Commuters who are early risers will enjoy free or discounted MRT travel for another year.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday that the free pre-peak travel scheme that has been running for two years since June 2013 will be extended to June 30 next year.
The extension could cost taxpayers another $10 million, on top of the $10 million spent in the first year of the scheme, and $7 million in the first nine months of the second year to March this year. The amounts exclude the $5 million that train operator SMRT Corp contributes each year.
The scheme was meant to decant some of the peak load that the rail network experiences between 8am and 9am on weekdays. On certain stretches, commuters sometimes need to wait for three trains to pass before they can board during peak hours.
Under the scheme, commuters who end their journey before 7.45am at 18 designated MRT stations in the city will get a fare waiver. Those who exit at these stations between 7.45am and 8am get a discount of up to 50 cents.
Since the introduction of the scheme two years ago, the LTA said there has been "a sustained reduction of 7 to 8 per cent in the number of train commuters during the morning peak period".
The ratio of morning peak (8am to 9am) to pre-peak (7am to 8am) travel (based on commuters exiting from the designated stations) has also fallen, resulting in a more evenly distributed morning rail ridership, said the LTA yesterday.
But some commuters said this has not translated to an appreciable difference on the ground.
Stockbroker Cole Cheong, 48, said "there is no difference" to the level of crowding during the peak. Asked why he does not commute earlier, he said: "It's a lifestyle thing. Besides, if I reach my office before 8am, I will have to wait more than an hour before the market opens."
Civil servant Ethan Guo, who is in his 30s, said he is usually early enough to enjoy discounted fares, but would not change his travel pattern to get a full waiver.
"It would mean waking up earlier and not being able to stay up later the night before," he said. "But I do know of people who have shifted their schedules to enjoy this."
Mr Cheong said the scheme may not be a long-term solution. "You need to put in more trains, and be more aggressive in expanding the rail network," he said.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo said: "The scheme is an important foundation which we can build on for our other travel demand management efforts... we hope that more people who are able and willing to shift their travelling times will benefit."
Meanwhile, companies that are part of Travel Smart, a grant-supported initiative that encourages firms to allow flexible hours so that employees can travel during off-peak periods, are still supportive.
Rajah & Tann partner Rebecca Chew said: "We saw some positive outcomes for our employees... it encouraged them to order their work life to fit their home life."
"In all likelihood, even after three years, we will continue to support this initiative," she added.
Mr Alvin Tan, director of accounting firm EY, said Travel Smart complements the firm's own flexi-time scheme.
"I get on the first train that pulls into the station and start work earlier at 7am in a better state of mind," he said. "This saves me considerable waiting time."
Additional reporting by Ong Kai Xuan
NOT WORTH SACRIFICING SLEEP
It would mean waking up earlier and not being able to stay up later the night before.
- Civil servant Ethan Guo, in his 30s. He is often early enough to enjoy the discounted fares, but will not change his travel pattern to get a full waiver
WORKERS HAVE BENEFITED
We saw some positive outcomes for our employees... it encouraged them to order their work life to fit their home life.
- Rajah & Tann partner Rebecca Chew, on Travel Smart, an initiative that encourages firms to allow flexible hours so employees can travel during off-peak periods
This article was first published on May 27, 2015.
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