How not to ride a train

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to your commentary dated 3 Aug 2010. You started off by saying that our train crowdedness is not as severe as that in Tokyo. Its strange that as we strive towards New York’s or London’s cosmopolitanism, we look instead towards Tokyo for train crowdedness standards. Does comparing ourselves with the worst justify us being as bad as we are?

You said that our two million rides per day is more than that in Paris. But Paris has 4 to 4.5 million rides per day, much more than what we have. While our 2 million rides per day is indeed substantially less than Hong Kong’s 3.76 million per day, it doesn’t automatically imply that our trains are therefore much less crowded. Crowdedness depends on both ridership and capacity. While Hong Kong has much higher ridership than us, it also has much higher train capacity. In fact, Hong Kong has 10 train lines compared to our 4 and their ridership per line is actually lower than ours.

You ended by saying that it is up to riders to make the ride less unpleasant for everyone by not blocking the entrance. But if the train is packed up to almost four persons per square metre during peak hours, it’s hard to imagine how there can still be space left to be blocked. If our primary concern is overcrowdedness during peak hours, then rider etiquette is most certainly not the main culprit.

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