Mindset change needed to solve transport woes

In “Lower tolerance of private transport, for healthier land transport scene” (Jan 23), the writer made a pertinent observation that the planning authorities have made it comfortable, maybe even rational, for more to commute via private transport.

While Singapore may have a public transport system comparable to major East Asian cities, the key difference in the outcome of commuter experience lies in the urban structure. Singapore’s urban structure caters more to motor traffic than to train and pedestrian traffic.

The gap is so wide that many who cannot afford a car have low levels of satisfaction. Conversely, those who have travelled in major East Asian cities can attest to the convenience of reaching most destinations by train or foot. Furthermore, having to walk in the hot weather here does not help.

These differences explain some puzzling situations in Singapore, such as why there is such a desire to own cars. Why are cars used more intensively here and why are taxis in short supply?

To solve our transport woes, we need a mindset change.

First, we cannot aim to build a public transport system that is as good as those in major East Asian cities. We must invest more resources to do better than them.

This requires bold, innovative solutions and a focus on commuter convenience and experience, rather than on the profitability of the transport operators. For example, we could allow dedicated minibus services, operated by retirees during peak hours, to ferry residents from each public housing precinct to the MRT stations — similar to services provided by several condominiums.

Second, we need to moderate the allocation of land for private housing around MRT stations and downtown. We should build dense public housing on these pieces of land instead.

These could have less open space, narrower roads and fewer parking lots to discourage car ownership. Public housing residents could then choose between living in a convenient location in those areas, and residing in other areas with more space, but paying more for private transport.

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