Distance Based Fares kicked in since the 3rd of July this year, and so far it has generated plenty of discontent among passengers. I had been very supportive of distance based fares, because in a logical manner, distance based fare would make everything more fair. The move to distance based fares was said to help those who travel long distances, and is probably step one of any plan to remove long distance buses. It is said that about a third of the passengers would see an increase in fares, with the rest either maintaining or having a reduction in the fares.
But yet if Distance Based Fares were supposedly fairer, why are we generating much complaints? For the purpose of this discussion, let us ignore complains that the current statistics involving people with increased fares is much higher than 33%. This is because, surely, people with a reduction in fares would be less inclined to share the information, and people who saw an increase would be unhappy and hence be more proactive in dishing out the info. In addition, most of us do not really remember the fare before. We only have a bit of a rough idea, and hence we cannot be sure the exact increase / decrease in the fare.
The sad thing about the Distance Based Fare in Singapore is that it is really not entirely distance based. There seems to be some other variable that affects the fares. For one, it seems that amongst my circle of friends, that multiple transfers is better than a single bus trip. I am not entirely sure if the distance covered in both instances are the same, but assuming that they are roughly the same, then it makes no sense that we are encouraging multiple transfers, unless it is part of a wider plan to remove long distance bus services.
However, I do have proof that the formula does involve something other than distance. If distance based fares are only based on distance, then my MRT trip from Clementi to Lakeside should have the same cost. This is not the case. I have two scenarios drawn out, with both scenarios requiring me to take bus 96 from two parts of NUS to Clementi Interchange before changing to the MRT to go back to Lakeside. Assuming it is entirely distance based, I should get the same cost for the MRT part of the journey, and different costs for the bus leg.
The above shows the fares if I took the bus at the first stop in NUS, at Engineering LT7A.
The above shows the fares if I took the bus from Computer Center, 3 stops away from LT7A. Hence this is the one with the shorter bus journey. Looking at the bus fares, it seems to be distance based. However, why is the MRT fares different? Although I still pay cheaper for shorter distance travelled (as compared to scenario 1), it makes no sense that the MRT fares would differ.
Surely this is proof that there is some other variable at work?
I took the above screenshots from the Distance Fares Calculator provided at PublicTransport.sg.
The idea behind distance based fares is noble. The anger against distance based fares has, honestly, nothing to do with the concept of distance based fares, but how distance based fares were implemented. Surely, when transparency is touted as one of the pillars of our governance, that we should see some transparency in how the fares are being calculated? This is because when a noble idea is tweaked, it would cease being noble and become unfair instead.