Grassroots effort aims to ease traffic woes in Tiong Bahru

SINGAPORE — Vexed by the illegal parking and congestion problems plaguing the narrow roads around his home in recent years, Tiong Bahru resident Choa How King took matters into his own hands.

The 37-year-old owner of a financial services firm got together a group of 20 to 30 people — even paying some of them S$5 per hour out of his own pocket — to observe why traffic problems in the area have persisted despite measures that have been put in place to handle the increased visitor numbers after many cafes and eateries opened there around three years ago.

The Tiong Poh Road resident found that there were ample parking lots in the area, contrary to popular belief, but the lots in some car parks were under-utilised.

“I did this for people to take me seriously and I hope the authorities will use my data to improve the situation,” said Mr Choa, who has been living there for seven years.

“People don’t realise that there is parking available elsewhere; they don’t know where it is and, often, it is only a short distance from their destination. So I think creating awareness, together with enforcement, is really the way to go.”

Using the data collected, he drew colour-coded maps to indicate, for instance, which car parks in the area were not fully utilised during peak periods. He then submitted the 300-page report, which included other data, to the constituency office, which had also been studying the problems.

Yesterday, Mr Choa was among a group of about 20 residents who took to the streets in Tiong Bahru to hand out flyers that read “Is this your grandfather’s road?”, urging visitors not to park illegally. The flyers also showed where the 600 available parking lots in the area were located.

Ms Indranee Rajah, the area’s Member of Parliament, who helped distribute the flyers, told reporters the situation has not improved in the last two-and-a-half years.

She said: “So we thought we should have a campaign here, generating a sense of love for this place. While residents welcome visitors here, (they) also hope that visitors will show the same kind of consideration they would in their own homes.”

Adding that enforcement is a short-term solution, she hoped to instead encourage civic behaviour while more lots are being made available. So far, 30 season parking lots have been converted and space for another 20 new lots has been identified.

The Housing and Development Board and Urban Redevelopment Authority are also keeping an eye on and maintaining the numbers and types of licences being issued to eateries in the area, she added.

Last year, four applications to turn shop premises there into eateries were reportedly rejected by the authorities, which said residents had given feedback on the “noise, smell, nuisance and traffic congestion” caused by existing eateries and that there was “no shortage of eating establishments in the vicinity”.

Tiong Bahru’s Seng Poh Residents’ Committee yesterday also started a heritage movement, inviting descendents of the pioneers of Singapore to contact them.

Seventeen roads in the area are named after pioneers, such as Tan Chay Yan and Tan Kim Tian.

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