Singapore Subway Dominating the Game


One of the most exciting things about exploring a new city is experiencing their public transportation. Whether the locals call it the metro, the subway, or by some acronym, I’ve come to realize that the subway is the quickest glimpse into everyday life for people in highly urbanized areas. Although they have a lot of similarities, the subways have subtle differences that set them apart.

My thoughts on writing about the differences in metro systems came as abruptly as the embarrassment I felt when I realized the flow of traffic on the subway escalators runs opposite to that of the States’. As I exited the train, I purposely positioned myself on the right of the escalator to gain a few minutes to bury my face in my phone and figure out where I was heading. Within seconds, I realized the error in my decision as I felt the “o… this tourist…” glares coming from those behind me.

TIP #1: In the states, slower traffic always pull to the right. In Singapore, it is to the left.

Anyway, how does Singapore’s MRT rate against the Bay Area’s BART or the New York Metro? It straight-up dominates. I have decided this by no meaningful measurements or assessments, but by observations and personal preferences.

The top four reasons why I prefer MRT:

1. Cute Card

While NYC’s metro card is somewhat iconic and the aesthetics of SF’s Clipper card is nothing to complain about, Singapore’s ezLink cards featuring cute cartoon characters are game changers. Mine reps batman swinging across a skyline, not only embodying my adventurous side, but also bringing me to a smile every time I swipe.

TIP #2: The ezLink card works for the bus systems as well. Also, if you are a student, the card can be used to pay for laundry in student housing and for printing in the library.

2. Open Space

Singapore’s MRT is also beautifully designed to maximize ridership over comfort, which during rush hour, is key. Although BART currently has test cars featuring fewer seats, the overall experience of BART during rush hour leaves much for desire.

Tip #3: It is OK to sit on Reserved Seating areas designated for elderly, those with disabilities, and pregnant women. Just be sure to offer your seat if someone that may need the seat enters the car. No need to be shy.

3. Cleanliness

I challenge you to find one piece of trash hanging around the MRT. The subway is impeccable. The shine on the seats would lead you to believe that they Windex them after each stop (yes, I just used Windex as a verb, successful branding). MRT is like the Taj Mahal in comparison to NYC’s Metro and BART.

TIP #4: Chewing gum is banned in Singapore. The ban was implemented by Lee Kuan Yew in his move toward utopia and following issues with chewed gum being placed on MRT preventing the doors from working properly. *Check out BBC article on Singapore’s ban on gum. 

4. Signage… a lot of signage

Finally, the last thing that puts MRT above the rest is it’s ample and clear signage. Not only are there numerous signs directing you in transfer stations, there are even directions to guide those annoying patrons that like to stand in the center of the doorway when there are people trying to exit. Something I may have to implement at BART stations when I get home.

TIP #5: Allow exiting passengers off the train by standing to the right or left of the opening doors, not in the center.