Public Transport
Singapore 2020

An in-depth analysis of public transport in Singapore.

Last Updated: January, 2020. Latest available data from August, 2019.

Highlights

  • Public transport use rose to hit a record high in 2018, with a total of 7.54 million trips made on buses or trains each day. This is the 14th consecutive annual increase.
  • Singapore ranked 2nd in a global public transport affordability study, behind San Francisco. (The Singapore government subsidises more than 30% of public transport costs. Fares are set to increase by 7% at the end of 2019.)
  • Singaporeans spend an average of 84 minutes commuting on public transport during weekdays. This is the same as average commute times for Londoners.
  • The number of daily journeys made using privately owned vehicles fell to 4.2 million, a 13 per cent reduction from 2013. The LTA said this points to a possible shift, with Singapore residents switching from private vehicles to public transport for their daily commute.
  • Since the introduction of private hire cars such as Grab in 2013, the number of taxi rides has almost halved.

Average daily rides on public transport

Public transport use rose to hit a record high in 2018, with a total of 7.54 million journeys made on buses or trains each day. This is 3.8 per cent more than in 2017.

It was the 14th consecutive annual increase in public transport ridership, according to figures by the Land Transport Authority (LTA)

Journeys made on buses and trains was just 5.5 million in 2012.

Impact of tourist arrivals and resident population on public transport

Resident population growth has remained relatively flat in the last 7 years whilst tourist arrivals have recorded record growth in the same period. There were a total of 18.5M tourists arriving in Singapore in 2018.

The increased use of public transport correlates with an increase in tourist arrivals.

Therefore, increased patronage of public transport could also be attributed to a higher density of people using it such as tourists as opposed to merely more Singapore residents needing transportation.

Total population Vs Tourist arrivals

Average daily rides on public transport (buses and trains) Vs Total population and Tourist arrivals

Source: LTA

Trains

Forty per cent of Singapore's public transport journeys are made via rail, with the percentage set to increase as newer rail lines are being built.

The total rail length in 2019 is 227.9km

There are currently 156 Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) stations across 5 MRT and 3 LRT lines

Average daily ridership  on the Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) has increased by 5.7 per cent to 3.5 million rides a day in 2019.

This is up from 2.3 million rides a day in 2012. This increase coincides with the injection of more trains into the system as well as the expansion of the rail network.

Rail reliability has also seen improvements over this period, with the MRT network hitting one million kilometres between delays, a sevenfold improvement from 2015.

Daily train ridership (MRT and LRT)

Daily train ridership (MRT and LRT)

Source: LTA

Buses

The number of buses on the roads has gradually increased over the years and in 2018 there were 19,379, a slight increase on last year’s 19,285.

Bus ridership rose by 2.2 per cent to hit the 4 million mark for the first time.

Daily bus ridership

Source: LTA

Daily bus ridership

The increase in daily bus ridership comes on the back of initiatives such as the $1.1 billion Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP), under which 1,000 new buses and 80 new bus routes were added. By the time it was completed in 2017, the BSEP had boosted the capacity of about 70% of bus services through the deployment of higher-capacity buses and more frequent bus trips.

Average daily ridership

Number (‘000)

2017

2018

MRT

3,122

3,302

LRT

190

199

Bus

3,952

4,037

Total

7,264

7,538

Taxis and private hire cars

The number of daily journeys made by both taxi and private hire cars has increased from 0.8 million in 2013 to 1 million in 2017, in part due to the emergence of private hire cars such as Grab.

Meanwhile, since the introduction of private hire cars in 2013, the number of taxi rides has almost halved.

Last year taxi rides fell 17.6 per cent to 647,000 trips a day.

Rental cars

The overall number of rental cars has risen in the last five years from just 16,396 in 2013 to 66,480 in 2018. However, this year’s number has dipped from 68,083 in 2017, which could in part be attributed to Uber pulling out of the market in the same year. 

Public transport during peak periods

Peak hour trips on public transport increased from 63% in 2012 to 67% in 2017.

Peak hour trips on public transport have seen a steady increase over the last 10 years. In 2008, 59% of all journeys during peak hours were made using public transport . This increase is in line with government targets of 75% by 2030.

Journey time

More people are also experiencing shorter commutes, with the number of daily bus and train trips under 20km completed within an hour increasing from 76 per cent in 2012 to 79 per cent in 2016.

Heading well towards government targets of having 85% of such journeys completed within 60 minutes by 2030.

The average commute on public transport for Singaporeans.

The average amount of time people spend commuting on public transport, for example to and from work, on a weekday is 84 minutes.

This is the same as commute times in London.

Average commute times on public transport around the world

Average commute times on public transport around the world

Source: Moovit

Fares

On average, a typical family using public transport on a daily basis here spends about 4.8 per cent of its disposable income on public transport.

Fare revenue per passenger kilometre in Singapore is around 11 cents for the entire public transport system.

Subsidised fares

Concession rates are now given to children, students, senior citizens, national servicemen, people with disabilities and those on workfare income supplements.

Children below 0.9m in height and accompanied by a fee-paying commuter travel for free on trains and buses.

Average fares are now 4 to 7 cents lower than they were in 2015.

Year

Percentage Fare Increase/decrease

2014

2.8%

2015

1.9%

2016

4.2%

2017

2.2%

2018

4.3%

A 7 percent increase in fares is forecast for the end of 2019.

Annual operating costs

Annual operating costs increased by more than $900 million between 2012 and 2016, while fare revenue increased by only $230 million during that time, mainly due to rising ridership.

The Government says it is currently subsidising more than 30 percent of public transport operations and that higher fares are necessary to keep these subsidies in check.

The Public Transport Council's decision on fare adjustment will be announced in the last quarter of 2019. Fares are expected to rise by 7%.

Ticketing

The convenience and flexibility of the Singaporean ticketing system has received global recognition and is said to be an outstanding feature.

All train and bus journeys can be paid for using cash, contactless stored value cards as well as Mastercard®or Visa contactless credit and debit cards. 

The Singapore Land Transport Master Plan

To meet increasing travel demand the government says a higher proportion of travel needs will have to be met by public transport. It is therefore vital, it says, to make public transport the mode of choice for Singaporeans.

The Land Transport Master Plan launched in 2013 set out goals to be achieved by 2030. Key goals are;

  • 8 in 10 households living within 10 minutes’ walk of a train station;
  • 85% of our mass public transport journeys under 20km completed within 60 minutes; and
  • 75% of all journeys during peak hours made on public transport.

How satisfied are Singaporeans with their public transport?

Commuters became more satisfied with public transport in 2018, according to a survey commissioned by the Public Transport Council (PTC).

The poll, conducted at the end of 2018, showed the satisfaction score rising to 7.9 (out of 10), from 7.7 in 2017. It was the fourth consecutive improvement since 2014.

The satisfaction improvement was larger for the MRT, with the score rising from 7.5 in 2017 (a dip from 2016) to 7.9. This matched the satisfaction level for buses, which remained unchanged at 7.9.

Of the 5,000 people polled, 77.8 per cent felt bus services had improved in the last one year, down from 80.8 per cent in the preceding one-year period, while 72.1 per cent felt the MRT had improved, up sharply from 50.3 per cent previously.  

Other modes of transport

Motor vehicle population

Figures released by the Land Transport Authority for 2018 reveal that total vehicle population in Singapore shrunk by 0.5 per cent to 957,006, the lowest since 2016.

Private passenger cars

Overall, there has been a reduction in the number of private cars in Singapore since 2013.

The number of privately-owned cars in 2018 stands at 551,575. This is a reduction of 55,000 private cars since 2013 when there were 607,292.

Resident household car ownership fell 39 per cent compared to 46 per cent in 2013.

The number of daily journeys made using privately owned vehicles fell to 4.2 million, a 13 per cent decrease from 4.8 million in 2013.

The LTA said this points to a possible shift, with Singapore residents switching from private vehicles to public transport for their daily commute.

The decline also coincides with significant improvements in public transport and the rise of the use of private hire cars instead of personal cars over the same period.

Motorcycles and scooters

The motorcycle and scooter population in Singapore currently stands at 139,311 as of July 2019 . This has steadily dropped since 2017, when there were 141,916 motorcycles and scooters on the roads.

The overall downward trend in the motorcycle population is likely to have been impacted by the National Environment Agency's offer of $3,500 for riders to scrap their older vehicles.

The dwindling motorcycle population has also been attributed to the falling Certificate Of Entitlement quota. Open COEs are secured almost exclusively by car bidders, so motorcycles lose a portion of their COE supply - which eventually influences the motorcycle population - year by year.

And again, the decline coincides with improvements in public transport.

Measures to reduce car ownership

Cost of car ownership. As Singapore is small and space constraint a major concern, pushing prices of cars upwards seems to be a viable measure adopted by the government.

Singapore is one of the most expensive places in the world to own a car. A new compact car costs around $99,000.

Based on the same car, Singapore car prices in 2019 are up to 6 times more expensive than; Australia (US$18,365), up to 5.5 times more than China (US$20,725) and 5 times more expensive than America (US$21,845). Whilst prices in London for the same car work out at around US$23,00.

There are many fees involved in owning a car in Singapore that make it prohibitively expensive. These include;

  • Registration fees
  • Open Market Value (OMV)
  • Excise Duty
  • Certificate of Entitlement
  • Additional Registration Fee (ARF)
  • Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES)
  • Others

Worth noting too is that Singapore's car ownership rate is roughly 11%. In the US, it is nearly 80% and it is just under 50% in Europe.

Vehicle growth rate

In land-scarce Singapore, the government continues to steer the country towards becoming a car-lite society by moderating vehicle population growth rate.

As part of the Land Transport Masterplan 2008, the growth rate was reduced from 3% to 1.5% from May 2009 to July 2012. The annual vehicle growth rate was further reduced to 1% in August 2012, and to 0.5% from February 2013 to January 2015. From February 2015, the annual vehicle growth rate was again halved to 0.25%.

In 2018 the new growth cap was cut to zero for all private passenger cars (Categories A and B) and motorcycles (Category D).

Public roads

Building more and more roads is not sustainable, especially given Singapore’s land constraints. In 2019, about 12% of the country’s land area is already used for roads, compared to about 14% for housing.

The government has thus opted for vehicle ownership controls to maintain the vehicle population at levels supportable by road infrastructure as well as planned developments in public transport and traffic management systems.

In 2018, approximately 9,405 lane-kilometres of roads were paved, representing an increase from 9,293 lane-kilometres in 2017.

Congestion

Singapore currently ranks 88th in a global index of 405 cities for traffic congestion on roads in peak hours, compared to 54th place in 2017.

Latest statistics show that Singapore has an average congestion level of 31% - calculated by how much longer drivers spend on their commute during peak hours compared to non-peak hours.

This compares to 33% in 2017, showing there’s been a 2% reduction in traffic congestion in 2018, according to the study carried out by TomTom.

Singapore ranks better than London which has a congestion level of 37% (40th place) and New York with 36% congestion levels (42nd place).

In 2015 Singapore had a congestion level of 31%, the same as was recorded in 2018.

Singapore is the world's third most densely populated place with 7,804 people per square kilometre. Behind Macau in first place and Monaco in 2nd place.

That’s according to a 2019 report by World Atlas.

Singapore currently has a population of 5,638.7 million, an increase of 0.5% from the previous year.

Encouraging greener forms of commuting

Mass public transport is said to be the most efficient mode of transport, in terms of both land and energy use.

A study by the Land Transport Authority found the following; on a single trip at full capacity, a single-deck bus carries up to 90 passengers and a six-car train carries up to 1,600 passengers, while an average passenger car sedan only carries up to 5 persons. Comparing energy use among the different modes of transport per passenger kilometre, the car uses 9 times more energy than taking a bus and 12 times more energy than taking a train.

It also aims to boost the appeal of cycling and walking as transport options, investing in infrastructure such as more sheltered walkways, cycling paths and bicycle racks at MRT stations.

Active mobility journeys

About a quarter of households here own bicycles, with about 125,000 people using them for their daily commutes.

Trips made using Personal Mobile Devices (PMD), bicycles and on foot also went up from 2.2 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2017 .

The increase in the number of cycling towns, as well as the ongoing expansion of the network of sheltered walkways and cycling paths have also helped make walking, cycling and the use of PMDs viable modes for short journeys.

Singapore public transport versus global

Singapore is said to have created a best-in-class public transport system, which is “accessible, efficient, convenient, sustainable, and at the same time affordable," according to a 2018 report by consulting firm McKinsey.

Singapore clinched the top spot for public transport affordability, and also scored well in transport efficiency and safety.

Affordability; In terms of public transport affordability, the leaders were Singapore, Los Angeles, and Chicago: they have relatively low monthly transport ticket prices compared to average monthly income, they provide subsidies for several passenger categories, and also have relatively affordable taxi fares.

Sustainability. Singapore also scored a high rating for sustainability, with one of the "safest and most ecologically sustainable" public transport systems, according to the report. 

Safety. Three leading cities, which are far ahead of the competitors, are Hong Kong, Paris, and Singapore. These cities have the safest transportation systems—the number of road casualties is on average the lowest there.

Top ten cities - public transport ranking

Top Ten Cities : Public Transport Ranking

Source: McKinsey

Singapore ranks 2nd for affordability in separate global study

In a separate study of 12 major cities, Singapore ranked 2nd in transport fare affordability, just behind San Francisco.

Commissioned by the Public Transport Council (PTC), the study also found that Singapore collected the least fare revenue per passenger kilometre travelled among the cities surveyed.

This, the authors warned, was "not necessarily sustainable for public transport operators given the rising operating costs worldwide".

The study compared 12 cities - Beijing, Hong Kong, London, New York City, Paris, San Francisco, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo and Toronto.

Singapore had an index score of 4.8 for affordability - meaning that on average, a typical family using public transport on a daily basis here spends about 4.8 per cent of its disposable income on public transport.

San Francisco scored 4.1, topping the list. While public transport expenditure in the American city is 28 per cent higher than in Singapore, the disposable income is 48 per cent higher.

The findings are in line with the report by consulting firm McKinsey, which ranked Singapore top for affordability.

Public Transport Fare Affordability Index

City

Public transport annual expenditure (S$)

Annual disposable income (S$)

Affordability index

San Francisco

3,519

85,507

4.1

Singapore

2,750

57,802

4.8

Taipei

4,246

72,219

5.9

Hong Kong

3,277

53,456

6.1

Beijing

2,140

34,790

6.2

New York

4,959

60,865

8.1

Paris

3,366

40,045

8.4

Sydney

5,317

56,733

9.4

Toronto

4,255

40,045

10.6

Seoul

3,640

29,271

12.4

London

5,270

36,114

14.6

Tokyo

5,913

36,559

16.2

Source : NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY, STRAITS TIMES GRAPHICS

Fare revenue per passenger kilometre in Singapore works out at 11 cents for the entire public transport system. In comparison, fare revenue for London was the highest at 19 cents per passenger kilometre.

This means that for an average trip of 10km, Londoners paid at least 80 cents more than commuters here.

The study said the PTC needs to "strike a better balance between fare affordability and cost recovery" in order for the Republic's public transport system to be more self-sufficient.

Citations:

[1] https://sbr.com.sg/transport-logistics/news/heres-what-kept-singapore-having-worlds-best-public-transport-system
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_in_Singapore
[3] https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/dam/ltaweb/corp/PublicationsResearch/files/AnnualReports/1718/LTA_AR17_18_FA.pdf
[4] https://www.clc.gov.sg/docs/default-source/urban-systems-studies/uss-transport.pdf
[5] https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/dam/ltaweb/corp/PublicationsResearch/files/AnnualReports/1617/LTA%20ANNUAL%20REPORT%202016-2017.pdf
[6] https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Business%20Functions/Sustainability/Our%20Insights/Elements%20of%20success%20Urban%20transportation%20systems%20of%2024%20global%20cities/Urban-transportation-systems_e-versions.ashx
[7] https://www.ptc.gov.sg/newsroom/news-releases/newsroom-view/2018-fare-review-exercise
[8] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/public-transport-council-operators-increase-fare-review-exercise-11868336
[9] https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/most-densely-populated-countries-in-the-world.html
[10] https://moovitapp.com/insights/en-gb/Moovit_Insights_Public_Transport_Index-1678

Disclaimer:

Data on this website was sourced in September 2019 with the latest available data from August 2019. Auto & General Insurance (Singapore) Pte. Limited does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data and accepts no liability whatsoever arising from or connected in any way to the use or reliance upon this data.