January 29

Singapore Adult Monthly Concession Pass at $128: Worth it for travel?

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Right. It’s official.

The bus and train fares have increased. Be prepared to get a scare the next time you see your transport bill totaled.

With prices rising 7%, it doesn’t make any sense any more not to get the hybrid pass. Don’t worry. I don’t get paid by LTA to say this.

Singapore bus and train fare increase 2023 summary

3 months ago, my jaws dropped, when I tallied the amounts I’d spent on transport in Singapore.

It was $170, more than what I’d spent on food or personal expenses.

Don’t get me wrong.

I love Singapore’s public transport.

For a single dollar, you get a safe ride, cool air-conditioning, and a convenient ride from point to point.

That said, it made me think about whether it was time to get a monthly travel card.

Clearly, it made sense for me.

But does it make sense for you?

Here are the various schemes.

Your age What you pay Worth it?
21 and upwards, at an Institute of Higher Education like ITE, university, or private institution $90.50 for hybrid If you travel to and from school daily
Adult serving National Service $90.50 for hybrid If you’re a stay out personnel and travel to and from camp
Workfare card, between 30 to 60 receiving Workfare Income Supplement (gross income between 500 to $2500) 25% off fares, $128 for hybrid monthly pass If you regularly travel more than 21 trips a week or 3 trips per day, averaging about $1.50 per trip
60 and above $64 for hybrid monthly pass If you regularly travel more than 21 trips a week, or 3 trips per day, averaging about $1.50 per trip

How to quickly calculate if you need it

Here’s a quick hack. Go through your past month’s spending since 23 December (the date fares increased), and count it over 28 days.

That will be 20 January 2024. 

You will be surprised at what you find.

If that number is under $128, don’t buy the pass. If it is over $128, buy the pass. It’s that simple.

To verify the number, you can also divide the cost over 30 days. If you get a number above $4.27 ($128/28 days), you should definitely get the pass.

The ‘month’ is 30, not 31.

Bear in mind, the monthly pass is based on the month. When I spoke to the counter assistant, she reported that for the month of February, since there were only 29 days, the pass would only last for 29, rather than the 30 days.

But for the rest of the months, it works out to 30 days each. That works out to an average price of $4.27.

Don’t get a shock if you see the pass ending faster than you did.

When I first realised that my pass had run out in 30 days, I was surprised. You would have thought the month referred to 31 days, rather than 30 days.

You might think that we are fighting over peanuts here – after all, isn’t it just a difference of 1 day? But if you see the change in the average price, it’s actually $4.15 (split over 31 days) versus the average price of $4.27 (if split over 30 days).

It does make a difference, especially in a time when prices are inflating so drastically.

Credit card payment is only accepted on the SimplyGo app 

If you try to pay through the machines at the MRT station, you would be forced to use NETS, or a debit card.

This means you use cold, hard cash. Cash you must have on hand in your bank accounts.

This means that you can’t spread the cost over the 2 months it would take for you to repay your credit card. 

Again, whilst it looks like a small thing, it does make sense for those who are tighter on cash, especially those that survive on a tighter income.

If you've just hit 60, you can get 1 month of unlimited travel for $64
If you’ve just hit 60, you can get 1 month of unlimited travel for $64
If you're an undergraduate, you get a concession pass at just $90.50!
If you’re an undergraduate, you get a concession pass at just $90.50!

Save time, not money

Gone are the days where your student pass gave you a 60 cents trip on the bus.

Foolishly, I started cycling and walking, just to save money on the bus ride home.

But it often meant a 15 minute walk in the hot, humid Singaporean climate, reaching home, clammy, sweaty, and simply feeling all too messy.

Paying 99 cents for that bus trip may seem excessive, and you may reason with yourself saying,

I will save 99 cents walking home, whilst getting a nice exercise too!

Nope.

When you sit on the bus, you get time to rest. To read your book. To clear your emails. To clear your work.

Ever wondered why commutes seem so productive? Because no one is disturbing you, slicing up your time into fragments like in the office.

All without the exorbitant price of a $13.80 Grab ride home.

You might think it sounds stupid, but I often take a longer bus ride home (compared to the MRT) because I’d rather have a seat, and the time to work on brainless administrative work that has to be cleared; than to squeeze with everyone else on public transport.

Save sweat, not money

I kid you not.

I was walking between the buildings in the CBD (central business district) of Singapore because I wanted to save money on travel.

Except that this left me turning up at the meeting looking a little too shaggy (and shabby). My forehead would be dripping with sweat, and needing an additional 15 minutes to cool down before I was really tuned in for the meeting.

You’re paying for a chauffeur around Singapore

If you think about it, public transport is like having your personal chauffeur around the city. Sure, it’s a poor man’s chauffeur, but if you’ve ever been in another country with poorer public transport, Singapore’s public transport simply looks like Heaven.

When does it make sense?

I use my own example as a reference.

I assume you are:

  1. Traveling into the office everyday, and it costs you about $1.70 per trip
  2. Meeting clients at least twice per week (and your boss is not going to pay for you to travel on the taxi)
  3. Having the occasional midweek dinner, to pick you up and over the midweek hump
  4. Traveling on weekends for social gatherings, whether it be to that cafe, or that exhibition or that library
    1. We assume that you take 3 trips per weekend day. For example, you might go for a morning brunch, followed by an afternoon movie, and then later head back home.
Trips done Cost breakdown Subtotal
Monday to Friday, return travel from home to office at average of $1.70 per trip for 22 work days $1.70 x 2 trips per day x 22 days $74.80
Meeting clients outside of the office $1.30 x 2 trips x 4 weeks $10.40
2 Social gathering during midweek $1.40 x 2 trips x 4 weeks $11.20
Weekend trips around the island $1.40 x 3 trips x 2 days x 4 weekends $33.60
  Total $130

Based on this simple calculation, it does make sense to take the bus.

You might not believe me. I will show you the past month of data, from my own travels.

Amounts from March 2023
Amounts from March 2023

The application process isn’t great though

When I went down to the TransitLink office at Hougang MRT, I was told that

  1. I had to pay the application fee of $8.10 in cash.
  2. I had to wait 4 weeks before my card came.
  3. I had to activate it at the office and pay cash for the first monthly travel pass.
  4. I had to top it up manually at the machines. (I’ve yet to try the TransitLink app, but I suspect you’ll be able to do it there.)

Take note if you’re applying.

You have to top up the first time at the TransitLink office

For all the advances in using Visa and contactless to pay, you still have to pay for the concession at the office. Thereafter, you can buy it online through the SimplyGo app, every month. 

It can initially be a hassle.

The Transitlink office is also not uniformly open across all the different branches.

complete list of transitlink office opening hours
Here’s the list of opening hours for Transitlink offices, the only place you can apply for the card.

The waiting time is overstated

I actually got my card in 3 working days, rather than the 1 month that was told to me. 

You would get yours faster too. 

But maybe you like Grabbing

Often when I see my friends taking taxis, or the Grab from point to point, I wonder how they do it.

Maybe they are earning $4000 per month, and it’s okay to spend $50 per month on about 4 trips on the taxi.

My advice?

Sure, time is money, but whilst taking the taxi means that you can get from point to point faster, it also means that you’re severely compressing your schedules.

Why not go 2 weeks without the taxi, and see what that does for your sanity?

You may slowly realise that you will manage to grab a breather, see the flowers, and stop feeling like you need to rush from point to point.

But ultimately, it’s also about being kind to yourself. It’s about recognising that maybe, just maybe, you can treat yourself to a nice bus ride, watch the trees go by, and simply listen to the music play on.

Ah, those are the times we live for.

 

 


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