Signs you’ve taken Singapore’s public transport

Everybody loves a good #throwback, especially if it’s something uniquely Singaporean and close to our hearts. As something that all of us are exposed to in varying degrees, the public transport system is a key part of our daily lives and we’re oh-so-familiar with everything from its sights to the way things work.

You may not have been around for the pioneer generation of non-air-conditioned buses (the horror!) but we can all still appreciate relics of the past like TV mobile and the elusive Nokia Music Bus. See how many of these public transport memories hit you right in the nostalgic feels!

1. Shacking up at tiny old bus stops

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Everybody looks back on the old buses when we think about the history of public transport, but the bus stops were just as antiquated! An orange and cream colour scheme seemed to reign supreme from the very beginning all the way to the 2000s, where a sleeker design was adopted along with a palette of gray and silver.

You may have noticed that they constantly evolved in size too, perhaps to keep up with the nation’s growing population. But hey, I’m just glad I have the chance to put my butt down and rest while waiting for my ride to arrive.

Something I’ll forever be grateful for, the almighty electronic display of all your bus timings needs. Score one for technology! Source

2. The struggle of buses with dreary seats and no aircon


Before SBS and SMRT, Trans Island buses roamed the island. Ferrying citizens to and fro in a vehicle that now looks comparably clunky, the era of aircon units installed in buses had just begun. Hence, it was a matter of luck whether the next bus coming would be cooled by glorious airconditioning or… the opening of windows and hoping for the best. Kind of like Russian roulette for whether I’ll sweat.

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I also want to give a shout-out to whoever redesigned the bus interiors to feature bright and cheery colours that don’t make my daily commute feel like a ride to prison. You da real MVP!

3. Super secret spy panels for double decker snooping

Fun fact: Did you know that double-decker buses from a generation before us were decked out with an overhead glass panel?


With a mirror placed strategically above, it enabled the driver to check if any passengers from the upper deck were alighting. As kids, it was awfully tempting to just peer down from above and, being the creepy little weirdos we were, spy on his every bus-maneuvering move…only to suffer a mini heart attack when he looks up and catches us red-handed.

With the advancement of technology, double decker buses are now equipped with CCTV.

They even have an electronic panel to tell you the number of seats available upstairs!

Small but oh-so-helpful indicator. Switches between languages, too!

Say bye-bye to spying and hello to maximum efficiency on the driver’s part.

4. On-the-go entertainment existed even before smartphones…SURPRISE!


Youths may be chastised for constantly staring at their phones in an “antisocial” manner, but I’ve seen everyone else do the same. From aunties catching up on their K-dramas while their toddlers play iPad games right besides them, to elderly men scrolling through the news of Facebook. Yes, really.

Back in the day, every passenger who wasn’t taking a snooze would have their gaze fixated on one and the same screen: the iconic TVMobile. Airing cheesy Mediacorp dramas as well as news updates, I’m not even ashamed to say that I once overshot my destination by three stops thanks to a particularly engrossing episode of Police And Thief.

R.I.P, old friend. You’ve served us well. Source

5. Ticketing woes were so real

There’s a special place in our hearts for this bulky ticketing machine:


…which I honestly thought was a payphone. “You can have a nice telephone chat whilst travelling to your destination? That’s NEAT!”

Suffice to say, young me was not the sharpest tool in the shed. And although the latest bus tickets we know are these ones:


They used to look like THIS!


Absolutely ancient, oh my word. They look straight out of a war museum!

One other #TicketTale we can all relate to is the sheer anxiety of random fare checks. Just like walking pass the cops, we get all paranoid and antsy even though we have NOT committed a single crime.

Random checks now are done with a card scanning machine. “I know I tapped it when I came in the bus! Or did I…?!” The anxiety is too real.

But in the past, the process simply involved whipping out your physical ticket stub for the ticket checking auntie to see. Fiddled with your ticket and stuffed it into the glass panels at the side of the bus? It’s now gone forever. Time to accept your fate, and you have nothing but your itchy fingers to blame.

6. Started from the bottom now our railway system game strong

Back when it first launched shortly before the 90s, the MRT route map consisted of all of two lines. TWO!! How did people even live?!


I was already beyond chuffed back in 2011 when the Circle Line launched, so imagine how flabbergasted I was during the official opening of the spanking new Downtown Line. Seriously, the route map now looks like an ever-evolving rainbow web of convenient transport integration. Simply put, it’s now ridiculously easy to go anywhere we want and we’re all connected from one place to the other.


At the rate that SMRT is developing, it shouldn’t be too far off in the future for the extensiveness of our railway system to rival that of London and Shanghai.

Rumoured future map planned to become a reality by 2030 Source

7. Different campaigns, same level of cringiness and jingles stuck in your head

Will commuters ever reach a level of public behaviour so ideal that campaigns are rendered unnecessary? Probably not.

In the meantime, we revel in stupidly catchy jingles and vibrant in-your-face videos that always make you wonder, “whose idea was this?!”

Nevertheless, the silly lyrics always seem to get implanted in your long term memory. Be it Phua Chu Kang’s “Happy Journey” rap or the Dim Sum Dollies teaching the rowdy public how to “Love Your Ride”, we all love to hate it.

And hate to love it.

Case in point? Our very own rendition of SMRT’s latest campaign:

8. The NOKIA bus rocked your world with free flow bluetoothed music


Before the age of smartphones and instant music streaming, our playlists were fuelled by the wonderful technology that is bluetooth. Rather akin to a seedy transaction, you hit your friends up and check to see if they’re able to supply what you’re after, before stealthily making the deal and going about your day afterwards.

Enter the NOKIA Music Mobile, a magical warehouse of tunes on wheels. Besides getting to sync all the latest tracks to your phone for free, the bus was also decked out with cushy chairs and club-like settings to make you feel like a real superstar. There’s even a fake bartender wallpaper! Whaaat?!

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I’ll always remember these awesome vehicles as the highlight of my secondary education when they made their rounds throughout the nation’s public schools. As they pulled up into the parade square, I clutched my pink Nokia 6120, hands quivering with anticipation and delight.

9. Getting to board rare, special themed vehicles was like striking the lottery

Routinely commutes back and forth your school or workplace can get terribly mundane, so remember how ecstatic you’d be to board your usual bus or train and see that it’s been fully decked out in special themed decorations.

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How adorable is this Sanrio themed bus?! Getting ferried to class in this whimsical and pastel perfect bus would get my day off on a spectacular start, that’s for sure!


Geeks across the universe, settle down. Aside from being one heck of a promotional campaign for the film, the overall aesthetics of this Star Wars themed MRT cabin is on point. Check out the lightsaber action happening at the handrails, that’s ART right there!

10. Gantries of the future save your fumbling self from humiliation

If you have panic attacks over the potential public embarrassment each time you try to tap in and out of the station only to have your card fail on you, causing a grinding halt in the peak hour queue, count your blessings that you didn’t have to deal with this:


That’s right, the MRT gantries of yesteryear required actual, full on insertion of the transit card. The possible ways of messing up just quadrupled. Failing to locate the slot? Taking too long to scan? Fumbling when you’re trying to take it out?! The list goes on and yes, this is nightmare-inducing.


Enter the new and improved gantries seen at Downtown Line stations. Not only do they look super sleek and futuristic, the sensor mechanisms are delicate enough to be able to scan your car right through a bag! Or your bum through the back pocket, I guess. Ayo technology!

11. You’ve seen the evolution of the humble fare card

You store cash in it and it gets you where you want to go. Fare cards are pretty much on the same level as credit cards and your IC in terms of importance, how much you use it in a day, as well as how much you’d hate to ever lose it.

But who would’ve thought that before the fare cards of today, they once took on such a quaint and humble facade?


It all started with the concession stamp card, where you literally had to fill your card with concession stamps that would act as your fare. How oddly fun is that? Pity the raggedy paper cards were highly susceptible to wear and tear.

Is it just me or do they look like a mixture of poker and Monopoly cards? Source

Then came the revolutionary “tap-tap” cards that could be activated digitally at top-up machines around the nation!

Remember how magical it was the first time you could tap and go? Source


The birth of these cards marked the start of a new era. Then, with the simple yet trusty piece of plastic, came special edition cards that seriously upped your wallet’s swag factor.

A Better Ride For You And I

We’ve come a long way in the public transportation scene. From scrappy pieces of paper tickets to handy dandy fare cards, the level of advancement has made our commuting life that much easier.

This post was brought to you by NETS FlashPay.
Featured image adapted from Flickr Hive Mind & @hyuk_ears

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