Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I haven't been in Singapore for awhile but I guess like I said in my previous post, alot of things have changed. For one, SMRT has unveiled a new look voice equipment program that has left me quite literally shell-shocked. Meanwhile, while all these changes are taking place in train stations, the taxi drivers 'chao kuan' attitudes will forever remain die-hard. How many times have you seen letters and columnist bitching about the poor taxi standards in First World Singapore? This being the first post in the New Year, I must reignite this ranting about them.

Firstly, the MRTs. As this has been a festive period, it is well expected that people throng the train stations to flood places like Orchard, Orchard and well, Orchard. I am not sure exactly what is that 'pussy magnet'(to quote Borat), that is hidden in that place but people sure do love hanging out at that shopping strip. There has been the recent opening of Vivocity, Ikea and whatnot, but Orchard still remains the no.1 place to be seen with a shopping bag.

Hence, MRTs are undoubtly packed. It seems to get more and more crowded as the years go by and in the life on me, I can't remember having ever to wait for three trains to pass before I could catch one heading towards the direction of Orchard from City Hall. Anyway, the new sound system in the train stations are getting better and better as well. Now instead of having age-old drones like 'For your safety, please stand behind the yellow line.', SMRT has since upgraded like everything else on this island.(Hougang and Potong Pasir doesnt'count, they didn't vote PAP.) They have new tunes like. 'The Station IS CROWDED. Please LEAVE the station if you are not taking the train.' After hearing this annoucement, I was amazed at the audacity of it. Since when is Singapore starting to become militarized? Oh wait, it already is! Yellow lines are now been drawn country-wide in the bid to curb smokers from polluting Singapore. (Another told to death joke is the one where Singapore should draw a yellow line around Indonesia as well to prevent the Haze. Since it's so effective.)

Now Singapore has gone a step further in the military ruling by ordering people off the train station! This puzzles me for two reasons. First, why would people still hang around the station if they are not taking a train? I am sure this annoucement is quite redundant. Second, since when does SMRT have sergeant like powers to order the men off the station? I mean this is a free country and I can stand wherever I damn well please. What if I don't leave the station? Will I get charged and get thrown to DB? Sometimes I wonder if the guy running SMRT is a retired Lieutanant Colonel.

Slowly, Singapore is turning to a place where these transport monopolies do what they want without any consideration for the commuters. And nothing is more obvious than those folks that drive the taxis. How often have you heard the saying that you can never get a taxi from 11pm to 12pm? This is the magical hour where all taxis go into hibernation or mysteriously go on call. All these to force commuters like us to call for a cab. Its not the matter of being cheapskate but principle. If you let these old turds earn that extra 3 dollars, they will continue to practice these unscruplous methods of 'hiding' from commuters just to earn that fee.

In a 'First World' country like Singapore, we can ill-afford to have such eccentricities. This country strives to be a hub for everything except to be a hub for world class transport. Personally, I was a victim of these evasive cabbies. On New year's eve, I walked from Suntec to Kallang just so I can board a damn cab. And you know what's the best part? I wasn't the only one walking. Tons of people were walking along the pavement in a straight line, each hoping for another to stop eventually so that we will not be competing to flag a cab. This whole time, not a single cab was willing to stop for us.

It is sad really, to have a long line of people walking in vain for a cab after a late night New Year party. Considering that Singapore prides itself for an efficent transport system, it was still down to that traditional pair of legs instead of buses or taxis. I cannot fathom why can't SBS and SMRT for one night just run the transport 24 hours to serve the masses. Knowing that almost the whole of Singapore will be out partying and looking at fireworks, why can't they just run the buses and trains?

Sadly, Singapore being Singapore is very good at blowing our own trumpet.(Look at NUS.) But in practice, we are still far off from being anywhere near the best. From a dictatorial MRT system to diabolic taxi drivers, we still have a long way to go before Singapore can truly call the transport system, 'World Class'.

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