The news announced by LTA in the past week – to stop car growth from Feb 2018 onward (LINK) – stirred quite some deep emotions from “people from every walk of life”.
Some linked it to the the recent MRT flooding, insisting that limiting car growth is insane considering the reliability of the train system. Some think this will already reinforce the “status symbol” of a car.
To me, this has to take place sooner or later, so why not now?
Although some link this move to environmental concerns (which I will touch on later), I think the priority for Singapore should be for our own sake.
Road vs Housing
According to the authorities, 12% of our land is already used for roads. 12 freaking percent of real estate! And the more land we devote to the roads, the less land we have for housing, which is already out of reach for many people. Between owning a car and owning a house, Singaporeans have to make a choice, since we are bounded by a limited resource we have been cursed to own since Day One.
To me, I would rather have affordable homes than affordable cars.
And even with 12% of our land devoted to roads, it is even not enough to resolve the endless jams we face during peak hours.
Yes, there are jams on Singapore roads, even though they are not as severe as those you encounter in Bangkok or Jakarta (or even the horrendous jam in Beijing), a jam is still a jam, especially when you are trying to get home after a tiring day at work, eager to take that well-needed rest.
It is true that the train system in Singapore seemed under-performing (this is still an early verdict, as Downtown Line has only just operated for less than a month), but building up the train system takes a long time and that won’t help reduce the number of cars on the roads.
And it is not as if we have no alternatives other than owning a car or taking a train/bus.
Uber and Grab has been progressing very well in terms of car-sharing.
Even if cars in Singapore don’t cost a bomb, imagine investing in 2 months’ salary into a machine that you only get to use twice a day, stuck in jams (yes, cars are meant to be cruising, not crawling in jams). In terms of financial management, car-owning is lousy no matter in Singapore or elsewhere.
Uber and Grab allows us to use cars on-demand. Is it perfect? No. But it is definitely better than conventional taxis. At the very least, when a driver sucked, I can give him a bad rating straight away (unlike taxi companies; when we give a complaint, we don’t even know if follow-up actions have been taken).
And a sharing economy is the future, as societies come to realise that every resource on Earth is limited. If we carry on our current way of consumption, coupled with dwindling resources and exponential population growth, every single thing will become unaffordable. Since we don’t really use everything we own on a daily basis, why not let it be used during “lull periods”?
And speaking of limited resources, here is the part on the environment. Cars are still one of the significant sources of carbon pollution.
In the U.S, light duty vehicles contribute to 60% of carbon pollution produced by the transportation sector (which in itself contributed to 27% of U.S’ total pollution). In Singapore, that is 55% for light duty cars (including private cars, taxis and motorcycles), for a transportation industry that contributes to 14.5% or total Greenhouse Gas Emissions. (This number is dwarfed by our “Industry” sector, which everyone knows is inflated by the fact that Singapore is a major oil refinery hub)
By now, no thanks to Trump, most people should be aware of climate change and the negative impact it has on everyone on the planet, and that action has to be taken as soon as possible in order to save the planet.
Therefore, if we don’t stop the growth of car population now, when do we wait till?