Commute Troubles

One day last month, I waited 45 minutes to get onto an SMRT bus that would take me from work to my connecting bus. In this 45 minutes, 5 full buses passed by our bus-stop without stopping. Repeated the next day, and the next. On the fourth day, I waited 75 minutes and 7 full buses worth.

Called SMRT customer service hotline – was put on hold and eventually cut off after less less than 3 minutes, several times. These days they don’t even let you hold even if you are willing to. I guess there is less chance of you reaching a living, talking person this way. My colleagues and I vented our wrath in emails to LTA and SMRT. I didn’t get any replies. My colleagues did – “Our findings indicated that what you complaint about didn’t happen, but we will continue to make sure passengers move to the back of the bus.”

Oh, the sense of helplessness. I don’t want to be one of those who continually bash the authorities for everything that doesn’t go my way. But will no one do something?

It is getting harder and harder for me to maintain my stand that our public transport system is adequate and up to snuff, and there is no need to drive in Singapore. Not when even I, the staunch non-driver, starts to evaluate other options. But really, there are few other options that will not bankrupt or inconvenience me/someone else further.

Public Buses

I currently spend about $70 a month commuting by this method. When I don’t have to put up with insane waits like above, it takes me 75 minutes one way to or from work. And I get to imitate a sardine some parts of the commute. Oh the joys!

Cabs

Cabs take 25 minutes for a one way commute and costs $22 per trip. Monthly costs = $22 x 22 working days/month x 2 trips a day = $968. And that is assuming that I can always catch a cab.

Car

I am a total noob when it comes to cars, so I did some cursory research. I got the following information from the various calculators from sgcarmart.com, using a new 1600cc Kia Cerato Forte.

Assuming full financing, monthly costs of car ownership = $700 (monthly loan repayment) + $60 (road tax) + $100 (insurance) + $150 (petrol) + $50 (miscellaneous – parking etc) = $1,060. This figure does not take into account any required maintenance costs.

Car Pooling/Cab Pooling

There are some logistical difficulties involved for this option. Few employees in my company stay in the same area as I do. And those who also happen to drive happen to belong to the top management. It is difficult to approach your company CFO to carpool when you are not quite there on the company hierarchy. We also all have different and variable schedules. 

In conclusion, I can pay close to $1000 extra a month for the convenience of a cab or a car, or spend 90 minutes extra travelling each day. That works out to something like $30 for each additional  hour spent. If I factor in the crazy waiting times we have been experiencing on the trip home recently, and assume that will become the normal situation, it will be $16 per hour.

Actually the point is moot, because these hours saved are not income generating hours. If I am not spending the time on commute, it would be time spent on relaxing for the day, and I am not about to drop $16/hr or $30/hr to do that.

Happily enough, I do have a solution to my current commute problems. I have been making my way to another bus-stop upstream of the original one, where there are more buses available. This new stop takes a couple of minutes extra walk, but I need the exercise anyway.

One thing I did notice during my mathematical exercise above. Cabs are no longer cheap or even convenient alternatives to driving. If a person is taking cabs everyday for work, I would actually suggest looking into getting a small cheaper car. It may also be possible to recoup some costs by providing carpooling services for a small fee, a win-win situation for all involved.

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