unreasonable fare hikes, SBS would deserve great ratings!
The Lesser of 2 Evils
The sorry thing is that in Singapore, you do not have a choice when it comes to taking the bus. There are only 2 choices, SBS or SMRT. In most places, SBS dominates the bus scene with the exception of the Northern regions where SMRT is king.
As a matter of preference, I would probably take SBS buses as they are the only ones with double decker buses and I have a thing about taking double deckers. I simply love sitting on the upper deck right at the front. SMRT could counter with the bendy buses but for sheer thrill, they are no substitute.
With the recent strike by SMRT's drivers, their reputation had taken a beating. SBS would be on their toes. They'd better be.
Be careful of the platform gap
SBS successfully covers most of the bus routes in Singapore, and there are many places that you'll only find SBS buses covering.
As I live in the north, most of my SBS experiences are limited to the times I go to school with bus service 179/179A. SBS has planned these two bus services really well as they come in pretty frequent intervals to handle the student crowd - something I'm pretty thankful for when I compare my bus taking experiences to my friends at SIM/Ngee Ann Poly etc.
I don't really take the NEL that often, but when I do, it's pretty fast, less crowded and more comfortable than trains along the NSL. The one thing I find weird is that the platform gap of stations in NEL is bigger than those of other lines, because my leg once fell into the gap at Harbourfront station while I was rushing for the train - something I still find pretty amazing when I consider my huge shoe size. I was also pretty thankful that a station attendant rushed to my aid, although it was a fellow passenger that pulled me up in the end.
When riding on a bus or train, I sometimes wonder if I am back in Tokyo. Over there its common to be squeezed tightly against other passengers or even up against the doors. That is starting to be increasingly common in Singapore.
SBS really needs to increase the number of buses and trains in operation around rush hour timings. The situation borders on annoying to outright ridiculous. Just last Friday I braved the crowds at an MRT station gantry only to be shocked that there were long queues in front of the train doors. The queues barely moved as the doors open as the trains were already packed to full capacity.
The other concern with full capacity trains and buses is the mechanical wear and tear. It is becoming increasingly common for the buses and trains to breakdown resulting in delays and inconvenience to thousands of commuters.
Sardine-packed. (Ayam brand?)
My critical lifeline, the main transport I have (other than walking, of course) that brings me the various destinations I have to reach. I thank SBS transit service for being a surrogate for my feet and making transport so much more convenient for not just me, but everyone else as well.
However much the waiting time has been curtailed to soothe the heavy human traffic during those (annoying) peak hours, I cannot help but always feel as if the buses come too slowly. Every time I had to endure those unbearable minutes waiting, my mind would involuntarily draw up ridiculous and ludicrous plans on how I would carry out a large scale evolutionary change to the current transport system if I was the transport minister or chief operator for SBS transit company.
I'm convinced that there should be a way to resolve the seemingly long waiting hours or sardine-packed situations that is extremely common during peak hours on the buses. Maybe an analytic procedure should be carried out to see where more buses could be injected at certain timings to alleviate the human traffic jam and uncomfortable squeezy rides.
To avoid sounding too harsh on condemning our favourite transport service company, I must credit the buses to have such good air-conditioning and relatively comfortable seats (If you happen to be fortunate enough to have one). When there isn't much people around, the rides are great.
I'd still rather take the train
I can still remember when back in the old days, we used fare cards that we would slot into machines to pay for our bus rides. I can also recall when most buses weren't air-conditioned and I would stare out the window with the cool wind whipping my hair and face.
We have surely come a long way from those days, with our EZ-link cards and fully air-conditioned, handicapped-friendly buses and I really do appreciate it. SBS buses are generally reliable and their bus drivers are usually friendly and skillful, ensuring smooth journeys (unfortunately the same can't be said for SMRT bus drivers).
I still personally prefer to take the train because they are much faster, and the frequencies of the trains are also higher. For me, the most important part of a journey is speed and I always opt to take the train unless I am in no hurry - then I will hop onto an SBS bus.