Welcome back to my exchange blog! After a week full of midterms and a quick trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the 2011 SIFE World Cup and a tour of the Microsoft Office in the Petronas Towers; I am back to write a blog post about one of my favourite things in Singapore: the rapid transit system!
Singapore’s land area is just less than 700km2, a tiny country. To travel from one side of the island to the other by car, it takes about 45 minutes, approximately the distance from Surrey to downtown Vancouver to put things into perspective. If everyone in the country drove cars, there would be endless traffic jams. This leads to one of my favourite parts about Singapore: no matter where you are on the island, there will be a bus or train to take you where you need to go!
The first component of the transit system is the buses. There is countless number of routes that buses take around the island, and where ever you walk, you are usually within five minutes of a bus stop. The buses are also very frequent during the day, so you never have to wait too long for the next bus. The key is to know which buses go where, so you don’t end up going somewhere that you didn’t want to. I find the easiest way to get around on the buses is to take them to an MRT station, where you can hop on a train.
This leads to the second component, which is the “Mass Rapid Transit” (MRT) train system that has four different lines and 89 different stations. You can take the MRT pretty much anywhere in Singapore, from Changi Airport to City Hall and even to within 10 minutes of the Singapore-Malaysia border. With the latest addition of the new Circle Line, there is now also a station that is right inside the NUS campus! The best thing about the train system is it is extremely efficient. There are signs throughout each station that direct you where to go, even estimates of how long it will take you to talk from point A to point B. While boarding a train, there are also arrows on the floor telling you how to board most efficiently. Since arriving in Singapore, I have never missed a train due overcrowding, even at peak hours; this just shows how efficiently it is set up. The first thing you will notice is the cleanliness of the stations and trains; they actually do not let you eat or drink on buses, trains, or in the stations! In the future, there will be three additional lines and over 60 more stations by 2020.
Speaking of efficiency, you can ride both the MRT and the buses with one easy pass called the “EZ-Link Card”. Essentially you purchase a card for $5 then you top it up with cash when its value gets low. Before you enter a train platform or when you board a bus you simply scan your card. When it is time to get off, you scan your card again and you are charged for your travels. In Singapore, the charge is based on the number of kilometres you travel, which makes the average trip on a bus or MRT cost around $1 SGD. You can also use the EZ Link Card for several other purposes, including paying for food, laundry, and printing at NUS.
To get from your residence to your classes or the MRT station, it is definitely too hot to walk outside with 30 degree temperatures or heavy rain. To make it easier for students to get around campus, NUS provides free shuttle bus service all over campus.
Overall, the rapid transit system in Singapore is very important to the functioning of the country and it is an easy and cheap way to get around for a student! The coolest thing is that I can travel from campus to the airport for under $3 in less than an hour, making it easy to go to class, and then hop on a plane to a travel destination within a few hours! In fact, the MRT is so important that they have a rap for the MRT that was performed at the National Day Parade this year, check it out in the Youtube video below:
MRT Song at National Day Parade 2011
That’s all for now!