Japan is of course not the only country that experiences crowded trains and subways during rush hour. Over the last 10 years Singapore’s population has increased by 30 percent, putting pressure on its public transportation system, especially during the morning rush. Though Japan is trying to alleviate overcrowding with wider trains, Singapore is taking a different approach to the problem; free fares until 7:45 a.m. for anyone getting off at one of 16 stations in the downtown core.
Started in the last week of June, the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the government-related operator of Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit, began an experiment in which it offered free fares on weekdays between first departure and 7:45 a.m. to commuters who alighted at one of 16 city-center train stations. According to the authorities, they are looking for ways to alleviate overcrowding during the morning rush which peaks during the 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. time slot, and offered the free fares in an attempt to get some people to board the trains earlier.
Results announced on July 1 showed promise, with congestion decreasing by 7 percent compared to the weekday period prior to the start of the experiment. As a result, the LAT plans to continue the trial for one full year in order to gather more comprehensive data for analysis, and hopes to achieve a decrease in overcrowding between 10 and 20 percent during the morning rush.
Commuter reactions to the trial were mostly positive, with such comments as, “It’s great. I’ll be able to save money due to the free fares,” and “It wasn’t crowded so I could get a seat and read.” However, not all thought the idea of catching and earlier train was a good one, “The time when free fares are offered is too early. I prioritize my sleep over money.”
Lost fares due to the trial are expected to amount to a little more than 700 million yen (about US$6.9 million) and will be borne by the Singapore government (read taxpayer). After thoroughly analyzing the data at the end of the one-year trial period, the LTA plans to adjust fares to make up for the income shortfall should the early morning free-ride policy be implemented.
Hmmm, wider trains or free fares… I think I’d get up a bit earlier to avoid the rush and save some cash at the same time. How about you?