Saturday, January 23, 2010

Inadequate Public Transportation

** My apology. We have made an error in our interpretation on the statistical table. The occupancy rate refers to the average number of people in a single cabin carriage at any one time. But the conclusion is intact.

The following is a Table compiled to show the contrast of population growth vs MRT development.

SMRT Total Number of Passenger Trips (Million)SMRT Car Kilometres Operated (Million)SMRT Average Operating Car OccupancyTotal PopulationResident Population
2003394.3 89.6 56 4114.83366.9
2004391.5 77.4 63 4166.73413.3
2005402.6 75.1 66 4265.83467.8
2006413.8 75.5 67 4401.43525.9
2007434.9 77.1 69 4588.63583.1
2008469.3 78.0 73 4839.43642.7



Total Population and Resident Population from Table 3.1 of the Yearbook of Statistics 2009

MRT Statistics from SMRT Annual Report 2007/2008

From the table above, we can gather the following facts (from 2003 to 2008 as the population figures for 2009 is not available yet):

Total Population Growth 17.6%

Resident Population Growth 8.2%

SMRT Total Number of Passenger Trips (Million) Growth  19.0%

SMRT Car Kilometres Operated (Million) Growth  -13.0%

SMRT Average Operating Car Occupancy Rate Growth 35%

What do the above statistics tell us?

It is quite puzzling to me actually. The public transport companies like SMRT has been increasing their fares for the past 7 years but it seems that their service standards have dropped with respect to the population growth.

It is very disturbing to note that while demand on MRT has increased steadily for the pass 7 years (We are unable to get the 2009 figures for population growth yet) in tandem with the increase in population growth, SMRT has actually DECREASE their train service frequencies by as much as 13%!

An increase of 19% of demand couple with a decrease in supply of 13% will naturally result in packing the MRT cabins with more people! This is reflected in the increase of occupancy rate from 56 persons in a carriage to 76!

It means that on average, Singaporeans will find the MRT 35% more crowded than 2003! I guess the LTA is sleeping on this development while agreeing to PTC and public transport companies' demand in increasing their fares!

I hope this is not another "Caught Off Guard" situation for the Ministry of Transport as it is for Ministry of National Development. Someone up there have to be accountable for mismanaging the whole situation for Singapore.

WP NCMP Sylvia Lim has categorically questioned the PAP government on whether they are doing enough to cater to their aggressive FT policy which has artificially increase the population by 17.6% from 2003 to 2008.

Yet, the PAP has continued to sleep on this important issue. We have seen how Ministry of National Development under Mah Bow Tan has totally mismanaged the housing needs in view of the expected increase of housing demand due to influx of FT. Now it seems that the Ministry of Transport has also totally mismanaged the transportation sector.

There is no silly excuse of "Caught Off Guard" as the opposition party has already raised the alarm as early as 2006! Singaporeans have to see clearly that we are paying TOP WORLD CLASS salaries for these ministers but yet, we are having them mismanaging the situation here.

The Ministry of Transport and LTA are only concerned about setting up more ERPs all over Singapore because that is the SACRED CASH COWS that will make money. Who cares about the general welfare of Singaporeans in squeezing in MRTs and Buses (yes, I believe we can show the same inadequacy if we build the statistical table for buses) everyday due to their mismanagement. The Ministers have hardly experience the frustrations of normal Singaporeans who take public transport daily. The MRT train frequency is really third world standards!

It is about time Singaporeans should give PAP the wake up call! Vote the respective ministers out, give a clear signal to the PAP government that we want accountability!

We want ministers who put Singaporeans' welfare as their top priority, not how much money their ministries could save or make as their top priorities.

If the above analysis is not convincing enough for you, then please take a look at the following table:

SMRT Total Number of Passenger Trips (Million)SMRT Car Kilometres Operated (Million)SMRT Average Operating Car Occupancy (Person)SMRT Profit after tax and minority interest (S$ Mil)
2003394.3 89.6 56 72.1
2004391.5 77.4 63 89.5
2005402.6 75.1 66 126.7
2006413.8 75.5 67 103.4
2007434.9 77.1 69 135.4
2008469.3 78.0 73 149.9

For the period from 2003 to 2008, SMRT profits have increased 107.9% from $72.1m to $149.9m!

What does this mean. There is an increase in demand, increase in fare but SMRT continues to reduce supply by a drastic reduction in 2004. While the demand continues to increase, it suppressed the corresponding supply while continued its demand of fare increase. The so call "improve in services" is just lip service. Service standards has dropped while SMRT just let the trains get more cramp!

LTA under the Ministry of Transport, kept both of its eyes closed for all this while! This is totally unacceptable for a world class government with top pay! It seems that our PAP government only takes good care of corporate profits while neglecting the welfare of Singaporeans, allowing them to be reaped off by suffering sub standard services with increased prices.

Do we continue to let them be or give them a wake up call? The choice is yours.

Goh Meng Seng

* I have added the figures of the SMRT side without the figures of population data here. The increase in the car operated per kilometer is partly due to the opening of circle line. This means that frequency of trains in other older lines might not have improved at all. Besides, this is offset by the increase in the demand, partly due to the increase in population (estimated about 3% plus if total population is to reach 4.99 million). As the result, the occupancy rate is just about the same. This result doesn't change the main point that since 2003, the trains are getting very cramped, about 35% cramped.


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year

LuckySingaporean said...

Hi. That is an excellent analysis. Basically, the govt passed the higher cost of driving back to Singaporeans when it is caused by its own population policies.

I'll do a follow up on my earlier posting on the COE using the figures here.

Recently, my property tax also surge up...

Anonymous said...

My proprty tax doubled!

Anonymous said...

These ministers cannot perform given that they are paid highly by Singaporeans. Things are getting out of control.

cy said...

gd analysis!
perhaps something similar could be applied to public hospitals statistics like beds occupancy, nurse/doctor population as compared to patients growth.

SMRT is profitting at the expense of the commuters' discomfort as they don't need to spend much to squeeze in more ppl in a cabin.

govt should legalise a decent return for public transport providers like SMRT and not allow them to continue to reap obscene returns w/o comparable increase in service quality

Goh Meng Seng said...


I will try to put up more data charts and table on this blog to show how PAP mismanages its FT policy along with the inadequacy in the infrastructure and facilities building for all these years.

Yes, I am going to show the hospital beds statistics. Our preliminary finding is that private hospitals have increased the number of beds while the government hospitals have DECREASED the number of beds! Let us reconfirm our findings and I shall put it up later.

Goh Meng Seng

Anonymous said...

A few years back i remember reading an article on MSM about a massive number of senior staff in LTA quitting after a change in CEO.

Maybe this is the result.

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to a secondary report on the issue i mentioned earlier.

Anonymous said...

Hi Meng Seng

I think your analysis is too simplistic as you have not taken the following into account:

1. The number of new MRT stations and lines that have opened since 2003
2. The increase in number of trips taken as a result of these new stations, ie average number of train rides taken to reach a destination, time spent, etc

You should not confuse the issue of overcrowding and profitability as these are 2 separate issues. For eg, trains can be overcrowded during peak hours and underused during off peak, etc, translating into low profits, etc.

To address the crowded train issue, you must first understand what the Average Operating Car Occupancy (73 in 2009) means. If the actual capacity of a carriage is 120, then it means on average, the train is not crowded. However, the real issue here is not about averages but about overcrowding during peak hour. Therefore, we need to focus on the following:

1. How many pple can a carriage support before it becomes overcrowded (where overcrowded = say 20 above max capacity)
2. How many carriages are often overcrowed during peak hours?
3. What is the duration endured by commuters of a crowded carriages?

Once we have these numbers, we can easily quantify how many commuters are affected everyday and for how long, etc.

Hobbyist Economist

Goh Meng Seng said...

Hi Hobbyist Economist,

Thank you for your comment. As this is a simple blog for Singaporeans and not an academic thesis, I chose to simplify the analysis in simple terms without losing the gist of the development.

There are many factors and "noise" that would affect everything in this world. As Economist, normally we will want to draw attention to the cause and effect of certain variables and factors while dropping the noise aside.

In this case, the correlations of population growth, reduction in service and increase in occupancy are very strong. "Noise" such as how many new stations are opened and such are put aside by assuming a normal distribution.

The reason why data from 2003 to 2008 are used is basically during this period, the noise level is lower as compared to 2009 where the circle line is opened or prior to the opening of the Northeast Line in 2003.

As there isn't any detailed segregated data available, we will have to do best with whatever we have here.

The most important data set is actually the occupancy rate. Although we do not have data on what a FULL occupancy would be like but the differential or rather, the increase in occupancy rate gives us a very good idea what is happening throughout this period.

The profit relation is important as this is part of the means to understand roughly what is actually happening. Studying the profit growth is useful especially for public transport companies. Public transport companies have a few avenues of revenues but the increase in ridership is definitely an important one. There are more details from SMRT report but the gist of it is that the increase in ridership (and fare collected) is the main source of growth for its revenue, thus profit for that period.

A more in depth study on the profit contribution could be made on the percentage contributed by increase in ridership vs the increase in fare could be made but this is not the aim of this article here.

Goh Meng Seng

Anonymous said...

Looking at our public transport systems, government hospitals and other public agencies, they are meant to service members of the public and they should have the their interests at heart. Bearing in mind that they are being paid by the taxpayers' money, and they are so called 'civil servants'. Unfortunately, it seems to me that members of the public 'owe them something'. When they up their prices, or lower the service standard, or monopolize the market, or even sold away our strategic setups (such as power plants), members of the public have become powerless. It is timely to see some changes......

Anonymous said...

Hi Meng Seng,

I agree with Hobbyist Economist that your analysis is overly simplistic. The statistics are not sufficiently informative, which results in your conclusions holding no water.

That said, there is certainly a problem with the capacity of the public transportation network in Singapore. There are physical constraints such the frequency of trains along each line, and the peak period is particularly problematic.

The capacity problem is visible. People taking the trains during peak periods can see that something is wrong, since trains appear to be quite crowded throughout the day. But transport planners can't take the analysis in this post seriously because the statistics do not support your conclusion.

More relevant statistics, such as those pointed out by Hobbyist Economist, will support your argument if SMRT/SBST ever makes them available.

The long and short of it is... If they want to bring in more immigrants, they should have had the circle and downtown lines up and running first.

N00b Transport Enthusiast

Goh Meng Seng said...

Hi Noob Transport Enthusiast,

Frankly speaking, I do not really trust the statistics from the establishment that easily in absolute terms, especially the occupancy rate. But for statistical study, it is good to do comparative studies instead of absolute study.

It is obvious that the train is 35% more crowded than before and the reasons for this is pretty obvious as well. 19% increase in ridership couple with a 13% decrease in train service.

Whichever way you read it, it is obvious that SMRT did not increase their train service in spite of a rapid increase in ridership which is obviously caused by the influx of foreign workers.

There is absolutely no mystery about that.

I am still trying to verify the claim about the occupancy rate vs the maximum capacity of the train. As far as I know, no matter what time you take the train from 6am to 10pm, the train is definitely cramped with more than 70 persons per carriage. Even for Sundays, it is packed.

Maybe the figures have been moderated by the situation at the NE line. But NE line is not that empty either, with waiting time 4 minutes or more.

With this REAL LIFE experience on hand, you can verify in relative terms of the situation.

Average occupancy rate will definitely not give the full picture of the situation, or even would mislead policy makers that the situation is still "bearable". But the relative comparison will give a clearer idea on how situation worsen.

The situation has worsen, no doubt about that. If the peak period situation is already at the PEAK with no more possible room for improvement, it could only mean that off peak period is getting worse as well.

Simplicity itself has its beauty. We will not be blinded by the web of complexity that we create for ourselves.

Goh Meng Seng

Anonymous said...

Hi Meng Seng,

"Frankly speaking, I do not really trust the statistics from the establishment that easily in absolute terms, especially the occupancy rate."

You cannot take stats from a source to derive conclusions, and turn around to say stats from the same source cannot be trusted.

"It is obvious that the train is 35% more crowded than before and the reasons for this is pretty obvious as well. 19% increase in ridership couple with a 13% decrease in train service."

Could efficiency plays a part? For example, more new stations means more trips per commuter, but does not mean distance or average duration has decrease. Just more pple making more trips instead of taking the bus or walking.

13% decrease in total distance travel could also mean that on average, the distance clocked per trip has dropped as folks no longer has to take a more circuitous route to get to a destination. Remember that in 2003, the number of MRT stops are a lot less than today.

Like my name sake, I am not a professional statistician or actual economist and I'm certainly not here to make things difficult for you. Just thought you might be interested to know there's other viewpoints.

If you think you're right and I'm wrong, so be it. Live and let live.

Hobbyist Economist

Anonymous said...

gms why you so stubborn?

Anonymous said...

one only needs to ride the train from Marina Bay to City Hall, from Khatib to Jurong East, from Joo Koon to Raffles Place from 7am to 9am, and 6pm to 8pm, to 'feel' how horrible it is to stand butt to butt with a stranger, feel someone's breath on your neck and stare nto someone's armpits to understand how difficult the situation is.

Perhaps, the measure that should be used is not full occupancy rate, but a comfortable occupancy rate.

In addition, with the new Marina Bay downtown, the situation will only get worse as Singaporeans' workplace congregate down 'south'.

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