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McKinsey Lists the Best Public Transport Systems in the World

The people of Singapore are enjoying one of the best public transport systems in the world, according to a study published by the consulting firm McKinsey.

In 2018, McKinsey & Company released the results of a study that compared the public transport system across 24 nations. They looked at several factors, including efficiency, availability, convenience, sustainability, and affordability.

Hong Kong was declared to be the city with the best public transport system in the world. Singapore landed on the second spot, with Seoul, South Korea, and Beijing, China joining the Top 10.


The study identified 80 indicators across five categories and covered all modes of transport (walking, bicycling, shared, public, and personal). The experience of the passenger before, during, and after each trip was also assessed.

The cities included were chosen based on their size, level of economic development, motorization, availability of data, and expert assessment. In the end, 24 cities were selected across nine countries and five continents.

One of the Best in the World

Singapore scored the highest in Affordability, clinching the top spot. The city nation also received high marks in efficiency and sustainability.

The report noted that Singapore made efforts to keep the cost of public transportation for commuters low in 2013, when the government introduced new measures, including free travel for children and a 15% discount for low-wage workers.

SMRT, under the leadership of SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming, has made efforts to keep public transportation kinder to the environment. SMRT is a multi-modal transport operator that runs trains, buses, taxis, and other services to the public. The organization aims to reduce energy, water, and paper use as well as decrease its carbon footprint this year.

The EZ-Link card, a contactless payment system used on the island’s train and bus lines, was also lauded, with McKinsey saying that its convenience and flexibility made it an outstanding feature in the public transport system of Singapore.

Singaporeans Happy

The Singaporeans who were surveyed for the study expressed their satisfaction with their current public and private transport systems. Out of the 400 respondents, 80% said that they are happy with the public transport system. About 71% expressed contentment over the private transport system.

For comparison, 83% of commuters in Hong Kong are happy with their current public transport system. Meanwhile, 72% said they are satisfied with the private transport system.

The evolution of the electronic services offered to commuters were some of the best features of Singapore’s public transport system, the residents said. The LTA (Land Transport Authority) has partnered with several technology companies over the years, including Citymapper, an app that suggests the best routes so the passenger can arrive quickly and safely to their destination.

Singaporeans also had no complaints about external connectivity. Despite its size, there is no shortage of international flights flying in and out of the island.

However, the affordability of private transport is an area of concern. The government wants to limit the number of vehicles on the road by imposing a high price tag on cars and charging expensive fees to acquire a special driving certificate and to drive within the city center.

Where Other Asian Cities Excel

Hong Kong bested Singapore and other cities in safety. The region has lower rates of public transport fatalities per one million passengers.

On the other hand, Seoul came in second place in terms of efficiency. The South Korean capital’s bus routes, particularly the addition of exclusive median bus lanes which decreased travel time was praised by the report. The use of a Bus Management System made public transport more reliable for Seoulites.

Beijing (10th) ranked higher than Singapore (12th) in rail infrastructure.

The Future of Singapore’s Public Transport System

in transit

As part of Singapore’s goal of becoming a “smart nation,” the city-state has begun testing autonomous vehicles to be deployed and used to service the public, in the coming years.

One of the primary goals of the program is to make travel easier for the aging population. The nation hopes that autonomous vehicles will boost public transport use.

However, experts are cautious over the safety of autonomous vehicles. The autonomous vehicles have still a lot to learn, including how to brake safely and driving during torrential rains.

The autonomous vehicles are first being tested in Cetran (Center of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous Vehicles) before they are permitted to take the roads of Singapore. The LTA plans to expand testing in more places and in different conditions.

While the autonomous vehicles are a long way away from being ready to hit the roads, Singapore has proven itself to be the perfect city to deploy the new technology.

From second place in 2019, the nation rose to first place in the most recent Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index survey conducted by KMPG. The Netherlands, Norway, the United States, and Finland were at the second, third, fourth, and fifth places respectively.

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