Friday, March 12, 2010

Transport Minister vs HDB Minister


I am still waiting for MOF's reply at this moment, after sending them a second reminder email. But now, I have an interesting "survey result" from Ministry of Transport. Minister Raymond Lim claims that a survey of 3000 people came up with a result that 94% of commuters are "satisfied" with the bus and MRT services.

I guess any readers here who take public transport frequently would have much doubt on such claim but Minister Lim is quick to qualify that commuters are still unhappy about the waiting time. Nothing was said about the cramp conditions that many experienced during peak hours.

I am tempted to email the LTA or Ministry of Transport for their methodology of survey and any publication of their survey results. I am even more tempted to get volunteers to do my own survey with proper sampling methodology to show otherwise.

However, when I read that at last the Minister has admitted the problems raised here, about the inadequacy of public transportation and the unusual high volume of COE issued, even to roll out measures to solve these problems, I guess I will just leave him alone. I mean, compared to Minister Mah of HDB who is still insisting that his HDB flats are affordable after so many people have put up their views against him, Minister Raymond Lim is still not too bad. At the very least, he has made the SMRT to increase 150 MRT trips per week! At the same time, he is going to review the COE quota system to prevent the unusual increase of COE for the past few years.

However, he has fallen short of doing good for the bus services. Increasing the number of Mandatory Give Way Bays are not going to solve the problems! If you travel frequently on buses, you will notice that most of the time, the bus drivers will try to snail their way through the journey even though the road is clear and good for them! Why do they do that? Most probably under the instructions of Bus companies! This is to ensure that the bus will spend maximum time on the trip! This is part of the trick that bus companies are using.

On the other hand, Minister Mah is still sticking to his line of argument that HDB is still affordable. He does not admit that his market-based pricing mechanism for new HDB flats is the key problem of high HDB prices. He has rolled out quite a number of measures but it seems that they are aimed at resale market. So far, these measures are ineffective. Maybe Minister Mah does not understand the meaning of supply and demand mismatch. Anyway, I shall leave this to my coming postings on his Myths that he is living on.

The key message is this: both public transport and public housing are BASIC SOCIAL SERVICES. Entities that provide these basic social services have more social responsibility than just mere private enterprises.

In the case of public transport, it is better not to privatize the vendors of public transport services in a small country like Singapore. The market does not allow adequate competition to grow or rather, these public transport companies have actually colluded to provide segmented monopolies. Yet, the regulator, LTA has allowed this to happen. The basic premise of a privatizing public transport companies is that it could be more efficient with competition inbuilt. But the truth is, in Singapore's context, there are basically no competition at all! Buses are not competing with MRT on the same routes, unlike in Hong Kong whereby mini buses are very competitive.

Thus it is important for the regulator and the minister in charge to keep a high alert on these private public transport companies. They will basically collude and monopolize their segments, resulting in higher prices and lower service standards.

The problems of public housing provider like HDB is different. Although the government, through the MND minister Mah, has almost full control on HDB, it fails its basic role as provider of basic housing for Singaporeans. For the whole period of 2003 to 2008, the housing stock only increase by less than 2% while resident population increases by 8%! How could that happen? It just happened right under the nose of Minister Mah!

As for the pricing mechanism for new HDB flat, it is totally flawed for a government entity. HDB has totally forgotten its roots and roles as a basic social service government provider. It is sad for an entity that is based on socialist ideals to turn into a money making machine.

I will continue my contest against Minister Mah as long as he still refuses to revamp the system. As for Minister Raymond Lim, we will still continue monitor the situation but leave him alone for the moment.

Goh Meng Seng

After note:

I have this comment left on this article:

The way the survey results are reported is not credible.If you want to understand why, have a look at this url.

http://www.lta.gov.sg/images/PTCSS%202009_Annex-A.pdf

The satisfaction score for each question was measured using a 10 pt scale. If you look at the mean score, the mean score averages between 6 to 7. The % satisfied is however very high.

The classification of "satisfied" is not provided in the release. Based on the numbers, it is likely that as long as a person gave a score from 6 to 10, he is classified as "satisfied".

This is a non-standard methodology in survey research. It inflates the results as it groups "indifferent" respondents with the "satisfied" respondents. A more common grouping is

8 to 10 Satisfied
6 to 7 Neutral
1 to 5 Dissatisfied

Even using this highly questionable methodology, we see some alarming results. At the bottom of the release, we see a table on crowdness. On a 10 point scale, almost 50% of respondents gave a score of 1 to 5.


Well, it seems that aurvandil has practically exposed the kind of flawed methodology and presentation of statistics that Minister Raymond Lim used in parliament. I have been looking through HDB statistics which Minister Mah depended on and seeking clarifications by writing to HDB again to ask about how Minister Mah has come to the conclusion of using certain statistics. I am giving them a chance to make clarifications before I write about their funky statistical myths. On the other hand, Ministry of Finance has not replied to my earlier query.

We have to keep ministers on their toes and not let them use some funny statistics in parliament for their debates. We shall see how "solid" their statistics are in the coming week.

4 comments:

Heng-Cheong Leong said...

Minor nit-pick: It's 150 trips per week, not per day.

Goh Meng Seng said...

Thank you for pointing the error.

Goh Meng Seng

Aurvandil said...

The way the survey results are reported is not credible.If you want to understand why, have a look at this url.

http://www.lta.gov.sg/images/PTCSS%202009_Annex-A.pdf

The satisfaction score for each question was measured using a 10 pt scale. If you look at the mean score, the mean score averages between 6 to 7. The % satisfied is however very high.

The classification of "satisfied" is not provided in the release. Based on the numbers, it is likely that as long as a person gave a score from 6 to 10, he is classified as "satisfied".

This is a non-standard methodology in survey research. It inflates the results as it groups "indifferent" respondnents with the "satisfied" respondents. A more common grouping is

8 to 10 Satisfied
6 to 7 Neutral
1 to 5 Dissatisfied

Even using this highly questionable methodology, we see some alarming results. At the bottom of the release, we see a table on crowdness. On a 10 point scale, almost 50% of respondents gave a score of 1 to 5.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Goh,
I fully support your idea of doing our own survey pn the transport system instead of them doing their own. This is no different from a student marking his or her own exam paper. I would be very willing to be one of your volunteers.