Nearly Lost…Thank God for Google Latitude!

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Was feeling under the weather yesterday. Had a sore throat and the nose was drooling all the way. As I was leaving the office building, SBS service number 63 (SBS 2606 R) pulled up at the bus stop just outside the building. I decided to hop onto the bus rather than hoof all the way to RedHill MRT for my usual commute home by train. Since it was only the first stop from the terminal, the bus was pretty empty, so I plonked myself in the 3rd right seat from the back.

Feeling sleepy, I placed my phone in my right pocket with my portable harddisk. Fell asleep halfway through the ride back to Kallang. When I woke up, I was just one stop away. In my haste to alight, I didn’t realize my phone fell out of my pocket.

It was only when I wanted to check mobileiris for the next bus for my transfer that I notice it was missing. I panicked and ran after the bus for a few hundred metres. In retrospect, it was a really silly thing to do given the chaotic traffic in the Geylang area. When I realized it was futile to continue the chase, I stopped at a payphone and frantically called the wife. As I was ranting and panicking, she calmly ask me where I was and asked me to walk to Aljunied MRT where she could pick me up in the car and continue the chase.

After she picked me up, while I was still ranting on how careless I was, she asked me to check the bus route via mobileiris. It was then when I realized that I had Latitude turned on in Google Maps on my N97. The wife and I keep Latitude turned on for convenience. With it,  we need not update each other on our whereabouts. I started Google Maps on the wife’s N97 and viola! I was able to track the location on the bus.

Based on the current location of the bus at Macpherson, we decided that the best place to intercept the bus was at Eunos. We drove to a bus stop along Jalan Eunos and ahead of the bus and waited for it. Thanks to the positional accuracy of Latitude, we didn’t have to wait too long for the bus.

As luck would have it, two buses of service number 63 approached the bus stop one after another. Thankfully, the models of the buses were different, and I remembered that the bus that I rode on was the older Volvo model. It was the 2nd bus and I boarded it. As the services were bunched up, the 2nd bus had only 3 passengers.

I immediately dashed to the seat and found my phone in the crevice between the seat and window of the bus. All this while, the guy opposite the aisle was staring at me. Come to think of it, I must have looked pretty weird, dashing to the seat and searching high and low for something. Anyway, I was simply overjoyed and relieved to have recovered my phone.

So thanks to Google Latitude, the wife’s levelheadedness, and a bit of luck, this episode has a happy ending.

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Someone in SMRT Did Not Get the Memo

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Not having a good week with our world class transport system this week.

On Monday (24th May 2010), I was on my usual routine to work from my parents’ place in Bukit Panjang. I walked down Cashew Road to Upper Bukit Timah Road to get to my bus stop. Though there is a bus stop along Cashew Road with services that I could do a transfer with, I usually give that a pass. Without reliable arrival information on the two services that ply the route, I could end up waiting for a period that is longer than the walk to my bus stop. I can’t repeat this enough, why are we paying the same fare for SMRT buses when they don’t provide the same suite of services?

To my dismay, this was the site that greeted me when I got to the bus stop.

On the notice posted at the bus stop which was dated 18th May 2010, there was no effective closure date. However, the bus stop was cordoned off (Will try to take some photos the next time I pass by the bus stop). I didn’t remember seeing the notice last week. Anyway, I had to trudge another 204m to the next bus stop (according to the notice) during which my bus zoomed by, and I had to wait for the next one.

So, on Wednesday (26th May 2010), when I had to make my way to office at around 0910hrs, I saw service number 75 approaching the Cashew Road bus stop, I dashed to the bus stop to board the bus. When the bus was turning into Upper Bukit Timah Road, a lady rang the stop bell and to my surprise and horror, the bus captain actually stopped along the road as the bus bay was cordoned off. I did not alight there since I wasn’t sure if other buses would stop there. The lady alighted and flagged service number 67 (License No: SMB3C) and that bus stopped for her to board. Apparently, the closure of the bus stop was not communicated to SMRT by LTA. It was really dangerous as the bus stop including the bus bay was cordoned off, and the buses actually stopped along the main road for the passengers to alight and board the bus outside the cordon.

And my misery didn’t end there. When I did my transfer two bus stops later, I boarded service number 961 (License No: TIB763P), which seems to be one of the older buses that I referred to in my previous post. It was a non-aircon bus with windows that can be manually opened refitted with air-conditioning. And the aircon was not working! It was only 9+ in the morning and the bus felt like a hot and stuffy sauna. I really don’t understand how such buses can be allowed on the roads. It didn’t help that the day was especially warm. So there I was, sweating from the start of my journey to the end, even with the aircon vent blowing directly at me.

I am beginning to doubt the process and checks carried out by the Public Transport Council on the service standards by SMRT. In just the past month, I’ve encountered 3 bus breakdowns around the Bukit Timah and Holland area, irregular bus arrival times and crowded buses. And the report on the SMRT bus service by the PTC was satisfactory? How did they come to that conclusion?