Singapore celebrate SG50 this year, 50 years of independence. 50 years ago, the buses were non air con, high floor, operate with poor frequency, rude bus crews, poor quality and badly maintained buses. Route guides were non existent except for STC, which publishes some bus guides but not frequently. Connectivity was also poor, as the bus routes were not planned properly, each bus company craved out their own territory.
After 50 years, bus transport now is totally different but yet many people still have many grouses despite of the tremendous improvement.
Some of the complaints which I have heard :
Air con too cold – complain too cold
Air con not cold enough – complain too hot
Bus with steps – complain why no low floor, zero step bus
Bus with low floor, zero steps – complain about the aisle narrow or sitting arrangement
Older buses used on the route – complain how come no new low floor buses
Newest low floor buses used on the routes – complain not enough seats
Bus stop a few steps away from the kerb – complain, every bus must stop exactly right next to the curb
Bus came a few minutes late – complain why bus was late
Bus came a few minutes early – complain missed the bus
Buses arrived togather at bus stop – complain, even though a lot of which is due to traffic situations
Bus go too fast – complain reckless driver
Bus go too slow – complain driver with bad attitude
Bus travel at speed not too fast or slow – complain why driver cannot drive faster so can reach destination earlier
Bus stopped, exit door open, a puddle of water in front of the door, complain why driver did not stop where there are no puddles of water, as if the driver have eyes at the centre of the bus to see any puddles of water on the ground at the exit door area
List of complaints goes on….
What is taking buses like 50 years ago?
Go to the bus stop. If there is a shelter, good. If no shelter, stand in the hot sun or under the rain, only these two weather choices :

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You know the bus routes, good for you. You don’t know, too bad, ask the people around to see which bus goes where. Hard luck if all the people say they don’t know or give you the wrong information.
Next wait and hope that it won’t be eternity before the bus arrive. Hope again that the bus driver will stop for you, some don’t even bother to stop to pick up commuters if there are no passengers alighting, just drove by with a “bo chap” attitude. If the bus did stop, better hope that the bus is not so crowded so that you still can hang on to the door and ride with your feet standing on the steps :

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Then you pay your fare to a foul mouth gangster called the “bus conductor” with one cigarette dangling on his mouth. Present day bus crews are angels in comparison.
If the bus is not crowded, find a seat which is not broken and hope the passengers around you are not smoking.
On rainy days, hope that the windows can be closed and the roof does not leak. Using umbrellas in the bus is not a strange sight. When you give big dollar notes to the bus conductor, expect the change to be soggy and soaking wet smaller notes. The bus conductors are not spared from the leaking roofs and broken windows and he can’t hold an umbrella while he is doing his job!
Then you hope you be able to complete your journey without the bus breaking down. I have seen things such as this, wheel falling of a bus :

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50 years ago, there were not only puddles of water on the road sides. Horror! We have big floods! And it is a frequent occurrence. You are lucky if the bus services were not suspended :

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So getting the dainty little feet wet on a puddle of water is nothing.

You see, taking bus 50 years ago requires a lot of hope, patience, tolerance and luck.
For those die hard incurable whiners who love to indulge in their “whining debauchery”, try going to some neighbouring countries and take a ride on their public buses, better still, during raining season.

Acknowledgement : Photos from National Archives Singapore


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