Public transport ridership growth last year smallest on record

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Public transport ridership climbed for the 13th consecutive time last year, but the growth was the smallest on record, the Land Transport Authority revealed yesterday.

Rail and bus rides inched upwards by 0.7 per cent to 7.264 million a day, up from 7.214 million the year before. In 2016, the growth was 4.6 per cent, and since 2005, the increases had been averaging 5 per cent a year.

Last year's almost-flat trend came despite the opening of new rail lines and extensions, more buses being introduced and a continued shrinkage in the private passenger car population.

Experts point to the surge in private-hire vehicles as the biggest reason. As of the end of last year, there were around 47,000 chauffeured private-hire cars on the road - a result of ride-hailing firms Uber and Grab entering the market in 2013.

Singapore University of Social Sciences senior lecturer and transport economist Walter Theseira said: "It is very likely that the private-hire car growth has taken away some demand for public transport.

"If you make a conservative estimate of private-hire car use - and assume that they carry about half the number of taxi commuters - then total private-hire plus taxi ridership would be about 1.2 million, or 200,000 over that for 2016.

"This would already, by itself, account for a big chunk of, say, daily MRT ridership."

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng said there was another possible reason for the almost-flat public transport ridership growth: The "unstable" North-South and East-West MRT lines last year.

"I think that posed some concerns to commuters and would-be commuters."

Taxi ridership plunged by 18 per cent to 785,000 - the lowest in more than 15 years - last year.