More People Are Taking Public Transport in 2021 But It’s Still Very Different from Pre-COVID-19 Days

Although there has been an increase in the number of commuters in 2021, the Land and Transport Authority (LTA) reports that the statistics are the second lowest since 2010.

Why the numbers are so low requires no guessing: COVID-19 restrictions.

With a portion of the workforce being made to work from home, the need for social distancing, the fear of the spreading pandemic in crowded places, and restrictions on the sizes of social gatherings, it’s no surprise that the numbers are low but steadily increasing.

Percentage Increases in the Public Transport Ridership

According to the LTA, the bus and train rides were around 5.259 million per day on average in 2021, which is 4.3% more than 2020.

Bus showed a greater improvement, since it was 4.5% more than three million, whereas MRT and LRTs were increased by 4.1% to 2.251 million per day.

Just last month, bus and train rides reached an average from 5.785 million per day, a 10% leap compared to 2021.

However, the numbers are still far off from the all-time high of 7.691 million rides per day in 2019, just before COVID-19 hit the shores of Singapore.

Currently, there just isn’t as much of a need or reasons to travel afar.

Improving Rates of Taxi and Private-Hire Car Rides

Similarly, taxi and private-car rides have seen an improvement.

The average of 554,000 by these two forms of transports is a 7.2% increase from 2020.

In general, private-hire cars experienced an 8% growth to 321,000 trips, whilst taxi improved to 232,000 per day, which is a 5.9% improvement.

With regards to point-to-point ridership, this is only the second year such data has been gathered.

In a similar vein as public transport ridership, the current combined figures are only half the amount of taxi rides in 2013, which was before private hires like Uber and Grab came into the picture.

The real question now though, is how much has private-hire car rides increased for the first few months of 2022, given that the Omicron wave is currently giving its worse and many are recommended to take private cars to see doctors?

That’ll surely be an interesting spike and a misnomer in the statistics.

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Dips in Commuter Satisfaction

Another noteworthy point that coincides with the increase of bus and train ridership are the decreases in commuter satisfaction,

In the commuter satisfaction survey that the Public Transport Council (PTC) conducts annually, it showed that 92% of commuters were satisfied with bus and train rides last year, a decrease from 97.6% in 2020, and 99.4% in 2019.

This is comparable to 2015, where 91.8% of the commuters reported that they were less than satisfied with the current state of public transport.

Trains might fare better on this front, but not by much either.

Much of the dissatisfaction comes from the longer waiting times, which couldn’t be helped as drivers at bus interchanges were usually affected in clusters, thus forcing there to be fewer rides.

For instance, roughly 10% of the 9,500 bus drivers went down because of the COVID-19 outbreaks at interchanges, bringing down the amount of manpower the bus rides had.

Five express services even had to be cut down as a result.

Consequently, it led to more concerns about perceived longer waiting times, the general safety of commuting in packed carriages, travel time and overall comfort.

General Projections of Future Ridership

Putting aside the state of things during the pandemic years, it is likely that it will take more time before public transport ridership returns to pre-pandemic levels.

This could either proportionally decrease private-hire and taxi ride statistics as more commuters become less afraid of virus exposure and step out of the more expensive confines of private-hire cars in lieu of the old, trustworthy bus and trains.

Or, private-hires and taxis will continue to see an increase in ridership too, as the economy gradually opens up again.

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Featured Image: Shutterstock / diyben