Public transport connectivity and favouritism

The full Downtown line has just opened, after suffering a noticeable delay during its Open House. Before that, the frequently-disrupted Red Line (North-South Line) stalled yet again.

This would be a good time to post some of my observations regarding the blatant favouritism in recent expansion of the MRT network.

Observation 1: Favoured region versus neglected region (South-East versus South-West)

First, look at LTA’s official map showing the MRT system’s future lines, which are currently under construction.

The South-East region will have a total of 3 lines running parallel to each other, increasing to 4 near the central area (EW green line, DT blue line, TE line, plus Circle yellow line). This is a region with a lower population density compared to the South-West region on the opposite side.

Now go back to the map and look at the corresponding South-West side. West of Buona Vista, there is ONE line, the same EW green line that has existed for over 20 years. The oldest MRT line in Singapore is now expected to handle the additional population of the Jurong Lake district developments, the Tuas extension and the future high-speed rail station all by itself.

Even before the opening of the eastern side DT line, the western side of the EW line (Boon Lay MRT to town area) has always been noticeably more crowded than the eastern side (Tampines MRT to town area). This is my personal experience riding the MRT cross-island. So the need for more capacity is on the western side, not the eastern side.

If this isn’t a blatant show of favouritism, I would appreciate knowing the reasons for this lop-sided development.

Observation 2: An “exclusive” MRT line?

Yishun has become a bit of a running gag or online meme, but the problem of public transport neglect extends to the entire northern region between Bukit Batok and Ang Mo Kio.

The map below shows the NS red line and DT blue line in the Bukit Panjang area (taken from Google Maps):

MRT-DTL

The distance between Bukit Gombak and Choa Chu Kang, 2 adjacent stations on the NS red line, is greater than the distance between the 2 MRT lines. Yet there has been no attempt or even any suggestion to connect the 2 lines: Bukit Gombak-Hillview or Choa Chu Kang-Bukit Panjang.

So near, yet so far: commuters from the NS red line wanting to travel to the city centre via the DT line must switch to LRT, make several stops along the way, then switch a second time at Bukit Panjang MRT. Either take this roundabout route, or brave the overcrowded EW green line and equally overcrowded Jurong East station. Furthermore, there was previous speculation about scrapping the LRT, meaning no rail connection between the lines at all.

I strongly suspect that the DT blue line’s central section is pandering to the landed-property residents, who are not likely to appreciate crowds of HDB residents on their “exclusive” line. The DT line trains are very small (only 3 cars), at most able to hold 2 double-decker buses’ worth of commuters. The capacity is obviously not that of a “mass” transit system.

So here we have a case of pandering to the wealthy, who are not likely to use the MRT much. An entire line built for them with all the stations opened as soon as possible. Compare this to the case of the infamous “white elephant” Buangkok MRT and some Punggol LRT stations, which were left unused for years (in the case of Punggol LRT, obviously deteriorating).

Observation 3: School pandering (Dover MRT) and school snubbing (King Albert Park MRT)

This is even stated on Wikipedia: Dover MRT was essentially built to serve the students of 1 educational institution. At present, nothing has been built on the empty land next to the station, contrary to stated plans to develop the area around the MRT station. During the school holidays, the station is under-utilised.

On the other hand, looking at the positions of the stations on the DT line, it seems that Ngee Ann Polytechnic was deliberately given a miss. Both King Albert Park and Beauty World MRT stations are about 2 bus stops away, and there is no connecting tunnel or covered walkway. Again, a case of “so near, yet so far”.

Rather than dealing with the complaints of the condominium residents, why did the authorities not construct the station under Ngee Ann Polytechnic? There is a large field just behind the bus stop entrance which could accommodate all the construction equipment.

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