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BULLY: A man spat twice on a woman and threatened to hit her, allegedly after he was admonished for jumping queue.

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Published on Oct 25, 2013

Will spit or fight, when we travel tight

SHOUTING matches, thrown punches and even a spat with real spit involved. Such rogue behaviour, captured on video, has one thing in common: It took place in full public view on - what else? - public transport.

Such commuter rage has been in the spotlight, and most recently a 47-year-old man's spitting rampage unleashed on a woman at the Woodlands Bus Interchange on Tuesday got him arrested.

The angry man isn't alone. A check done online and on past news reports threw up over 10 videos and accounts of commuters acting up within this year.

One Facebook page called "I don't like to squeeze on the MRT" has quite a collection of videos of heated arguments that took place on buses and trains.

The man arrested for being a public nuisance at the Woodlands Bus Interchange allegedly took offence when he was reprimanded for jumping the queue.

Most disputes are over space and seats - something that commuters and experts that My Paper spoke to also noticed.

Ms Mary Chen, 24, a recruitment executive, who has witnessed two tiffs over seats in the past two years, said: "Seats are becoming a precious commodity. We seem to be not as tolerant. Perhaps the crowds on the train get to us."

Psychologist Joel Yang explained that commuters may become "increasingly angrier" and tend to react negatively to minor annoyances as Singapore's population density increases.

Dr Yang, who heads the Master of Counselling Programme at SIM University's School of Human Development and Social Services, said: "It has been widely researched in major, densely populated cities that crowding is linked to anxiety, frustration, aggression, and inappropriate social interaction."

He also cited studies of population density in the living conditions of rats - when the population of rats increased in a fixed living space, the rats "fought, became more territorial, and infant mortality sharply increased".

While unruly behaviour on board buses and trains is not new, experts say that the ease of recording such incidents with smartphones has amplified the prominence of commuter rage.

Dr Yang said: "Singaporean culture is typically more conservative and conciliatory. Smartphone recording devices and social media are non-confrontational means of expressing our distaste for such behaviour."

Such anti-social behaviour - whether on buses or at the cinema - is uncalled for, said Mr Ang Hin Kee, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport.

Mr Ang, who is an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said: "I've been to crowded places and seen how people accommodate one another. You have a choice. Don't blame external factors for your behaviour."

nggwen@sph.com.sg