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The Study Journeys And Waiting Periods In Singapore’S Public Transport

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Singapore’s Public Transport system is evolving to provide better service, comfortable and seamless transit journeys to its passengers. A report by the consulting firm McKinsy suggests that Residents in Singapore are highly satisfied with the public transport system, which is among the best in the world (Straits Times, 2018). It recorded a satisfaction level of 86% among those surveyed with the overall public transport situation in Singapore. Research shows 16% of commuters in Singapore use Public transport for long journeys (travel for over 12 km in a single direction) each day (for work etc). My key area of interest is to study the activities young adults engage in Singapore’s Public Transport during these long journeys.

The productivity and boredom of the commuters during these journeys is subjective in nature (One may feel watching a TV show during the journey is productive, while the other may not). Keeping commuter’s productivity aside(due to its subjective nature) I want to emphasise on the question, does Singapore’s Public Transport System have the potential to be an opportunistic and enjoyable environment for young adults by creating a balance of digital and physical engagement during journeys and waiting periods? To understand the true nature of the topic, possibilities and the research question I would be studying behaviour of commuters, their relation to waiting periods and long journeys, the activities they engage in Public Transport, and the impact of Public Transport Design on them. After analysing these factors I wish to talk about the possibilities and drawbacks of creating an opportunistic environment for young adults in the Public Transport Systems.


A study of more than 34,000 workers across all UK industries was developed by VitalityHealth, the University of Cambridge, RAND Europe and Mercer, examined the impact of commuting showing how long commutes are bad for both people’s health and productivity (Rebecca Smith, Business Insider, 2017). And longer commutes appeared to have a negative impact on mental wellbeing too, with longer-commuting workers 33 per cent more likely to suffer from depression, 37 per cent more likely to have financial worries and 12 per cent more likely to report multiple aspects of work-related stress. Even though Singapore’s transport is proven efficient, there are 16% commuters embarking on long journeys daily making it crucial to study the issue for their benefit. By offering commuters the option of

being able to do more during their wait time they won’t feel as though they are waiting long – the time feels better utilised. According to MIT queuing theory professor, Richard Larson, perceived waiting time is longer the actual waiting time. The study demonstrates that actual waiting time, expected waiting time and perceived waiting time are all related to satisfaction with the waiting experience (Mark Davis, International Journal of Service Industry Management, 1988). Reading this research primarily aims to benefit the Singapore Government and authorities such as Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Singapore who believe in making the city more liveable. As Ms Chou Mei, group director of conservation and urban design at URA says, public spaces are like the living rooms of cities. “They provide spaces for people to linger, bond and interact with one another”. I also want to study how marketing can be used as a tool to engage student commuters digitally and physically in Singapore’s Public Transport. By linking marketing strategies I would study the practice of Design Communication in the given context.


The readings I am studying are journal articles geographically not limiting to studying Singapore’s Public Transport commuters. The readings look at studies, commuters and transport systems of different places such as New Zealand, USA etc. The conclusions from which can be applied to my research topic and the Singapore context. Singapore being a cosmopolitan city and a cultural mix of people makes studies from different studies performed in different cities relevant to some extent. “Waiting for the Bus” by Daniel Baldwin Hess, Jeffrey Brown and Donald Shoup from the Journal of Public Transport, Vol. 7, No. 4, 2004 is a study of an experiment conducted amongst the college students riding the Public Transport to UCLA. The experiment involved the students to choose between paying 75 cents to travel right away or waiting for 5. 3 minutes for a free ride. The experiment resulted in 86% of the riders chosing to wait than pay. A key conclusion of this study was how the riders over estimated the waiting time by a factor two when it was imposed by the transit system but accurately estimated their wait time for the free bus ride they chose. This highlights the relationship between rewards (i. e free bus ride) and waiting period in this case the students of UCLA, which can be applied to the group of young adults. This research helped in understanding behaviour towards

waiting periods of young adults in the context of California’s public transport by talking about perceptions versus reality of wait time. Ms. Russell’s research, “What Do Passengers Do During Travel Time? Structured Observations on Buses and Trains” aims to study and assess the frequency of passenger activities during bus and train travel using structured observations of passengers in a purposive sample of bus and train routes and times in the Wellington area, New Zealand. This study is helpful in understanding and critiquing the methods of observation. The study used Structured observation as a way to assess how public transport passengers actually use their travel time.

The research analysed how adult passengers were engaged in different activities on buses and trains such as “looking ahead/out the window,” reading, sleeping/eyes closed, talking, using a computer, listening on headphones, among other activities. The research also clarifies the prevailing assumption in transport planning and transport economics that travel time is a “disutility to be minimised” (Mokhtarian 2005). The study suggests the statement to vary from person to person and open to challenge. Further discussing how Passengers are not always “doing nothing” while traveling, and even if they are, this inactivity may have value for them. This study is relevant to my research as it is performing a similar analysis in a different context, also highlighting the style and methods to conduct the analysis. “Mistakenly seeking solitude” by Nick Epley and Juliana Schroeder that appeared in the October, 2014 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, also demonstrated different experiments conducted on Public Transport commuters. This experimental study gave relevant insights on face to face interactions and physical engagements impact on commuters. This was useful for my study as It showed how commuters are hesitant to interact with other people. Yet, data suggests that most of them would enjoy more if they had conversations with the strangers who sit near them in the transport setting rather than alienating themselves. This article also had findings on the impact of digital engagement on face to face connections which is another perspective of my research. Digital engagement and Physical engagement are inter-dependent variables.

“Impact of Different Bus Stop Designs on Bus Operating Time Components” by TUM CREATE Ltd. , Singapore compared the operational differences of bus bays and curb-side stops, using Singapore as a case study. The authors conducted surveys at eight different locations across Singapore to collect the bus operating time components, including encountered delay types, deceleration times, dwell times, passenger volumes, and acceleration times. The results show that bus bays are twice as likely to encounter delays than curb-side stops. The research discussed how this difference is caused mainly by re-entry delays during departure from the bus bays. This reading highlights to importance of design of bus stops and its affects bus operation. The delay time caused by inappropriate bus stop design adversely influences the efficiency of the system. The above readings covers different aspects of the topic to give a holistic view, forming a foundation to explore the possibilities and potential of turning Singapore’s Public Transport into an opportunistic environment for the young adults.


My research methodology first, involves conducting secondary research. My secondary research will be piecing together different sets of information from existing literature which maybe directly or indirectly linked to my topic. I would find and extract theories and insights from this research. A major part of my research will be indirectly linked to my topic as it is difficult to find research in the exact boundaries of my topic, location and audience. I will find existing literature on the working and design of Public Transport Systems around the world(and then apply in relevant context) and in the context of Singapore; the behaviour, lifestyle and needs of the commuters falling under my target audience; the psychology of waiting periods; types of engagements; engagements in public spaces and the study of social marketing in relevant context. After having a clear understanding of my topic, the audience and gaps in existing literature I would conduct primary research where I would collect first hand data through conducting surveys by asking a range of questions to the appropriate audience in Singapore’s selected buses, trains and stations at selected time of the day during an

assigned period of time. My primary research will useI would also use experimental study and Participant Observation as I fall in the category of my target audience. This would give me a direct insight into my target audience and an opportunity to test the insights from my secondary research (which also includes facts from different geographic locations and situations) and apply them to the situation in question.

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