I’ve heard many complaints about how the internal shuttle bus service in NUS has become absolute madness since the start of the current academic year. This year saw the opening of University Town, with many classes (apparently unnecessarily) moved across to the new facilities, and transportation facilities that seem to be inadequately planned. I haven’t been to University Town, so I haven’t been personally affected.
But I did have to take a bus from School of Computing to the Staff Club stop a few days ago. Service A2 would take me there. This was before the lunch time peak hour. There shouldn’t be too many people on the buses, and the roads would not be that crowded with other private cars heading out of campus for lunch. I expected to be at my destination in 20 minutes or so, including the waiting time for the bus.
So when 10 minutes passed without any sign of my bus, I started to get impatient. I checked online (thanks to the convenience of smartphones) and saw that the worst case frequency at this pre-lunch hour was 12 minutes. Alright, let’s wait a few more moments. Several empty cabs passed by, I was very tempted to take them. But it would be so silly to pay $4 or so just to get to another side of campus when a free internal shuttle bus service was available. So I waited and waited… and finally, the bus arrived 25 minutes (at least) from the time I started waiting. I wondered if it might have been 30 minutes or more since the previous bus arrived.
My bus ride to the Staff Club stop took me 13 minutes, for a total journey time (including waiting) of 38 minutes. It could have taken even longer if I needed to go further. 38 minutes is just totally and completely ridiculous. How will students go from one class to another class on-time? This academic year, lecturers are told to end classes earlier and to keep strictly to that timing. I don’t remember the new ending time for classes, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to be 22 minutes past the hour (thus giving 38 minutes of time to travel to the next class… and that still wouldn’t be enough because you’ve got to consider time to travel from the classroom or lecture theatre to the bus stop).
So now I’m beginning to appreciate some of the frustration that students are facing. Perhaps, like how our new Minister of Transport, Lui Tuck Yew, who took to public buses and trains to experience Singaporean’s gripe about our public transport, our senior management in NUS should try go take a few bus rides themselves. Preferably on a day with blistering hot sun, and on a tight schedule. Try doing that just one time a week, every week.
I don’t know why classes have to be moved to University Town. Can’t classes be planned such that there is minimal need to go there? How did NUS survive before without University Town? If perhaps there was some higher-level executive decision that people must be made to visit University Town, then such decision should have been followed up with proper transport planning.
One of the new things that happened with the internal shuttle bus routes is that they’ve changed an express service D into a pair of 2 super long routes service D1/D2 (difference is in the direction of travel). Our public transport operators tell us that long bus routes are no good. Yet in NUS, the transport planners somehow thought that long routes are actually better. It’s no wonder that so many people are complaining about D1 and D2. (I’ve not taken D1 and D2 myself… although I was a frequent rider on D in the previous academic year.)
I’ve got several ideas about how to improve the transportation in NUS. But I think just using some common sense would resolve many of the problems. Not just about buses, but all the road users in NUS. Peak hour congestion in NUS can sometimes get quite messy. Drivers don’t undertand the meaning of yellow boxes. In fact, I think one of the biggest culprits are the internal shuttle buses themselves. Even when it is pretty obvious that they can’t clear the yellow box, and that most of their vehicle would obstruct traffic from other directions, the drivers still move forward and obstruct the junction.
Then, there are also the pedestrians. For some insane reasons, NUS students just completely don’t understand that roads are built for vehicles to travel on. Roads are not pedestrian pathways. There is simply no end to examples of students crossing the roads, walking in the middle of driveways, etc… as if the whole space was actually meant for pedestrians to stroll on. I wonder who would be the right authority to come down to nab these people for jay walking.
I can’t imagine when the Circle Line station at NUH opens… how much worse traffic is going to become on campus.