Nov 07, 2013

    Monthly pass to lighten travel bills

    SOME live far away from their places of work. Others have jobs that require them to shuttle through the day from one point to another, racking up large amounts on their bus and train rides.

    One way for them to cap their travel expenses was to buy an ez-link season pass which costs $190 a month for unlimited bus and train travel.

    Now more help could be at hand, if a recommendation by the Fare Review Mechanism Committee (FRMC) is implemented. FRMC has suggested an affordable monthly pass to help around 100,000 commuters who travel heavily on public transport.

    It said that the pricing of such a pass will be decided by the Public Transport Council during a fare review.

    The committee did not reveal more, but chairman Richard Magnus said in a blog post in March that "there are some heavy public-transport users who spend some $120, or even higher, each month".

    Transport expert Lee Der Horng from the National University of Singapore believes that the monthly pass will "definitely be lower than the current rate (of $190)".

    The pass could bring cheer to many commuters.

    Commuters in places like London, for example, enjoy big savings if they opt for weekly or monthly travel cards. A weekly Oyster card for travel in Zone 1 costs £30.40, while a monthly pass is £116.80.

    This works out to about £4.30 (S$8.60) and £3.90 per day respectively. A day pass for unlimited travel, in contrast, costs £8.80. The ez-link season pass works out to about $6.30 a day.

    Mr Raphael Sim, 22, a financial planner, who spends about $6 a day on public transport on weekdays, said that $190 for a season pass is "not worth it".

    Transport economist Michael Li from Nanyang Business School said of the London system: "Their concessions target a normal user and...come with a discount."

    In comparison, the monthly pass in Singapore targets only heavy users.

    The FRMC has recommended that the monthly pass, together with other enhancements to existing concession schemes such as that for polytechnic students, be cross-subsidised by, among others, adults paying full fares.

    A survey of 4,600 households conducted by the committee found that 65.4 per cent supported additional fare increases for normal users to give concessions to those in need of them.

    As for EZ-Link, it does not seem to mind a cheaper, new monthly pass either. Its CEO, Mr Nicholas Lee, told My Paper: "As a card issuer, EZ-Link will support the Government in its initiatives which will help commuters better manage their transport expenditures."