Go Green with SMRT: Using Public Transport in Singapore

By Bhavani Prakash

How convenient is Singapore’s public transport system to use, and does it serve as role model for other Asian cities? How is one nation’s public transport a global issue? Learn about “GO GREEN WITH SMRT” – the public awareness campaign by Singapore’s multi-modal transport operator, and take a small quiz to win a recycled bag!

SMRT TrainWhen I first came to Singapore several years ago, one of the first things that struck me was the excellent public transport infrastructure in the city state. It freed me from the need to own a personal vehicle – something I was forced to acquire in several other cities that I had lived in before.

The range of options makes it really easy to travel here, and as a last resort, taxis are readily available for the more inaccessible and less connected places.  Though trains and buses can be crowded during peak times, and some of the feeder bus services from MRT stations need to be more frequent, by and large however, Singapore has made public transport clean, punctual, convenient and affordable. Transactions are well facilitated by the electronic swipe card called the ez-link which can be used on buses, trains, taxis and even to pay one’s dues in the public library!

In fact, the longer the distance, the more attractive it is to take trains in particular. Staying as I do in the western part of the city, my personal favourite is the East-West line which stretches from Joo Koon in the extreme west while traversing the entire breadth of Singapore all the way to Changi International Airport in the east. Many a book have I read, and many a moment of silent reflection have I gathered while rollicking on the serpentine trains of Singapore.

Circle Line in Yellow       Click for larger picture

Circle Line in Yellow (Click for larger picture)

Once the upcoming 33.3 km long Circle line is fully completed later in 2010, connectivity should get even better. With 29 stations, the line will be completely underground, with an orbital network linking all radial lines leading to the city – connecting and interchanging with the North-South Line, East-West Line and North East Line.

At a cost of Sing $6.7 billion, the Circle Line is one of the world’s most complex and challenging underground lines ever built. (See video links at the bottom of the article). Watching the Discovery Channel video made me realise what an enormous effort and risk the workers have undertaken to get this built. The public should be certainly be nudged to make full use of the infrastructure that has been established with such huge outlays and human sweat.

Making available a variety of effective alternatives to the personal automobile is a key hallmark of a sustainable city.  Though more needs to be done for safer cycling and scooter routes, Singapore certainly scores high in the establishment of public transport infrastructure for pedestrians, buses, trains and taxis.

When SMRT (one of two transport operators in Singapore, the other being SBS Transit) approached me to spread the word about their public awareness campaign to encourage the use of trains and buses, it was easy for me to support their initiative.

Public Transport is an International issue

The global transport sector accounts for 23% of global carbon emissions (air, maritime, rail and road transport) out of which road transport accounts for 73%. Source: JAMA
Increasing fossil fuel based car usage leads to declining air quality with the increase in minute particulate matter. Recently Andy Ho of The Straits Times quoted the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) survey on the harmful effects of minute particulate matter on those with heart problems. Other problems of increased car usage are traffic congestion, injuries and respiratory troubles.

Using public transport is no longer a national matter. As Nicolas Low says eloquently in this article, “How we move around is a global issue” :  ”Sustainable transport is now a global issue because overwhelmingly transport is fuelled by burning oil refined to petrol or diesel, or by electricity generated by burning coal, oil or other fossil fuels. Every nation is joined together by the global atmosphere. Every nation will suffer the long term consequences of climate change. For some nations the consequences are dire: starvation and in some areas, human extinction.

Figures given by SMRT quantify the reduction in carbon footprint when using buses and trains:

All SMRT trains run on electricity and generate zero air polluting emissions. Regenerative braking technology converts kinetic energy to electricity, which powers other trains and stations. Travelling on our train network is more energy efficient and lowers your carbon footprint to 13.2g per passenger-kilometre.

SMRT Euro 5 Buses are more fuel efficient thus emitting lower particulate matter. Their eco-friendly engines convert harmful nitrous oxide emissions into nitrogen and water vapor. When you take the bus, you lower your carbon footprint to 73g per passenger-kilometre and reduce carbon emissions.

The Singapore Public Transport Model and Usage Patterns

SMRT Train StaffSingapore has done well to balance the controlled development of private vehicle use and public transport and can serve as a role model for other Asian cities.  More details are available in this informative document called “Sustainable Transport Planning in Asia: The Singapore Storyby Dr. Sun Sheng Han, Associate Professor in Urban Planning, the University of Melbourne, Australia.

All privately owned vehicles and taxis are taxed by the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system or tolls on roads to control vehicular flow in traffic prone areas – such as the Central Business District (CBD) and motorways. To own a car itself requires a licence called the Certificate of Entitlement(COE), the pricing of which is regulated by the government. Singapore is taking baby steps towards the introduction of electric vehicles.

According to official Government statistics :

Singapore Public Transport Usage Stats

Click to see document

“Public transport remained the most important mode of transport for commuting to work in Singapore. In 2005, one in two residents commuted to work by public transport (public bus, MRT, LRT or taxi).  This proportion had remained stable in the last five years.

A higher proportion of residents in lower-income households commuted to work by public transport. In contrast, a higher proportion of those in higher-income households travelled to work by private car.

About 60 – 70 per cent of resident working persons in the smaller HDB (Housing Development Board which is another name for Singapore’s public housing) flats commuted to work by public transport in 2005 .

Among those in HDB 4-room or larger flats, at least half relied on public transport. In contrast, 54 per cent of resident working persons staying in private housing relied on car as their mode of transport to work in 2005.”

Despite the high quality of infrastructure, usage rates have been fairly stagnant over the years as mentioned above, and this is why more people need to be encouraged to switch to public modes of conveyance.

Needless to say, this is a matter of national as well as international importance.


Bhavani Prakash is an avid user of public transport in Singapore, and believes this is one of the important solutions to climate change. She also believes the exercise that comes with walking to and fro MRT stations and bus stops keeps her healthy and fit. She is the Founder of Eco WALK the Talk and can be contacted at bhavani [at] ecowalkthetalk.com



SMRT’s green initiatives in terms of reducing energy and water use are presented here in these animations.

smrt bus

Photo :singaporebuspage.files.wordpress.com

From 5 June – 30 September 2010, one can win 1-year unlimited free rides on SMRT Trains and Buses for four. Check out GoGreenwithSMRT.com for more information on how to increase your chances of winning.

In line with the campaign, Eco WALK the Talk.com is organising a simple quiz for Singaporean residents and citizens .

smrt bag smallReply to these three questions before 30th June 2010 to info@ecowalkthetalk.com with your full name, NRIC number, phone number and email id. The first 5 winners with the correct answers will be notified. Winners will be awarded this recycled bag made from SMRT banners by weworkz, a social enterprise in Singapore that helps low-income women. Collection will be at an SMRT office in Singapore.

1. What is Go Green with SMRT’s message?
2. Describe why it is “Better by Bus?”
3. Describe why it is “Better by Train?”

Answers can be found on the GoGreenwithSMRT.com website.

Facts and links about SMRT:

1) When was the first SMRT train?
On 7 November 1987, SMRT started services with five stations from Yio Chu Kang to Toa Payoh.

2) How many passenger trips are made? 2.2 million passenger trips are made on the SMRT system everyday (train and bus).

3) How many trains, lines and stations are there?
SMRT manages a fleet of 146 trains which operate on the North-South, East-West and Circle Lines, with a total of 69 MRT stations. It also have 19 trains which operate on the Bukit Panjang Line, serving 14 LRT stations.

4) How many buses are run? SMRT manages a fleet of over 900 12-metre and 18-metre buses. These buses are made up of 46 trunk services, 19 feeder and intra-town services and seven night services. They ply a total of 72 routes and serve mainly Bukit Batok, Bukit Panjang, Choa Chu Kang, Sembawang, Woodlands and Yishun. Its subsidiary, Bus-Plus Services Pte Ltd, operates a fleet of more than 50 luxurious minibuses aimed to provide commuters an exclusive and luxurious way of travelling.

5) How many energy efficient buses are there?

SMRT Citaro

SMRT Euro 5 Citaro

Of the 900 buses, 134 are Euro 5. The Euro 5 bus operates on BlueTec Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) engine technology which converts harmful nitrous oxide emissions into mostly nitrogen and water vapour. This makes emission from the bus cleaner and safer. Consequently, the Euro 5 bus emits 42 per cent less nitrous oxide pollutants compared to the Euro 4 bus.

In March 2010, SMRT launched a one-year trial for Southeast Asia’s first full low-floor Euro 5 Citaro bus. The Citaro bus is about one ton lighter than SMRT’s current fleet of Euro 5 buses, increasing the mileage and improving fuel efficiency by about seven per cent. Better insulation also makes the Citaro quieter, thus minimising the impact of noise pollution on the urban environment.

6)  The following Discovery Channel video on the Circle Line  shows how the Sing $6.7 billion dollars underground line- one of the world’s most challenging and complex underground lines is being built.

Watch Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 of the above video.

Further links you may be interested in:

Btw, if you’re visiting Singapore and are looking for a great selection of places to stay with discount prices, visit Singapore Hotel for more information.

EWTT : Can Electric Vehicles change the world? Part 2/3 EVs in Singapore
EWTT:  Bike the Talk: the green solution to urban transport


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Posted by on Jun 22 2010. Filed under Green Travel/Tourism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

5 Comments for “Go Green with SMRT: Using Public Transport in Singapore”

  1. [...] Little Green Dot – EcoWalktheTalk: Go Green with SMRT: Using Public Transport in Singapore [...]

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  3. On 25 June at about 8.40pm, I was trying to travel on the Circle line from Dhoby Ghaut MRT towards Paya Lebar MRT. As the sign to the train are pointing towards 2 routes, I approach the officer in the control station for advise. If I recall correctly, his name is Henry something. he unwillingly answer me: “Follow the sign!” I become upset and left.

    I manage to find my way to the train but I would like to report an issue which I hope SMRT can look into it. When the train announce that door is closing, it immediately shut close forcefully. I was just about to enter and was jam between the 4 doors. My left arm is still aching. I reported this incident but no one get back to me. I hope SMRT can reduce the force of the closing door as if it was a kid, I am sure he or she will be badly hurt. And can someone advise that officer to be more helpful?


  4. Hi

    I was searching for the complaint section and came into this wedpage.
    I hope someone can answer to my complaint as to the procedures and
    guildlines in handling the suspicious bag found.

    On 24.2.11( Thu ) @ about 0840 hrs I boarded train at Boon Lay MRT and found one Laptop bag on the seat near door 2222.,After waited for sometimes as no owner turned up,I then informed the staff thru’ the speaker at door 1222, and at the same time other passengers were alerted as not to move such unclaimed suspicious bag.

    Later two staffs wearing red boarded train at Jurong East MRT . one with bald headed went to reset the system after having confirmed me as the complainant
    and the other with curly hair ( malays ) went straight to carry the said bag without any hesitation, what happen if it was of explosive items ?. Both officers alighted at Clementi MRT without further questions.

    I was late for work and unable to follow the officers when I strongly felt that the way they handled such case was not professional.Complainant contact no was not noted down ( for future investigation and clarification ). How to reassure the
    owner get back all his item intact ?

    JC Chia

  5. Will forward this post to SMRT. Many thanks!

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