Distance-Based Fares (DBF) is a fare payment scheme currently used across public buses and MRT/LRT trains in Singapore.
The fare system, which only works for contactless stored-value smartcards, charges fares based on the total distance travelled in one journey, regardless of the mode of transport used and omitting boarding charges for every trip. To encourage flexibility in commuting patterns, a single journey allows for up to 5 transfers, so long as the transfers are made within a timeframe stipulated under DBF guidelines.
Apart from cashless Distance-Based Fares, all buses and trains continue to accept cash fare payment. However, payment must be made on a per-trip basis, and cash-paying passengers do not qualify for transfer discounts as offered under the DBF.
To qualify for Distance-Based Fares, commuters must have a stored value smartcard (EZ-Link and/or NETS Flashpay), a concession card or an approved bank card for Account-Based Ticketing. Under Distance-Based Fares, for a single journey, commuters:
- Can make up to 5 transfers within a single journey (45-minute time allowance between each transfer)
- Can take up to 2 hours to complete a journey
- Should not take the same bus service number consecutively
- Should not exit and enter at the same rail station (except transfer stations between lines such as at Tampines, Newton & Bukit Panjang)
- Can transfer between different rail stations (15-minute time allowance between each transfer)
If the following guidelines are breached, a transfer would be considered as a New Ride with no transfer discount. Commuters are also reminded to tap in and tap out of buses to enjoy Distance-Based Fares.
Point 1: 5 transfers within a single journey
Commuters are entitled to 5 transfers within a single journey. This equates to a maximum of six bus and/or train rides. Each transfer must be made within 45 minutes, e.g. if one taps out of a bus/train at 12:00 pm, one must tap in again by 12:44 pm to qualify as a transfer.
Point 2: 2-hour time limit
The last tap-in of the journey must be less than 2 hours after the first tap-in. For example, if one begins his/her journey at 12:00 pm and follows all transfer guidelines, the last tap-in must be before 1:59 pm to qualify as a transfer. Any amount of time can be taken to complete the last leg of the journey.
An exception to the rule is overstaying on the train network: if one spends more than 2 hours within the rail network, a penalty will need to be paid before exiting.
Also, for Cross-Border Bus Services, alighting at checkpoints to clear customs before re-boarding the bus does not count as a transfer, provided that one re-boards a bus of the same service.
Point 3: No consecutive bus services
Alighting from and boarding the same bus service will not qualify for a transfer discount. However, rides can be staggered with an intermediate ride in between, thereby preserving the transfer. This is a useful point for commuters travelling from one location to another and back.
For example, a commuter living in Joo Chiat heads to Old Airport Road Market & Hawker Centre to run a quick errand, using Bus Service 33, the only bus service available. However, by re-boarding Service 33 back to Joo Chiat, the return journey would count as a new ride. What the commuter can do is take any bus service along Old Airport Road for one stop, alight and wait for Service 33, thereby spacing out the consecutive service and qualifying for the transfer discount.
Do note that Short-Trip Services are considered a part of their parent service, and transferring between them will not qualify as a transfer discount.
Points 4 & 5: Rail Transfer
Commuters may exit and enter the train network through different rail stations within 15 minutes a the transfer to be validated.
However, there are exceptions where same rail station transfers are allowed. Examples are:
– Rail line transfer through un-paid links (such as at Tampines, Newton & Bukit Panjang Stations), which has a transfer period of 15 minutes
– Designated stations such as Stevens with 30 minutes grace period for commuters to tap out and back in if they went to the wrong platform.