“Contrary to grouses over service standards, a Singapore Management University (SMU) study has suggested that Singaporeans are more satisfied with the public transport system” (Singaporeans Are Satisfied With Public Transport System, Mr. Ong Dai Lin).
Surprise would be the first word that comes to the mind of Singaporeans after reading the findings by the Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore (CSISG) on public transportation services, in the news report “Singaporeans Are Satisfied With Public Transport System” (August 12, 2011) by Mr. Ong Dai Lin. Following the fare hike requests submitted by the transport providers, there has been a proliferation of sentiments lamenting the less-than-satisfactory standards on buses and trains, though operators and administrators staunchly purport otherwise.
Against the background of these conflicting perspectives, existing Quality of Service (QoS) guidelines and academic studies – including the aforementioned one from the Singapore Management University (SMU) – have proven to be woefully inadequate in terms of quantifying on-the-ground commuter experience.
CSISG Results: The Missing Pieces
In the CSISG study, although a brief distinction has been made between non-peak and peak-hour travellers, detailed figures have not been released to reveal the full extent of the difference. This is especially significant, because even though upgraded station and vehicular infrastructure have enhanced general trips, irregular arrival times, infrequent services and poor management have led to chronic overcrowding during rush hours.
This means that future evaluations would have to take into account service satisfaction levels at varying time periods and also at different locations. This would include major interchanges, and popular train stations or bus stops concentrated in the central areas.
Findings of affordability will be questioned on counts of relevance and timeliness, following the recent announcement by the Public Transport Council (PTC) of a one percent hike in fares across the board. Furthermore, to make analysis on costs and fares more holistic, the team has to consider passengers – students and the elderly – who pay concessionary rates and therefore are negligibly affected by most adjustments. In other words, future studies should be less conveniently generalised, and meticulously categorised to paint a clearer, detailed picture of the status quo in the country.
Evaluating Our Public Transportation Systems
Focus group discussions, with stakeholders representing interest groups, will be good complements for current methodologies of transportation assessment. Heightened multilateral correspondence between these groups, service providers and ministries in-charge would bring about valuable qualitative observations, for the subsequent implementation of recommendations that are more relevant and effectual. For instance, greater efforts can be undertaken to reach out to elderly and handicapped commuters, and properly understand their concerns and struggles in the stations and on the vehicles.
More can definitely be done to identify challenges in the current network, and to heavily involve members of the public to provide constructive criticisms; after all, in the service industry, administrators must be hungry for regular feedback so as to constantly reflect upon systems and generate plans of action. Greater integration can also be expected from the two transport providers – the lack of cooperation evidenced by the absence of integrated travel guides for cross-service transfers – so that passengers benefit.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.