Sunday, February 22, 2015

Transportation Talks: COE and Public Transport

What made me think of this topic was stumbling upon an article about how Jakarta has the worst traffic in the world. This led me to read up on the Castrol Stop-Start Index, from which I produced this table:

Within the Asian countries, we have the 2nd lowest Stop-Starts per car per year, coming in only behind Kuala Lumpur. We are better than all the other cities!

Now, I don't know about you, but when I travel to all these places, the advice I always get is, "Don't underestimate the traffic of XXX". Which is actually a very wise advice for any Singaporean travelling Asia. In other words, "Don't expect smooth traffic like in Singapore".

Nowadays I keep hearing people calling out for the government to remove the COE. I don't know if this is a good idea. Personally, I think cars in Singapore should now and forever in the future be seen as a luxury item. Like owning a house on Sentosa. Very cool, but not practical for the most of us (considering the costs).

I just read an NUS paper. In Singapore, the cost of living has been shooting up mainly due to PRIVATE transportation costs and not PUBLIC transportation cost. The middle class feels that cars are necessary, and since cars have been increasing in price, so has their costs of living as it starts eating up a larger and larger portion of their income. Should 70% of households be running around and driving cars? You decide.

I have also come across this article while researching this topic. I was kind of shocked to learn that Singapore has one of the largest car ownership percentages across cities. That makes our performance on the Start-Stop Index a bit more impressive, but also shows that there is a large room for Singapore to play around with to improve our transportation system. Do we push the limits and add more cars? Do we dump more cars and ramp up public transport?

Ironically, since cars are so ridiculously expensive, this makes it a clear status symbol. This is EXTREMELY counter-intuitive, but it is very clearly proven and demonstrated in the Singapore market. The more expensive and branded European brands have seem their market share increase as the cost of car ownership in Singapore increase, not the opposite. People don't compensate for expensive COE's by buying cheaper cars. People bid for expensive COE's just so they can buy expensive cars. I'm too lazy to format the source data for you guys, but go see the LTA statistics. It is very obvious. When it comes to face, Asians just love burning money to have a really big face. Fancy weddings and expensive cars, need I say more?

I have stayed in America and have noted how every single person has a car (cities like NYC and Seattle are the exception). Many have multiple cars. I have stayed in cities in Europe where the main mode of public transportation was bicycles. Yes, I too laughed at that stupid idea. Turns out, it's not stupid at all. It is CHEAP, practical and smooth with ZERO traffic jams. Not to mention it was pretty fun and kept me very fit.

Ever since I travelled to huge metro cities like New York City, Paris and London (not bad eh), and I have seen the way that everyone uses the metro there, it always make me think of this particular quote:

I hope that Singapore will one day have a public transportation system that is a cross between New York City (practical) and Tokyo (dense) and that people living in Singapore don't view cars as basic necessities.

I wish that in the future, the time taken by public transport to get to most places will be both faster and cheaper than private transportation.

My biggest wish is for Singapore to have a 24/7 public transportation network. Even a skeleton crew to operate the MRTs once an hour during the midnight shift would be a huge improvement to making this city a city that never sleeps.


  1. If the expressways were converted to allow only bicycles, we could cycle anywhere in Singapore in at most 1 hour...

    1. owq, I think cycling is one of the best modes of transports, but cycling on the expressways will be tough, no shade and got a lot of uphill, how sia! Haha! I really like the bicycling model of the Netherlands though, but building that sort of safe and efficient bike infrastructure for Singapore will not be easy!

      Perhaps a move towards having 1-2 seater small electric cars? More space efficient!


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