20 March 2012
We are told the new flyover in Bukit Brown will ease congestion and improve traffic flow - expected to increase by 30% by year 2020. At the same time, studies reveal that Singapore has more cars and fewer cyclists than in most developed cities and countries - and is also the highest polluter in Asia.
The question we should really be asking is: What kind of a sustainable Singapore do we want in 2020 and ahead? By building more roads and ensuring more road space, we continue to encourage private vehicle ownership. Public transportation has seen good improvements, with interconnected MRT lines and bus networks. So why is our transportation system struggling to cope ?
The answer is our planners do not view Singapore as a single entity. Our nation has a fragmented view of the social, economic, environmental and infrastructure aspects of Singapore. Visions and policies across these do not weave them together as they should.
Staggered work hours and telecommuting can reduce the stress on public transportation during peak hours – this approach was tested 20 years ago in one statutory board, but since then nothing has materialised. Flexi-work can start with working from home once a week or month, or changing office hours. The civil service can take the lead in this, being the nation's largest work group.
Buses can be more frequent with more and varied express bus services to busy areas. Bicycle lanes can be drawn within the bus lanes islandwide; half a meter width is all that's needed. Melbourne sets a brilliant example of this approach, and it works.
Cars are highly polluting, during manufacture, delivery and use. They contribute to poor air quality for pedestrians and residents, in addition to noise pollution. Car ownership in Singapore should be given the same treatment as our strict housing policy . Families of 3 or more should be allowed to buy a car more easily than singles. Pollution tax should be incorporated in the cost of cars (in addition to ERP). Parking rates should be made uncomfortably high, as in the case of Hong Kong.
It is time to bring out the stick if we are serious about reducing congestion on roads.
By Mallika Naguran