2022 note: This article was published in 2018. The fares have changed since then, but the principle of this “hack” still applies. Happy reading and hope you can save on fares and crowds!
When we reach Kent Ridge MRT to head to class, we usually just hop onto A1 or D2, even if we’re going to Science. This often earns us the wrath of pretty much everyone else.
Especially for Science students. Most of the time, other commuters ask them to just walk. But Science students always retort that they should be able to use the bus too, since they pay for it.
But what most don’t know is that if the stars align, your bus ride from MRT to Science via 95 might actually be free! If you know this is going to happen to you, you can wait for 95 as well as A1 or D2, to get you to Science quicker. It also takes load off the ISB services from students who take 95.
Disclaimer: ignore this post entirely if you have a train-only concession pass. It will not work.
To be clear, I’m not asking you to switch to riding only 95. It might not be free for you. But what is this sorcery allowing us to ride a public bus for free?
The answer lies in distance fares, the new way LTA computes public transport fares since 2014.
How does fare deduction work?
Under this system, every possible boarding or alighting point, be it a bus stop or MRT station, has a preset, hardcoded distance from the next one. So any pair of such points has a predetermined distance between them.
When you “tap in” to a mode of transport, it actually deducts the maximum possible distance fare. When you “tap out”, the system intelligently calculates how far you have travelled (by their definition), checks which fare band it’s in and refunds you the difference.
This is why you can’t get into the MRT system to travel one stop when you have less than, say, $2. The system doesn’t know how far you’ll go, so it makes a worst-case scenario guess.
Now, the fares work according to fare bands, grouped by distance. The table can be found here. The important thing to note is that they are bands of 0.9 km, starting from 0 km to 3.2 km, then 3.3 km to 4.2 km, then 4.3 km to 5.2 km and so forth.
So when you tap out, the system refunds you your money first, but it also remembers how far you travelled on the last leg. Making a transfer means you tap in to the system again within 45 minutes. This time, when you tap in, the reader (if it can) shows that you are making a transfer, and deducts the maximum possible by taking note of how far you have actually travelled already.
So on your second leg, the net deduction is actually calculated based on your total distance travelled. Logically, this means that if your leg doesn’t add enough km to the total to send it into the next fare band, your ride will be free! There is no net deduction.
The distance from Kent Ridge MRT to Science is short, so hmm… if you came from somewhere else, by train or bus + train, we are looking at some potential free 95 rides here!
Back to topic
So I computed the distance from Kent Ridge MRT to various bus stops along the 95 route. I got this:
95 from MRT towards CLB
- LT27: 0.5km
- S12 (UHall bus stop): 0.8km
- Opp UHC: 1.2km
- YIH: 1.4km
- CLB: 1.8km
95 from CLB to MRT
- Opp YIH: 1.5km
- UHC: 1.2km
- Opp UHall: 0.9km
- S17: 0.6km
Thus, if you are taking a bus from the MRT, only LT27 and S12 can potentially give you a free 95. If you are heading back to the MRT, only Opp UHall (sorta) and S17 can give you a free ride. Sorry, CLB is out of range.
This is because the other stops’ distances are all greater than one fare band, and will definitely send your fare flying into a new band.
But what about these stops, at FoS? The thing is it’s hard to say for sure whether your ride will be free or not. It depends on where you started, and not linearly!
What matters is the journey from your start point to Kent Ridge MRT. If that journey itself is within the low end of a fare band, then maybe we can add, say, 0.5km to it and remain within the same fare band, ie. a free 95. But if the journey itself is at the high end of a fare band, we don’t know for sure.
Confused? Here’s an example.
For example, consider a journey from Commonwealth MRT to Science. The distance from Commonwealth MRT (EW20) to Kent Ridge MRT is 2.7 km. Riding the 95 to LT27 will add a distance of 0.5 km to make a total of 3.2 km – still within the same fare band. The ride will be free; no money is deducted.
But from Queenstown (EW19), just one station earlier, the distance to Kent Ridge MRT is 3.9 km. Adding 0.5 km gives 4.3 km – oops. Next band. The ride on 95 won’t be free.
And there isn’t a definite pattern. The distances will be distributed randomly. Yes, they increase as you go further from NUS, but there’s no pattern to whether or not they can accommodate 0.5 km in the same band as the bands are all evenly spaced. Redhill (EW18) gives a free 95 ride, but Outram Park (EW16) does not. See what I mean?
Now if you want to be convinced that this happens: I checked for twenty stations, EW1 to EW20. Among these twenty stations, eleven (in black) give free rides while nine (in red) do not. And no, they’re not all clustered in the east.
Originally I wanted to do up a table of all MRT stations in Singapore to calculate if 95 is free from there, but that was honestly too much work as there are too many stations and the process of calculating isn’t very efficient. LTA’s fare calculator is usable, but it is a pain to do repetitive calculations. LTA also didn’t make the data for “Distance as used to calculate fares between any pair of stations” available online.
So I’ll show you how to do the calculation yourself, and find out if your 95 ride is free.
I’m gonna assume that you started with a ride on the MRT, but if you didn’t, you must add in your bus leg earlier. Regardless, the calculator I use can tell you whether your short ride on 95 itself will result in a deduction.
It’ll be worth the effort if it gives you at least one semester of more peace of mind, knowing you have an alternative!
The first step is to head to this fare calculator website. Only this one from MyTransport.SG shows you the breakdown of each leg of your journey.
2022 Update: I know the look of the website has changed a little but the steps are the same. A screenshot of the new look is enclosed below after the steps.
Select your fare type, and select “MRT” as your mode of transport. You will be prompted to name your boarding and alighting station.
After you have selected both, you need to click “Add Trip To Journey”. This incorporates the leg you just gave them into an overall journey.
Now you have to add the bus trip in. Just select your fare type, don’t click any other buttons, and set mode of transport to “Bus”.
This time, you will be prompted to pick the bus service, boarding stop and alighting stop. Don’t worry about picking the direction. 95 is a loop service.
Now, “Add Trip To Journey” again before selecting “Compute Fare”.
You will now see a breakdown of your journey along with the bus fare. If you are doing the bus trip first (returning home from S17), this one will be a bit more effort, as you have to compute two different journeys, one with a bus and one without the bus and see if the net fare is different.
2020 Update: As of 2020, the website looks a little different but the function is the same. The screenshot below is what the website looks like now.
Needless to say, this website can be used to calculate fares for any journey.
So is it free?
If the fare for the Trip corresponding to your ride on 95 is $0.00, congratulations! You now have a third choice between Kent Ridge MRT and Science. Get on 95 knowing that you will pay no more than if you took the ISB; it’ll be less crowded.
Please do your part and exercise that option, for the sake of us all. If you found that you now have a better commute, please just do me one favour and share this article with your friends, so maybe they can benefit too. Thanks, on behalf of everyone on the ISB!