Down memory lane

I happened to catch a ride on an old CSS bus today. CSS used to stand for something like City Shuttle Service. I don't know at what point the company was absorbed by SBS Transit, Singapore's "leading transport operator", but I suspect it's one of those things that transpired while I was living overseas. One minute I was catching bus numbers 3 or 5 from school to head downtown; the next, there was a "6-0" prefixing all the formerly single-digit route numbers, and the license plate numbers had changed with the new ownership.

The buses are still the right colours, though: orange and beige, faded now to the grungier hues of smashed eggshells. Despite the clean blue ez-link card machines (circa 2002) that flank you as you enter, boarding a CSS bus is like entering a tiny timewarp, welcoming you a wholly different dimension of bus-riding. There are no advertisements crowding overhead and no dreaded TVMobile screens. The seats are spaced further apart, roomy enough to make me feel like a child dangling among seats designed for the real adults. Even the little details differ: the rear door slides to the right, not folding outwards, to open, and the windows that you used to be able to open --- before they installed airconditioning and wedged them shut --- you open them by pushing them up off the sill.

It's mercifully quiet within, partly because there weren't many passengers at the time of day, partly because there was no TVMobile broadcast caterwauling for attention. The blank advertising slots harked back to a simpler time, when not every public space was swathed three times over in commercialistic appeals. Even the bus driver was older: a weathered, leathery fella, no doubt close to retirement. I wondered if he used to drive the bus in the CSS days, then quashed that flicker of sentimentality. Just be grateful the bus is still around.

It was the most peaceful bus ride I've had in years. I was almost sad to have to get off.


At 5/10/2005 5:06 am , Blogger Agagooga said...

Didn't it use to be run by TIBS?

At 5/10/2005 6:26 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

loved this, it brings back lots of memories. i used to take CSS from school to town. old things in sg are so rare, I can't help but be drippily sentimental about them.

At 5/11/2005 2:14 am , Blogger wahj said...

You bring back memories ... especially the bit about the sliding doors.

I remember the bus conductors, and the tickets and hole punchers. I kept a bus ticket for the longest time, but I would've thrown it away by now.

I wasn't aware that CSS, still existed, or that they still had those buses? Which route is this?

At 5/11/2005 3:35 am , Blogger Tym said...

Agagooga --- It had an "SBS" prefix on the licence plate, so I assumed it's now owned by SBS. Couldn't verify it on the SBS Transit website, though.

ci'en --- Me too! *sniff*

The Big Kahuna --- When I was in school, ACS boys were always a good reason to take CSS No. 3 :)

Postmaster-General --- Mustiness good, stinky river bad. The river still smells funny, some days.

wahj --- Route 608. 603 seems to be still running (see Postmaster-General's comment above). So the orange buses lurk among us yet. I used to have some old tickets too! Now if I could only remember where I stashed them ...

At 5/11/2005 10:26 am , Blogger Kiv said...

CSS was taken over by TIBS which was taken over by SMRT.

And no, 603 has already been withdrawn some time back. 608 is the last CSS service running.

Trust the TIBS, opps SMRT guy.

Anyhow, it must be ur lucky day! With the service running at that kinda headway and u still managed to catch one...WOW.

At 5/12/2005 1:17 am , Blogger Tym said...

Duh, should've asked you from the start, Kiv.

608 is the last CSS route still running? I'd better take it more then, before they truly shut it down :(

Anyone want to take photos of the old bus for posterity?

At 5/14/2005 1:36 am , Blogger Agagooga said...

Got air con. Not old bus already.

At 3/04/2007 1:20 am , Blogger Nick said...


I live on the 608 busroute and always opt to get the 608 whenever possible. Strangely enough I was waiting for it yesterday when I noticed that at the end of March the service is going to be terminated. I'm really sad about it, not necessarily from a nostaligic point of view because I'm not from Singapore but more from a aesthetic perspective - I am an artist/designer by profession. The 608 is a beautiful bus, especially in relation to the awful 'modern' SBS ones. I'm afraid not only Singapore suffers from this syndrome, London is another prime example of replacing great design with blandness.
In the few days that are left for the 608 I was wondering how I might document its passing in some way. Any suggestions?


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