24 October 2006

Oh Look. ERP, COE and Road Tax Going Up Again.

ST Oct 24, 2006
Push to get more people to take public transport
This is among aims of a review to set land transport directions for next 10-15 years

TEN years after the White Paper on Land Transport was published, Transport Minister Raymond Lim yesterday announced that his ministry was going back to the drawing board to map out new directions for the next 10 to 15 years.

Among other things, planners will work out how to get more Singaporeans - including those who can afford to drive a car - onto the bus or train.

'We will have to work harder to make public transport a choice mode for the vast majority of Singaporeans for routine day-to-day commuting,' he said at the SBS Transit headquarters in Braddell Road.

'This is because, for a dense urban city-state such as ours, it will be catastrophic to allow private transport to be the dominant transport mode, as it will cause huge degradation to the city's liveability and quality of life.'

The comprehensive review, to be done over a year or so, will take into account the views of the travelling public and stakeholders such as transport operators.

Mr Lim promised to incorporate a 'human dimension' to land transport planning: 'Our transport system, while having to be as efficient as possible, must ultimately serve the people who use it.'

But it is clear that his focus is on public transport, which has seen its share of morning trips fall from 67 per cent in 1997 to 63 per cent in 2004.

The reason: more people now own cars - and drive them intensively.

The car population went up 10 per cent over the 1997-2004 period, while daily car trips more than doubled, rising 23 per cent.
I can believe those statistics about the car population. After all, the overall number of people living in Singapore rose by about 12 per cent over the period 1997-2004. So the percentage rise in car population is roughly the same as the percentage rise in human population.

In other words, it isn't as if the proportion of car-owning Singapore residents has actually gone up. It's just that the overall number of people living in Singapore residents (car owners included) has gone up.

As for the other figures, the ST article isn't so clear, but I assume that it's trying to say that:

(a) in 1997, 67% of people travelled in the morning by public transport; and approximately 10% travelled by car (the remaining 23% presumably either walked or don't normally travel in the morning);

(b) in 2004, 63% of people travelled in the morning by public transport; and approximately 23% travelled by car (the remaining 14% presumably either walked or don't normally travel in the morning).

A plausible interpretation is simply that in 2004, a higher proportion of people living in Singapore actually go to work or school in the morning (as compared to the situation in 1997). Again this doesn't surprise me. This seems to be a fairly predictable consequence of our foreign talent policy, which kicked off in earnest roughly around 1997, in fact.
Mr Lim's aim is for the bus and rail system to account for 70 per cent of all morning peak-hour rides. To achieve this, the Land Transport Authority will examine whether more rail lines are needed.

It will also review the public transport regulatory framework to see, for example, how to cater to commuters who are willing to pay more for better bus services.

'We must aim high, with the test being whether people who have a choice of private or public transport are won over to our public transport system. To achieve that, people must feel that 'my other car is a bus' or train, as the case may be.'

The need to get more people on public transport is urgent, given the burgeoning car population, maturing road network and the increasing numbers of residents and visitors.

The new land transport roadmap will have to contend with issues such as the level of tolerable road congestion, electronic road pricing (ERP) coverage and rates, and whether more trees should be cut down to make way for roads.
I like that last bit about the trees. It's nice to know that the authorities even consider this an issue at all. By the way, whatever happened to this tree?
Mr Lim said the fundamentals of Singapore's land transport policy will, however, remain the same: promote public transport, optimise road usage and manage demand for private vehicles.

This time, transport planners will be able to build on what has been achieved in the 1996 White Paper. Among other things, it settled the financing system for public transport infrastructure and led to ERP implementation.

At the ground level, however, people are more interested in who will pay for the transport system that is being envisioned.

But Mr Lim yesterday pledged that the general public would be able to afford public transport fares, while those who couldn't would continue to get help.
Get help? You mean, like this guy over here? I hear his family didn't even have enough money to take public transport to the mortuary to see if it was really his body lying there.

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Anonymous said...

Geez, LTA really got the whole equation wrong, encouraging people going for public transport does not always begin with ERP and road tax increases, it has to be something likes a self regulatory effort by indivdiuals to park their cars at some designated car pools and transfer to down town or CBD via public transports to ease the traffic. However we have no such facilities and it lead to believe they are justifying their causes to hike the costs of owning a car.

Look at how many COEs LTA has released over the past period, does it really servmuche it's purpose as a car control mechanism? I fear not.

hugewhaleshark said...

As usual, reporting on numbers by the ST is horrendous. The way I read it, they are saying this:

i) that the share of morning trips on public transport fell from 67% in 1997 to 63% in 2004.

ii) that the car population grew by 10% in the same period, but daily car trips grew by more than twice as fast, rising 23%.

There is no mention about the share of morning trips in private cars. I would assume that since we are talking about the share of trips, then the share of trips taken on private (as against public) transport would have increased inversely from 33% to 37% in the same period.

From what I remember reading in government papers/statistics, taxis are considered public transport (the other modes being busses and the MRT/LRT).

But the main irony which I saw in the article is this - in its 1996 White Paper, the government had a policy of increasing car ownership to 1 car for every 7 persons by 2010, from less than 1-for-9 in 1995 and almost 1-for-8 in 2005. I guess what they are saying is that you should own a car but you should not use it during the morning rush.

Great, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

well said, Mr Wang. It just shows how bad some of our civil servants read statistics.

Anonymous said...

You know what would greatly improve public transport? Get a significant proportion of the public transport council, the LTA top management, the Transport Ministry top brass, Parliament and the Cabinet to go to work on public transport (or at least when they are not performing official duties). Public transport will improve by leaps and bounds within months if not weeks. How do a bunch of drivers convince other drivers not to drive other than make it more expensive for those other drivers to stop driving?

Anonymous said...

Well, you can't expect anyone who prowled their $$ on inflated cars to sit in the car park during the peak hour, do you?

It's everyone's mentality to maximise the usage of the car they "invested". Without an utilisation platforms, i do not see people start parking their cars off CBD area and take public transport.

Anonymous said...

To radikaz,
There *is* already a Park & Ride scheme in Singapore:

Anonymous said...

So is Raymond Lim and the rest of the MIWs going to lead by example? If not, he should STFU

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing it out, granted. But in my opinion where are those "park and ride" lots located? Residential areas by majority, so does it defeat the purpose of "buying" a car, picture this while i trying to figure the logic out.

Say, someone stays in the west area and their office is at Suntec, where do they park their cars to the nearest "park and ride" location, i figured out is Dempsey road. Only Bus 106 and 77 goes to Suntec. I DUN drive, FYI. I take bus 106 regularly. I can vounch for you day in day out, the bus is FULL.

Before you do your part to reduce cars on CBD and business districts, you get frustration waiting for the bus's irregular frequencies and wrong types of bus [where's the long bus?] catered for the peak period. After two or three sardine packing experiences, i bet any drivers will go back to their cars soonest.

Idea was there, but poorly implemented for some "reasons", u know the answers. Dun u?

Anonymous said...

I think the problem here is simple. We are having overcrowded MRT trains at peak hours, and underutilization at offpeak hours. Seriously, people DO take the public transport if they can. Not everyone is living the upper middle class and above. But the trains are so packed that many might just go for the comforts of a 4 wheeler.

Now, imagine if we push the group of people to public transport. How efficient will our public transport be then? We're going to have a Circle Line built soon - but how many people are going to use that service? Last I took the NEL, the utilization rates were still rather distant - notably because the NEL stations do not have as densely populated areas as the East-West line (and of course, the East-West/North-South lines reaches city areas.

Given also that the government is aiming for a 8 million population in the near future, I would suggest 3 broad ideas for resolving the transport issue.

1) Encourage companies to offer staggered working timings/flexible work times. So long as employees clock their working hours (via computerized systems), they have a leeway of working 8 (7 excuding lunchbreak) hours between the hours 8am-10pm.

2) Manage bus services more efficiently. Bus services are still horribly inefficient. What would take 25 minutes on the car takes 90 minutes to reach on the bus - that's unacceptable. And this is true - That's the time I take to go to school by bus. Of course, I'm not as priviledged to own a car (don't think I would in Singapore) so I opt for the more efficient MRT.

3) Encourage re-location & working/living in short distances to cut down on traffic. This is geninuely difficult to implement, but implementation details would better be left for the million-dollar ministers to work on. I believe it can work - but only if the government is willing to give enough carrots along with enough sticks.

Anonymous said...

thor666, those were great ideas.

But realistically, will those scholarly Public Transport CEOs able to tip the balance to provide "public service" 1st than to heap profit 1st?

If they can't, the whole concept is not going to work 100% to the benefits to the people. However given their track records and short office term, profit remains top priority as they scale their way to their elite ladder.

Take the red pill!

Anonymous said...

radikaz - i agree.

Again, why I didn't think privatising public transport was a good idea - definite conflict of interest.

in my opinion Singaporeans should definitely move from moral politics into constitutional politics - not to support personalities and moral values, but rather support politicians who support a legal framework that protects citizen rights.

as for the red pill - i'm fortunate - i'm still young. no interest in the rat race. i'll plan my moves no doubt. :)

Anonymous said...

I was trying to get my head round the issue of improving the Singapore transport system: the issue is really quite mind-boggling!

I feel that cost has not been a great deterrent to motor vehicle use. Presumably the marginal gain in utility (i.e. convenience / time / comfort / social status) from owning & using the vehicle still makes it worthwhile.

But the downside is that living costs are driven up, because people still choose private cars, despite the increased cost of ownership and usage. Living costs beget wage costs, and everything then contributes to transaction costs, which hurt economic efficiency.

I'm currently incubating some ideas on my blog... feel free to pop by and visit. :) [Hope Mr Wang doesn't mind this little plug... :)]

Anonymous said...

thor 666; i too hate the idea of privatizing key public assets. I see it as gov's measures to "take it hand's off" for the sakes of shareholder's interests.

The ways living costs are spiraling up is going to be bad news for us in the near future, if for some reasons, the US's economy is unable to sustain itself and collapse trickle all the way down. I fear there's going to be more MRT jumps.

I suspects the top honchos are taking their chances to sandbag and buffer ahead at masses's expenses, if that's does not happen. The profit heaping exercise goes into their CVs.

The world is bigger than Singapore's ego. Be dynamic, it's the key word to career survival.

Good luck finding your new home.

Anonymous said...

Nuova, Actually i do not understand why they have to complicate our public transport system. Especially for the bus service.

I'd for once took public transport in L.A. the bus's fare is flat rated at US$1.60 [if i recalled correctly] and US$1.00 after 9pm. Bus transfers is 50% off for the next journey while keeping the 1st bus ticket.

Simplicity at it's very best, cost saving transfers to the consumers. No fancy mobile TV, No fancy EzLink, No fancy system migration, No fancy GPS ticketing system. And of course no complicated Public transport community that does nothing other than helping bus companies to justify fare increases.

So my question is, is it really mind boggling to offer decent public transport taking away all the stuffs we dun need. While integrating into park and ride concept, drivers has to be equipped with both EzLink & Cash Card which further fuel frustration. So why is so hard to be simple?

Anonymous said...

Is is a coincidence that the MIW has to wait after the election to make public this announcement? I couldn't recall having seen any such of this in their recent election manifesto ? Are they trying to say that they are going to make it more expensive to own and maitain your own car. It's really mindboggling to think that's what they are going to do, especially only after they have release a super bumper of COEs. Why don't they just make it a condition that only those who declare their million $ income to IRAS can OWN their own cars & anybody else just take public transport. So much easier, isn't it!!

Anonymous said...

Inevitable for all these and health insurance premium talk to surface again especially when we've lost so much in overseas investments.

Our coffers aren't bottomless.

Here's one probable reason why the CPF and GIC are not willing to be transparent. There might not be room to manipulate.

Christopher Ng Wai Chung said...

Well a lot of blood pressure is going up over transport costs. I doubt there is nothing car owners can look forward to other than higher costs and doubt that the government has any other of coping with it.

All I have is a suggestion for a fellow public transport user.

Too much time is wasted in public transport everyday and we should invest in ways to help us harvest this time back for our own good use. If you can find a seat, make it a point to read. If you can't, pick up a cheap MP3 player and load up educational materials and audio books into it.

I spend 3 hours on the road everyday because I refuse to buy a car. But these 3 hours are well spent everyday because I think I've attained a liberal arts degree on the road since I started working.


Anonymous said...

Have those who find public transport companies so obscenely profitable considered buying some SMRT or Comfort DelGro stock?

Contrary to some opinions here, public transport isn't an easy issue at all. The objectives are to provide means for people to get to different places and some of the things they demand are: short travel time, convenience, comfort, low cost, choice. First, there are trade-offs to make in order to satisfy these objectives (and only to different degrees). Then there are constraints: Singapore generally does not subsidise public services (and certainly I would not be agreeable to having any of my tax money going toward providing carrots for people to work near to where they live), the climate isn't really conducive for cycling or walking, and most importantly, there isn't enough space on this island!

Allowing car ownership to increase is something they have to do to pacify people because car numbers are artificially capped by the COE scheme. I don't think more can be done about staggered start times: these already exist between banks, law firms, government, retail shops, schools.

The only practical things that can be done are to extend the MRT infrastructure, increase train capacity and frequency, ditto for buses, make Park & Ride a more viable choice (at more interconnected spots), and -- only after these are done -- bump up that CBD charge to $20 to pay for our lovely black roads.

Anonymous said...

The ST only quotes partial and not quite correctly presented statistics. What Raymond Lim said (speech from MOT website) was:

"The proportion of trips taken on public transport during the morning peak period declined from 67% in 1997 to 63% in 2004 ... the reason for the drop is not because there has been a drop in public transport usage, but simply because we have allowed the car population to increase quite substantially, generating a much greater increase in car trips compared with trips on public transport. Between 1997 and 2004, the daily number of bus and rail trips increased by 2.3%. ... Over the same period, the car population grew by 10%, but the daily number of car trips generated increased by 23%, which is more than double the rate of car population increase. "

moomooman said...

How about breaking down the statistics further by zones. Like East, North and West towards town?

One reason why trips to town has increase is because in 1997, the population in the north-east like sengkang/punggol has yet to be expanded.

This increase in households will definitely increase the car trips because infrastructure in that area is not as good and most have to drive to get by. Of course, things may have improved since the NE line is up.

However, instead of trying to get drivers to use public transport more... they should try to see how they can bring public transport alot assessible to those who drive and make them rethink.

Cost alone may not be the best deterrence.

Anonymous said...

"Have those who find public transport companies so obscenely profitable considered buying some SMRT or Comfort DelGro stock?"

You got to look at who the majority shareholder(s) is/are.

They can make or break your investment just like Richard Li has done to PCRD shareholders.

Do they have integrity? Very important consideration for me.

Anonymous said...

Singapore is said to be a corporation rather than a nation. This is why we are 'uniquely unique' to all other developed country in the sense that we peasants are the employee while the MIW we voated for are had become our employer.

And in a corporation, employee welfare don't come first if there is a conflict of interest. The main aim of the corporation is just to produce as much profit as possible for the shareholders.

Being just an average peasant that need to use PT daily myself, I find it unconvincing that share of morning trips on public transport had fell when almost every morning I have to waste so many times just for the buses to come and already full with people. For MRT it is much worse. The train nowadays can actually come at 8~10 minutes during peak hours as compare to 5 minutes in the 90s, and at time it was so full that I have to waste another 8~10 minutes waiting for the next train.

Can you imagine that if this is actually a 'sign' that commuters are on the 'decline', then it must be hell for us commuters in the future when they managed to reverse the trend by all their scholar $$$ making ideas.

Seriously, I can't help but be skeptical that this is all but just a big wayang to give LTA the excuse to make more $$$, and I am not even a car owner to be this cynical.

Anonymous said...

honestly, it is not how the gahmen read the statistics, it is how they "managed" the numbers...eg from which angle they are looking at the stats (water half full or half empty?) or whether to lump certain groups together so that the numbers fit their purpose.

if you have taken statistic in school before, you would have known the ways :)

and as for the minister take the lead to take public transport, please lah, wake up your idea. do what i preach, not do what i do, sounds familiar?

Joseph Chiang said...

i think it's just another excuse to make more money for the government.

if the COEs, ERP, Share-a-Cab (remember this?) schemes had worked, they will say,"Well, they work, so we should work on them (i.e. increasing ERP prices and gantries, increase minimum bidding price of COE, etc). any which way, the commuter loses.

Anonymous said...

3) Encourage re-location & working/living in short distances to cut down on traffic. This is geninuely difficult to implement, but implementation details would better be left for the million-dollar ministers to work on. I believe it can work - but only if the government is willing to give enough carrots along with enough sticks.

thor666, you might be interest to know that before the MRT was built, a few studies were done. I read one in the National Library. One of the recommendations of that study was to make moving house easier. ie more rentals.

For whatever reason, the government did not bother at all. It's hard to rent as the HDB controls restrict the full rental of flats. So lot's of citizens in Singapore are stuck in the HDB or condo that they have bought.

It's one of my pet peeves. In 2 of my previous jobs, I had to commute for one and a half hours each way. 3 hours a day total. To my pleasant surprise, my foreign "talent" colleagues all live within 10 minutes of the workplace.

PanzerGrenadier said...

Talk the walk;
Walk the talk.

PTC, LTA, MOT snr mgt should take public transport DAILY for 1 month.

Then they will see for themselves the unadulteratd view of the state of public transport.

Anonymous said...

Aiyah, this latest LTA study is just a smoke-screen: they will find any excuse to INCREASE taxes. Wonder if I can use all these increases in living costs to ask for a pay raise...

Anonymous said...

If you have access to the UBS world standard of living report May or June 2006 copy, Singapore ranks the world's top for prices of cars. Singapore's private transport is THE most expensive in the world. But not our income, net or gross.

So what does that translate to? Public transport are not cheap enough. The very simple relative picture the Minister, a scholar and top brain of the nation should have not problem seeing. What's stopping him from saying it out loud, and rectifying the situation?

Anonymous said...

Cut down trees for roads? Whatever happened to city living in a garden?

Anonymous said...

hey, i just got a brand new Trek! Hopefully it will cut down my transport cost.


Chris said...

Using ERP to de-congest a road doesn't work. No one likes to drive and be stuck in a jam. The reason why people go through those roads, is because they HAVE to go through those roads.

Joseph Chiang said...

the government should legalise the use of the segway human transporter on the road, if they really want to solve the traffic problem. but i know they won't because they would not be able to make any money out of it, unless they put an extorbitant tax on it.

sigh, what can the people do when they can't even go on strike or do a protest walk if they're not happy with our public transport system?

Anonymous said...

"Among other things, planners will work out how to get more Singaporeans - including those who can afford to drive a car - onto the bus or train."

May I thus invite all the MPs to do the same - dump their cars and hop onto the bus/train?

Not all locations are easily accessible by public transport. Personally I wouldn't mind paying some $ if I could save precious waiting and commuting time by owning a car. Should I thus be the group of people who will suffer under these planners' GREAT PLANS? Argh...

Anonymous said...

Hi readers of this blog

I visited Singapore recently and used your MRT to get around. While it is to be expected that the trains would be packed during peak hours, I observed that your trains are indeed busy round the clock e.g. even at 3 pm on the North-South line. I couldn't find a seat.

I also noticed that during peak hours, the train operator doesn't provide express services, like what is done in some larger cities.

For example, there are about 10 stops between the Raffles Hall and Pasir Ris stations. During evening peak hours, office workers will get on the MRT in the city and get off at major residentials estates like Kallang or Tampines. Rather than have one train that runs the whole line (and thus squeezing everyone onto the train), why not have two express services serving the line during peak hours e.g. one train serving Raffles Place to Aljunied and the other speeding past the early stations and serving only Eunos to Pasir Panjang. In this way, passengers will only take the train that would take them to their destination and the overcrowding could be reduced by half (assuming the same number of people disembark on the two 'sections' of the line). Of course, to have two express services operating on one line during peak hours, MRT would need to build run-offs and train holding bays at the changeover point.

The above is just a suggestion from a visitor who would like to see your MRT improved even further.