Household Computer vs National Transportation System

I swear this piece will be about how I feel about Singapore’s transport system. Eventually.

But first, let me talk about my family’s old computer.

I remembered it being a Pentium PC, with less than 2gb of ram. The year was before 2002 I think. At that time, I was still sharing the computer with the rest of my family, namely my dad and my sis. But I had always been the one doing the installation, maintenance and troubleshooting.

Then came a time when I got into designing and music composing. Softwares I was running included Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, Propellerhead Reason and so on. And sometimes I would have all these memory intensive softwares be opened all at the same time, something I now know is not a very clever thing to do, because I could not get things to move very fast. A simple Gaussian Blur on the photoshop would have allowed me to go kitchen, poured myself a cup of water, searched for some snacks, be back at the computer terminal, and the progress bar would only have moved halfway to its end. Not very efficient eh?

So, I decided to look at upgrading the computer. And of course that meant talking to the family’s financial controller, i.e. my dad.

But my dad, of course, didn’t use such intensive softwares. At most he only used Microsoft word and, don’t gasp, Internet explorer. So it was very hard for him to see any valid reasons to warrant the expensive upgrade. Yes, it was very hard to get him to part with his money. He’d rather invest the money in stock, even tho he had always been losing money as if he used the money to buy 4D.

In the end, he resorted to making me install those cleanup softwares or space warning softwares, which obviously didn’t solve the root of the problem.

Ok, so before my angst towards my stingy father becomes the subject of this post, let me turn back to what I really wanted to talk about. Singapore’s transportation system.

Let me be clear on this, I’m no expert. It’s just transportation systems are what interest me the most in terms of local news issues.

So, let me first tell you about today. After a stressful and unproductive day at work, I decided I needed to do some books browsing, so I headed down to Kinokuniya at Orchard Road. After a good spending spree and a relatively satisfying dinner later, I needed to head home. Now I live at Bukit Panjang, and I have three buses that brings me home.

Three. 171, 190 and 700A.

At 9pm, the bus stop I was at was overflowing with people. A 190 bus was at the bus stop already but was so filled I decided not to even try to squeeze onto it despite being very tired. I decided to wait for the next one.

I took a look at the bus arrival board. The next 171 was coming in 12 min, 700A in 10, and 190 in 6. The next three buses after that? 171 25min, 700A 29min, 190 15min.

When I actually saw 29min, I got a shock, not of my life, but bad enough to have me do a double take. It did show 29.

As I wondered about the number I just saw and thinking about the effective frequency of this bus service, 190 arrived, and it was still packed even though it’s running at such a relatively high frequency compared to 700A. I squeezed onto it and had to mentally prepare myself for the long arduous journey ahead half-filled with accent-speaking foreigners.

Even though I had myself mentally prepared, I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. A very bad traffic jam along PIE. So, now I had to balance myself precariously as if on the edge of a cliff to prevent myself from falling onto the women standing around me or having my hands accidentally touching someone’s butt, thus mistaking me as a pervert.

And it was then that I totally felt that statement that kept being quoted: Singapore’s transportation system is on the brink of bursting.

What our government has done has been to provide more alternatives. Theoretically, this will work. More alternatives means more means to bring people to their destinations. But practically, these alternatives will not be able to catch up with the rapid increase in population! Downtown line was announced 2 years ago and will only be fully operational in 2018; Thomson line was announced last year but will only be fully operational in 2020. These will not and cannot happen faster due to the extensive construction needed (duh!).

So what else is there to do? Expressways are getting lane expansion, but they are only getting them when problem arises, such as the BKE/PIE intersection. These lane expansions also take time lots of time into researching the construction feasibility, the planning, and finally the construction. This doesn’t happen fast enough and most probably by the time the construction is completed, the amount of cars on the road will have increased beyond what the lane expansion is catered for.

What the government has been doing is akin to increasing the ram on the computer. Increase the amount of ram and more data gets prepared to be cached. And having more means of traveling from one point to another is like have 2 pieces of ram instead of 1.

What is equally important is also the processor! Having a faster and more efficient processor means being able to process more data more efficiently. With a slow processor, more matter how much ram you have, you are going to face a problem of not getting that much amount of data to clear out before the next batch comes into the ram.

This translates into increasing the frequency of the transportation system. The 29 minutes, as you can most probably tell, is beyond my threshold of tolerance for the phrase “effective frequency”. If we translate this frequency into audio terms, it will be so low pitched I doubt we can even hear it.

29 minutes! For two buses of the same service to arrive? At a time when the bus stops are overflowing with people? Sorry, this processor speed is not even enough for me to even open Adobe Photoshop to just crop out my friend’s face from my photo!

It takes more than ten years to build a better traffic infrastructure, but what are you planning to do from now till then? The bus arrival board is definitely not working. I don’t need another software to keep telling me my CPU is overloading when it doesn’t do anything else! We need to have our public transportation companies increase the frequencies to solve these short term problems, as, you know, we say in Singlish: ”dong3 for a while”.

It is already ridiculous enough for someone to compare the computer system to a country’s traffic system. What is more ridiculous is that this comparison actually made sense to me as I got stuck on PIE on a bus having to keep avoiding being accused as a pervert.

photo credit: TIB1218R via photopin cc