Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Reward Service Standards with Fare Hikes

Last week, the Public Transport Council’s (PTC) announced a fare hike. Yesterday, train services broke down again, affecting some 19,000 commuters, according to our mainstream media. Fares have to increase, sooner or later. That is a norm we have to accept. The other thing, which unfortunately has become quite the norm, is our massive transportation breakdowns. This one is completely ridiculous and something we can’t accept.

To every commuter, it’s just common sense to link fare increases to expectations of improved services. That’s how it works at our jobs. If we perform well, we get a pay increment. Our public transport is, shall we be nice and just say, “not good”. Yet, fares are increased anyway.

I know there are some jobs where annual pay increments are more-or-less locked in. As long as you don’t mess up, you’re guaranteed that annual pay raise. Is this like how our public transport works? Fare increases are guaranteed. Service standards are just irrelevant to the operators and the authorities.

Actually, it’s worse. Our public transport is messed up. Somehow these people will turn these mess ups into an opportunity to justify fare increases.

How many of us will wish this works in our jobs too. Imagine you tell your boss, “Boss, I need a big pay raise so that I can be motivated to improve my performance.” Then, you just don’t do anything, or you pretend to do something, but don’t produce appreciable results, and then ask for more pay raise again the next year. You expect your boss to somehow fall for the same line year after year.

I am not against raising public transport fares per se. But they had better get serious about improving our transportation system. We need to raise the stakes. Like fire someone every time there is a major disruption. Someone who’s high up enough in the food chain that is accountable for that disruption. Then we should see people scrambling to really make things work better.

We can be more reasonable. How about we set some service targets, see that they are achieved, then implement fare increases? This is just like how it works in our jobs, no? At the start of a work year, you discuss with your boss about performance targets for that year. At appraisal time, your performance is reviewed to see how you have met your targets, then thereafter you get rewarded accordingly.

Right now, we are doing the inverse and hoping for the best. Increase fares first, and hope the service standards will improve subsequently. It just doesn’t make sense.

Singapore wants to talk about being world class in everything. Like a world class land transport system. What we have, right now, is a major embarrassment. World class indeed — with a transport system where breakdowns are the norm.

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