‘Travel Smart’ ropes in employers to shift commuting patterns
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has launched the ‘Travel Smart’ pilot programme, a new programme that promotes a more even distribution of travel demand during the busiest times of the day. The trial is supported by the inter-Ministerial workgroup on travel demand management co-chaired by the Minister of State for Finance and Transport, Mrs Josephine Teo, and the Minister of State for Health and Manpower, Dr Amy Khor.
2 The workgroup is making a push for a smoother distribution of travel demand during peak hours to improve commuters’ travel experience. This is even as the Government aggressively increases public transport capacity through new rail lines, additional trains and buses, as well as improved train and bus frequencies.
3 The workgroup has noted that there are 2-3 times more commuters traveling on the MRT into the CBD during the first half of the peak hour from 7.45 to 8.45 am than the half hour before. There are also 20-40% more commuters in the second half of the peak hour compared to the half hour after. Said Mrs Teo, “We are getting more train and buses which will improve services. But it will be better if we can spread out the load during peak hours. Even a shift of 10-15% out of the peak-of-peaks will make the commuting experience more pleasant.”
4 Incentives were first introduced in 1997 to encourage off-peak travel on the MRT. The ‘Incentives for Singapore’s Commuters’ (INSINC) study was also launched in January 2012, providing rewards to commuters who shift their travel away from the peak period. In June this year, Minister for Transport, Mr Lui Tuck Yew, announced the enhancement of SMRT’s Early Travel Discount to up to 50 cents starting in August.
5 The LTA points out that both the Early Travel Discount and INSINC have encouraged some commuters to shift travel behavior, suggesting that these measures have the potential to be effective. But it has also received feedback from commuters that their travel choices are largely determined by workplace practices such as official hours and the availability of flexi-hours. “We want to see more commuters choosing to travel earlier, later or not at all. A lot of it will depend on employer attitudes and workplace practices. So the important first step is to work with employers to identify opportunities for further intervention,” said Mrs Teo.
6 Travel Smart is designed to help employers understand the travel needs of their employees. This will provide insights on measures that can be implemented to influence travel behaviour change, for example, flexible work arrangements, travelling during off-peak periods and switching to other modes of travel such as walking and cycling.
7 For a start, 7 organisations with a combined staff strength of more than 10,000 are participating in the programme. These employers have workplaces in different parts of Singapore and staff with a variety of travel profiles. They are:
• BP Singapore
• Ernst & Young
• Public Service Division
• Rajah & Tann
• SPRING Singapore
8 The workgroup expects Travel Smart to deliver the following benefits:
- Participating organisations can benefit from expert advice on understanding employees’ concerns and opportunities with regard to more flexible work arrangements, reducing unnecessary business commuting, enabling flexibility for employees and realising potential productivity gains, and improving their overall transport efficiency.
- For employees, the benefits can include reduced journey time and/or travel costs, and better work-life balance.
- At the national level, Travel Smart can highlight opportunities to relieve public transport and road network pressures during the peak-of-peaks travel hours.
9 However, Mrs Teo emphasised that measures like Travel Smart do not replace the fundamental focus of the Government on capacity expansion. “The basic strategy to improving public transport is to enhance capacity. At the same time, we should have a complementary strategy to smoothen travel demand during peak hours. We should see this as both a challenge and an opportunity,” she said.