Singapore Adventure

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Groovin' in the Bus Lane
by jima

One of the possibilities that excited both me and Venitha when we decided to move to Singapore was the thought of not owning a car. Having grown up in the US and living in relatively small towns and cities, the idea of not having a car seemed foreign, liberating, and a bit unsettling. Would we really be able to live without a vehicle? Would it be such a pain that we would give up on it soon after arrival? Would we end up spending as much on cabs as we would have if we had just gotten a car? Inquiring minds want to know!

The first month in Singapore we lived in a service apartment, one of the features of which was a bus that went (quite quickly - only 3 stops) to work. They did not, however, provide a similar bus service back in the evenings. This turned out to be a good thing, as it allowed me to ease into the public transit patterns without having to worry about scheduling in the morning. The service apartment was also convenient in that it was close to an MRT station that was on the same line as the station closest to work. Very easy, very convenient, and also very cheap! For those of you keeping score at home, a short ride on the MRT costs a little over $1 SDG.

We moved from the service apartment into our current apartment on a Thursday night. I took Friday off to move and unpack and thus had three days to figure out how I would get to work Monday morning. I used this time exactly as most of you are imagining, by completely ignoring the issue.

That Monday morning found me eating my breakfast while checking the on-line bus schedule to figure out how I was going to make this work. I soon discovered that my real problem was not finding a way to work, but rather picking which route I wanted to take! I quickly came up with five different ways to do my commute, and I spent the first week trying them all out and learning valuable lessons in the process:

  • The same bus route can take VERY different amounts of time in the morning and the evening.
  • Some transfers at MRT stations are MUCH closer than others. Dhoby Ghaut is one of the worst ones!
  • The front seat in the upper level of a double decker bus has good leg room AND a great view.

  • Cabs cost WAY more than buses and trains, though they do make the trip a bit quicker. A cab will take about 20-30 minutes to get between work and home, whereas mass transit takes about 40-50 minutes.
  • TVs on buses are evil. There are many current movies that I don't ever want to see, solely based on having to see the trailer for them 3 or 4 times each day on the way to work!
  • The MRT is generally loud.
  • Paying attention to which stop you're at is a generally "good idea". I've only gone past my intended stop far! Venitha has done this once, too.
  • Reading on the bus is a bit easier than reading on the subway - just because it's easier to get a seat!
  • If there are two of us and it's a long ride, taking the cab often isn't too much more expensive than mass transit, and it can be MUCH more convenient. We've had the conversation with friends of ours here that we all had the block about taking cabs. There are times when it does make sense to use them, after all!

Now that I'm a few weeks into the commute and am starting to get into the rhythm of it, I'd have to say that the idea of not having a car is still liberating, but no longer all that foreign or unsettling. And, for those inquiring minds above: yes, no and no.