Middling going on to transport hell

Our mainstream media has a habit of trumpeting country or city rankings that show Singapore in good light. It’s part of their mission to publicise the supreme achievements of the People’s Action Party government.

This ranking below would not make the cut:

I showed this graph to a few persons, and saw some interesting reactions. Generally, they couldn’t guess whether the top or bottom of the list was “good”. If the bottom was “good”, then Singapore would be worse than London or New York City. But that cannot be, because haven’t we heard all our lives from our mainstream media that transport in London and New York City is hell? The Tube breaks down all the time. The New York subway is decrepit. London’s and New York’s streets are in perpetual gridlock.

On the other hand, if the top of the graph represents “good”, how can Singapore be worse than Nairobi or New Delhi. Impossible! Don’t we have good government?

These results are from the IBM global commuter pain survey, which ranks (by means of an index) “the emotional and economic toll of commuting in 20 international cities”.

The index is comprised of 10 issues: 1) commuting time, 2) time stuck in traffic, agreement that: 3) price of gas is already too high, 4) traffic has gotten worse, 5) start-stop traffic is a problem, 6) driving causes stress, 7) driving causes anger, 8) traffic affects work, 9) traffic so bad driving stopped, and 10) decided not to make trip due to traffic.

Although the title of the study contains the word “commuter”, it seems to be a survey of people who drive — although it doesn’t explicitly say so. The lower the index, the less pain commuters experience in that city. By this measure then, Singapore compares poorly with most of the developed  cities — not something that our mainstream media would be keen to publicise.

Like it or not, what the results seem to suggest is that for all the boasts about forward planning and determined investment in widened roads, flyovers and tunnels, our government’s performance is only middling. For all the ruthlessness in implementing Electronic Road Pricing and auctions for Certificates of Entitlements, the daily commute is still more nightmarish here than in New York, Toronto or London.

For decades, we’ve been implicitly asked to sacrifice democracy for effective government and excellent delivery of public goods. And this is all we get?

* * * * *

A recent study threw up an interesting finding. The shortage of taxis during heavy rainstorms was not only due to higher demand.

When [Oliver] Senn was first given his assignment to compare two months of weather satellite data with 830 million GPS records of 80 million taxi trips, he was a little disappointed. “Everyone in Singapore knows it’s impossible to get a taxi in a rainstorm,” says Senn, “so I expected the data to basically confirm that assumption.” As he sifted through the data related to a vast fleet of more than 16,000 taxicabs, a strange pattern emerged: it appeared that many taxis weren’t moving during rainstorms. In fact, the GPS records showed that when it rained (a frequent occurrence in this tropical island state), many drivers pulled over and didn’t pick up passengers at all.

He learned that the company owning most of the island’s taxis would withhold S$1,000 (about US$800) from a driver’s salary immediately after an accident until it was determined who was at fault. The process could take months, and the drivers had independently decided that it simply wasn’t worth the risk of having their livelihood tangled up in bureaucracy for that long. So when it started raining, they simply pulled over and waited out the storm.

– Computer World, 3 October 2012, Why you don’t get taxis in Singapore when it rains?, by Zafar Anjum

Reporters spoke to twenty cab drivers, and heard likewise:

The Straits Times spoke to 20 cabbies, and a majority said it is common for drivers to pull over if visibility is low in heavy rain.

Some cited safety concerns, noting that braking conditions are also poorer. Others felt it was not worth risking an accident, which could cost them up to $2,000 in excess and repair fees.

– Straits Times, 6 October 2012, Do cabbies just stop driving when it rains?, by Royston Sim

The taxi hire company “owning most of the island’s taxis”, Comfort DelGro, denied this. In the Straits Times, 6 October 2012, spokesman Tammy Tan was quoted: “Contrary to the findings… our records have shown that there is no significant drop in the number of taxis that ply the roads on rainy days.” The company’s kneejerk denial is symptomatic of Singapore. We cannot possibly be less than best. But at least this story was a criticism of a commercial (albeit government-linked) company, and it wasn’t dangerous for the newspaper to do its own soundings and report what it found. Criticising the government’s performance in transport planning however, is a different matter.

* * * * *

It might be argued that Singapore is a particularly dense city, and it is always going to be harder to have uncongested streets in such a place compared to cities that are more spread out.  There may be some truth in that. What it then suggests is that we should be more concerned about delivering effective public transport, but even here, after sifting out government spin, it isn’t particularly convincing.

In the Straits Times today, Gopinath Menon from the Nanyang Technological University, expressed his view that:

It will be hard for the land transport system to cope with six million people as MRT trains are already bursting at the seams at rush hours, says Prof Menon.

While he recognises current efforts to add capacity to trains and buses, he believes that “some deterioration in the quality of living” can be expected if the population grows further.

Based on an average annual growth rate of 6.1 per cent in the last five years, public transport ridership, which was at 6.7 million last year, will cross the eight million mark by 2017.

Planners face some constraints in raising public transport capacity: MRT station platforms here are long enough to handle only three to six train cars, unlike Hong Kong’s eight, notes the adjunct associate professor at Nanyang Technological University.

– Straits Times Saturday Insight, 6 October 2012, Some constraints in raising public transport capacity, by Gopinath Menon

We have not planned or built ahead for longer trains.  This should not by itself be a problem if we are aggressive about building additional lines; people then take different routes rather than bunching into the same route. But are we aggressive enough in building more?

If what’s about to happen in Jurong East is any indication, it’s a big, big No.

Work has already begun to develop relatively sleepy Jurong East town centre into a small city. See the webpage by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Even as more and more information technology centres pack into the International Business Park, the following projects are in progress:

  • Jem, a huge shopping centre
  • Westgate — seven levels of shopping and 20 floors of office space
  • Ng Teng Fong General Hospital
  • Big Box — eight floors of warehouse/retail space

Plus condominiums, hotels and other office projects.

Any sign of additional transport networks into the area? None. Is there no coordination between the URA and the Land Transport Authority (LTA)?

It was only two years ago that Jurong East metro station earned the distinction of being the most congested station in the whole of Singapore. During peak hours, escalators had to be stopped so people wouldn’t crowd onto the platforms. Has anyone even thought about what might happen when all these projects are completed? Where’s the forward planning?

This ambitious scheme looks like one that needs a local light rail to relieve local congestion and another main metro line to give it connectivity to other parts of Singapore. In fact, the western suburbs are very poorly served by rail. I find it particularly painful to travel to Nanyang Technological University (NTU); I don’t know how the students cope. Other areas with dense housing, yet no rail connections, include Jurong West Avenues 4 and 5, Teban Gardens, and Clementi West.

Here’s a suggested route for a new main line starting from NTU through the above-mentioned areas via Jurong East. It also goes on through the Bukit Merah corridor, which is also not currently served by rail, to Keppel and Marina South.

(Click to enlarge)

It might be good to add two spurs to the line, one towards Telok Blangah and the other towards Orchard. Currently, the western suburbs have poor connectivity to the Orchard corridor too.

But even if the LTA starts planning now, it may be 15 years before such a transport network is ready. By then, Jurong East may be making headlines for congestion hell.

39 Responses to “Middling going on to transport hell”


  1. 1 reddotsg 6 October 2012 at 21:02

    Perhaps we can have express bus services that parrallel the mrt lines and only stop at bus stops at MRT stations so as to give commuters a choice of bus or mrt and maybe take some load off the mrt system.

    • 2 yawningbread 6 October 2012 at 23:32

      Certainly, while waiting for rail lines to be built, buses can fill the gap. But they shouldn’t just parallel rail routes. Also – and we tend to forget – making bus effective is a multi-faceted problem. More vehicles is only part of the solution. Other important elements, which so far we’ve seen either timid steps or none at all, include exclusive bus lanes and bigger bus stops. Moreover, bus lanes should NOT double up as turning lanes for cars. The turning lane should be OUTSIDE the bus lane, and in case of conflict between a left-turning car and bus, the turning car must give way.

  2. 3 Wy 6 October 2012 at 21:26

    I’ll be interested to know the ranking of Singapore vis-a-vis the rest with just the first 2 measures – commuting time and time stuck in traffic. The remaining measures measure perception rather than something more absolute like traveling time per km. And that could mean that the results are skewed by people’s past experience and biases.

    For people who are used to very bad traffic, slight improvements could skew their agreements to the statements and vice versa.

  3. 5 Wtf 6 October 2012 at 21:35

    Excellent and insightful.

    Surprisingly, u probably did the best analysis of the situation and far better at forcasting than all those in govt

  4. 6 Lye Khuen Way 6 October 2012 at 22:53

    How come Alex could see what million $ ministers, MOS, Perm Sec could not or refuse to see ?

    Actually, there are many Alexes who could have told the PM , years ago what he probably wish he could be told/updated/advised.
    Unfortunately, it seems that everyone he asked only wanted to provide “good news”. None told a lie. They probably, just provided half truths, no?

    • 7 ddd 7 October 2012 at 13:28

      It is not million $ ministers, MOS, Perm Sec could not or refuse to see. It is that they have already decided on the type of data to publicise and adjust the statistics accordingly.

    • 8 JG 8 October 2012 at 15:35

      The issue, from the very start, had been one of political will.

      Here are the sacred cows when it comes to public transport :

      a) Privatisation, privatisation, privatisation. This is an outgrowth of the Reagen/Thatcher revolution. Public transport must be privatised. In “Hard Truths”, LKY said “Raymond Lim convinced me privatisation is the way to go”. Why? Theoretically to subject the transport operators to “market forces” so as to force them to be more efficient. If they are publicly owned, the profit motive is missing and standards may slacken or the people may say : since the Govt owns it, why can’t the subsidy be increased?

      b) Notwithstanding (a), “we” want transport operators that are privatised to still ultimately be controlled by the Govt. These are the only permitted dominant players in the public transport market. So that the Govt still has control. Sorry, the Govt cannot handle the “messiness” of a free wheeling market like Hong Kong.

      c) As a result, the dominant incuments are now NTUC (taxis), SMRT and SBS. NTUC clouds the picture further because its a labor movement. Everyone knows that taxi drivers are given a raw deal, so NTUC taxi is really a golden goose to NTUC. Precisely because this is the case, all the more the golden goose must be protected. The Govt even tried to “reward” NTUC by wanting to give away AMK site for a song to NTUC until there was a big hue and cry, a few years ago.

      d) Because of the desire to avoid “messiness” and to avoid impacting profits, bus/MRT routes are carved out nicely between operators. There’s no real competition on any given route.

      Given these 4 sacred cows, what can anyone do to improve the situation?

      The only thing left is fine, fine, fine. You have a hapless PTC setting standards and issuing fines. The fine is essentially a slap on the wrist. I have a feeling its more for show (public flogging) than anything.

      Every new transport minister vows to improve things, do a song and dance about taking MRT or bus train (and BTW, this tends to happen only initially, and after that, no longer bother to do this song and dance). But they also know that their tenure in that ministry is just temporal – just don’t screw things up too big, and get posted to another ministry. No one has a real incentive to fix the problems because why butt your head against these sacred cows? After all, you yourself do not use public transport!!

  5. 9 ape@kinjioleaf 6 October 2012 at 23:16

    Just a quick check. Anyone heard of the Land Transport Master Plan 2008? If you did,what’s your thought on it?

    • 10 yawningbread 6 October 2012 at 23:34

      Hmmm . . . it is here: http://talk2lta.lta.gov.sg/ltmp/LTMP%202008.pdf

      They’re calling for public feedback to update it to 2013 master plan too.

      • 11 ape@kinjioleaf 7 October 2012 at 01:54

        Yes, Alex. Indeed they’re in need to review it. What I heard was that, when the plan was finalised in 2008, one of the projections was that the expected population that we have now (2012) was not supposed to be due until 2020.

        I think looking at government plans holistically, there appears to be little co-ordination between ministries and government agencies. You may not be too far off when you question the (lack of?) co-ordination between URA and LTA.

  6. 12 twasher 7 October 2012 at 00:28

    I haven’t read the full study itself, but from your description of it, I’m not sure how significant the results are as a comparative measure of traffic conditions. It seems to measure drivers’ displeasure with commuting conditions. But such displeasure is heavily affected by prior expectations. For example, drivers in Singapore may have higher expectations of free-flowing traffic because ownership taxes for cars are so high—people want to ‘get what they pay for’.

    I take the fact that NYC beats Singapore to be evidence that this displeasure is influenced by such prior expectations. On an absolute scale, considering traffic conditions alone and disregarding ownership taxes, I think it’s obvious that driving in NYC is far worse than driving in Singapore. But because of NYC’s long history of terrible traffic conditions and because of the lower cost of owning a car in NYC, drivers in NYC probably have lower expectations of free-flowing traffic, so they may be less angry about traffic conditions than drivers in Singapore.

    • 13 yawningbread 7 October 2012 at 01:04

      You wrote: “I think it’s obvious that driving in NYC is far worse than driving in Singapore.”

      Frankly, it is not obvious to me. While I haven’t made any special effort to observe traffic conditions in NYC and London, I have ridden buses and taxis in these cities on several occasions, and at no time did it strike me that traffic was all that bad. Here’s a photo of NYC Second Avenue in midtown on a weekday.

      I agree though that the study seems to have flaws and we should be careful not to rely too much on it. That said, it doesn’t strike me as obviously wrong either.

      • 14 yuen 7 October 2012 at 08:12

        finding parking space in NY city centre is very difficult, and people generally do not drive to work/shop; the subway system is indeed old, but it runs reasonably well; how individuals react to these issues is culture and expectation dependent; comparing NYC and SG survey reactions is therefore not simple

      • 15 ;ABC 7 October 2012 at 10:27

        Alex, there is one important consideration omitted in your critique – cities like New York and London are municipal corporations. Their sources of funds are limited to local collections of taxes, etc. Federal funding for roads, etc. have to be lobbied for. Planning is local. Given that in Singapore there is no such divide and the funds are huge and easy to come by and planning is national, comparison with these cities can only magnify the incompetence of the powers that be.

  7. 16 zen 7 October 2012 at 02:14

    Vivian Balakrishnan was boasting just a few months back that
    the PAP has foresight and plans years ahead. The development
    also means thousands of construction workers will be needed.
    Will there be decent accomodation for them, you reckon?

    Wonder if it’ll occur to the govt to increase the buses in the area.
    Probably not, from the way they Don’t think about such basics.
    One has to wonder too about the link roads to and from the area.
    Jurong roads are notoriously congested.

    All this raises questions not just about the quality of our planners
    and civil servants, it also makes one wonder why our education
    is so highly touted when it is producing people who Can’t think.
    Looks like all those scholars the govt hires are just not worth it.

    Astonishing that they actually thought of having a hospital there. Presumably it’ll be ready only years after everyone has moved in.
    Wonder if there’ll be polyclinics and other peripheral medical
    services. Sooner or later I suppose; and more probably later.

    All this forces one to conclude that Spore’s success has much
    more to do with location and luck, rather than govt efforts.

  8. 17 Thomas 7 October 2012 at 10:42

    One thing to note, taxis here stop driving when it rains, maybe to wait for call booking. Call booking can increase their income, no? I think for the sake of the environment, taxi booking should be made free of charge. Then taxis would not need to ply along the road, wasting fuel, increasing risk of accidents and polluting the environment. Government should make it a case to force taxis to stay stationary if it doesn’t have any passengers. And what happen to LTA’s initiative to centralise call booking system?

    The second thing I want to point out is the massive development at Punggol area. I saw blocks after blocks of new flats and condominiums being built at Punggol. What would happen to the Northeast Line? Will it be able to handle the load once people start to move in to their new homes? I hope LTA is fully aware of this. I can imagine those boarding the train after Punggol would have to stand all the way to their destination.

    The third thing I want to highlight is the lack of planning for Downtown Line and Thompson Line. Note that these two lines follow close to the path of East-West Line and North-South Line respectively. All these lines radiate from the CBD area. It is very wasteful to build new lines as compared to building branches that would funnel passengers to the main lines since the direction of travel is much the same. Further, it cost more or less the same to tunnel the lines whether it is for 3 carriages or 6 carriages, why not cater for more now rather than worry about future expansion?

    The fourth thing is about train lines 101. Build it straight or as straight as possible. I saw what you drew is quite amatuerish. I hope transport planners don’t do that but the Circle Line seems to twist and turn like your sketch. Train travel is more suited to cover vast distances over a short time. It defeats the objective to have train lines twist and turn like what some feeder buses do.

    • 18 Thomas 7 October 2012 at 10:52

      To elaborate the fourth point further, if turning radius is sharp, trains have to slow down to make the turn. Having too many bends on the lines will result in wastage of energy. Trains have to brake before the bend, then speed up after the turn. Braking too often will cause the wheels to develop wheel flats, which implies higher maintenance cost. The rails would also wear down faster.

    • 19 yawningbread 7 October 2012 at 11:04

      Building it straight is much harder than it sounds, because the area is already built up. If urban planners had started by designing transport systems first, and then lay a zoning plan above it before much building commences, straight may be possible. But since our transport planning is usually reactive, i.e. after congestion has developed, the reality is different.

      Also, to maximise the utilisation, any new route should connect districts that already have housing density, but not yet served. It should also go where people want to go. Given these considerations, lines will need to weave somewhat.

  9. 20 dennis 7 October 2012 at 10:43

    Alex thanks for the article. Just wonder what’s scope of the survey done? Cities like HK and Sydney not in the list. I have quite good experience with their public transport system, integrated and very convenient for commuters. If they are included in the survey, I bet they could be well below London.

  10. 21 roger 7 October 2012 at 11:29

    i disagree. cars are expensive in singapore but once you have one, singapore is a breeze to get around in a car compared to london, new york, LA. right or wrong policy is another question but our traffic jams are puny (due to COE restricting car popn) and our roads are good. very little driving pain unless people are complaining about ERP charges perhaps?

    • 22 SS 8 October 2012 at 20:07

      Only if you are driving around suburb areas. Driving in city and city fringe areas is no longer a breeze once sg population went above 4.2mil.

  11. 23 dennis 7 October 2012 at 11:48

    By the way, coincidentally in Sunday Times today, Han Fook Kwang also has a piece on our transport system, comparing Singapore’s with HK’s. food for thought. What stands out I think is why HK has more car owners taking public transport vs our car owners, despite the high car ownership costs here. Really something for the govt to think about.

    • 24 yuen 8 October 2012 at 03:15

      actually that is easy to understand: having paid a lot to own a car, we want to get the most use out of it

      • 25 dennis 8 October 2012 at 12:38

        Well, actually it is the other way around. We do not have to resort to high car ownership prices if the transport network is good to start with. Car ownership or rather usage of it is not cheap either. You got to pay high prices for parking spaces….
        We should make it so convenient and affordable to ride public transport that it becomes no-brained to use it.
        I m on mobile device, quite hard to type essay. I will return with a post on my experience with Sydney and HK public transport system.

  12. 26 bee 7 October 2012 at 17:47

    hk has a subway system that runs every minute during rush hours. despite studying their system and launching our mrt years later, the shortest wait for the next train is still 3 mins but our authority said this is our best. what han fook kwang fails to mention is that there is democracy and free press in hk, and the best solution will prevail in these societies. they dont even have electronic road pricing. actually the hk govt wanted to implement that in the 80s but was thrown out becos of public outcry. i recently had a hk intern and the biggest gripes she and her group of hk classmates had was our poor transport system.
    ever wonder why so many people ‘sleep’ in our trains or travel upstream to the first station so that they dont have to stand and squeeze? this dont happen in cities like hk, taipei or bangkok. on a separate note, some of our stations are poorly maintained. i just got wet while exiting kovan station today. and check out punggol station during wet weather – it will be littered with water pails to capture the raindrops.

    • 27 JG 8 October 2012 at 15:43

      I take the SMRT regularly. What really cheezes me off is that even during off peak hours, the trains can sometimes be real crowded. Try taking the train at City Hall heading East at 8+ or even 9+ pm. What’s the reason? Because SMRT purposely increase the train intervals to 6 minutes or so. The net result, is that even at off peak hours, you have to wait for the next train because the train is too crowded.

      The worse is when you need to change lines. Let say Eunos to Clarke Quay. Take West line, change City Hall, take North line, change Dhoby Ghaut, take NE line, exit Clarke Quay. The train journey itself is fast. Add 6 minutes wait time per change of train and the journey becomes long.

      So to me, the problem is not just the 2 minutes lowest possible interval between trains, but also the profit maximisation motive resulting in long wait times and crowded trains, even during offpeak hours.

  13. 28 Rogueeconomist 7 October 2012 at 17:53

    Having lived / spent considerable time in two of those cities which beat out Singapore – Chicago and New York – I really can’t figure out why they are better. NY beats Singapore on proximity of the subway system hands down – but the network is less well maintained and more delay-prone. The kinds of delays they have in NYC for maintenance on weekends would make front page news in Singapore, but NY residents take them in their stride. Chicago is a lot worse in terms of transit station density though, being a city designed around cars.

    I think our public transport system obviously has room for improvement, but I do not think that superior public transport is why many of those cities ahead of Singapore rank ahead. Nor do I think that superior road systems explain it, either, having driven in NY and Chicago, the roads in Singapore are superior by far and much better engineered and maintained. (That said, I don’t think NY and Chicago are bad cities for travel at all – just not clearly superior to Singapore.)

    One possible difference lies in the relationship between where people live and where they want to go. In Singapore, a lot of our retail, work, and play locations are centralized in and around the downtown area. This forces many people to travel to town (Orchard Road, etc), and that’s precisely where the worst congestion is. In the U.S. cities which beat Singapore out, travelers have a lot of other options available that are not in the most congested city areas.

    It could be possible that the average trip for Singaporeans is a lot more unpleasant than the average trip for residents of other cities because of this degree of centralization. But I share concerns by many here that efforts to decentralize further need to be combined with upgrades in the transport systems around future city centers (e.g. Jurong East).

  14. 29 Ricks Log 8 October 2012 at 10:00

    Well, since our system is profit driven, they have to squeeze in as much cars and sardines as possible to make more profit.

    Nevermind if sardines and car owners like it or not.

    • 30 octopi 9 October 2012 at 20:26

      Good that you have highlighted one of the central conundrums of the COE system. At best it is a conflict of interest. The government has an interest in keeping cars off the road. It also has an interest in making sure that it collects enough revenue from the COE system because – let’s fact it, if people stopped buying cars for 1 year, the Singapore government will have the biggest fucking budget crisis you ever saw.

      In theory you can balance both aims. I believe that the COE bidding system was designed to do this – there is an ideal balance combination of cars on the road and revenue for the govt. Set your prices so as to drive the market towards this combination. But suppose one day our public transport system were so good that nobody had to own cars. How? The government would be fucked. Hence the resistance to making our roads more bicycle friendly.

  15. 31 Sylvia 8 October 2012 at 14:42

    The survey seems to only include drivers… “For the fourth year in a row, IBM has performed a comprehensive survey of 8,042 drivers in 20 cities. Drivers were asked a total of 27 questions, such as the duration of their longest commute, their best and worst roadways and how gas prices affect their choices.”
    The results have been compiled into our annual Commuter Pain Index, which ranks the emotional and economic toll of commuting in each city on a scale of one to 100―with 100 being the most onerous.

    http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/traffic_congestion/ideas/index.html

  16. 32 Chanel 8 October 2012 at 14:45

    In Asia, Tokyo and Hong Kong have much better public transport than S’pore. This despite the rail systems of this two cities being built years before S’pore’s MRT system.

    In Tokyo, the various metro (underground) and JR (surface trains) duplicate each other at several destinations. This gives commuters real choice on which rail service to take. It also prevents a total transport failure should a rail line gets disrupted (like what happened in S’pore late last year). Bus services also add to the duplication.

    In Hong Kong, the highly efficient mini-buses provide a great alternative for commuters who don’t want to take the MTR. Taxis in Hong Kong are also everywhere (even when it rains), though there are more taxis in S’pore than in Hong Kong.

  17. 33 ikarus 8 October 2012 at 16:37

    HK has the best public transport system that I have seen anyway.
    Its so seamlessly integrated that you dont need to drive at all.

    Taxis are easily available — buses from airport straight to major hotels for a fraction of the taxi fare; the massive Kowloon Station hub from where travelers can get connected to major hotels — via bus for FREE!
    (and vice versa), and even check-in for flights out of HK!

    Compare this to our ruddy train ride from airport to city with some 20 stops, and 10 to 20 mins waiting for train switch at Tanah Merah station, lugging along the bags, then from there to the Interchange at City Hall, from where there is no seamless connectivity to hotels for travelers.

    We also have a crying need for a hub for outstation bus travel but all pleas from the Coach Operators Association seem to be falling on deaf ears. Instead we have the shoddy & stinking Beach Rd experience at Golden Mile, another bus center in WTC and yet other individual bus pick up points spread around the Island. For anyone wanting to travel north can you imagine his confusion! Poor travelers.

    HK provides FREE connection on coaches to major hotels once you get off the train from the airport at Kowloon Terminal, and vice versa.
    What a convenience and money saver!

    Hope our Minister who was there recently to check our this wonderful network himself will benefit from this experience.

    Finally, the big difference is that the HK Metro is highly profitable even with low fares because they decided early on to own the land around the stations on the MTR line and developed commercial real estate on them, giving rise to strong annuity-based income, with strong balance sheet This accounts for their well-tuned maintenance regime because cost is not an issue.

    In our case we simply sold off prime real estate to make quick capital gains, and because of relatively low operating revenues, and pressure to pay dividends to shareholders, we have not kept up maintenance of the lines like HK, and the result is today before us!

  18. 34 JK 8 October 2012 at 17:55

    Road widening is not the answer. They tried it in the UK 20 or 30 years ago and it had the unintended consequence of of creating more congestion as it became easier to drive to work – and so more people bought cars and drove to work. Result: Bigger traffic jams.

  19. 35 henry 8 October 2012 at 18:57

    In HKG, the Catonese way of displaying wealth is different, they are more subtle. Here is Singapore, the Hokkiens & the Teochews display wealth and the image of ” i have arrived..” by way of a car… the latest and up to date.

    This trait will remain. In fact the higher the COE goes up there is a greater desire to own a car!

    Public transport is way down low… ask any elite school student.. taxi is the lowest minimum.

  20. 36 Transport morski z Chin 9 October 2012 at 15:42

    Great analysis ;) i’m from Poland but transport solutions are one of my interests, so I enjoyed your article :) Best regards

  21. 37 Tsumujikaze no Soujutsu 10 October 2012 at 00:58

    I truly doubt we will see the end of congestion issues unless Transport Ministry managed to do some serious macro management. Normally, this shouldn’t be needed for unless we’re talking about the current situation. Trains going along the Pasir Ris line can be a real nightmare during peak hours despite the trains coming every 2-3 minutes or so. Increment of the train frequency (if that’s truly Minister Lui Tuck Yew’s plan) will amount to nothing much since we’re talking about timing frequency far more than whatever additional trains being bought as a prerequisite.

    Also, I suspect the recent breakdowns would have a major bearing on the standings. If not for such a colossal extent of screw ups within the past year or so, Singapore wouldn’t be bottom, but at least it will be lower.

  22. 38 Nicholas 2 November 2012 at 05:28

    Time to ditch the hub and spoke urban central planning and leave it to chaotic and random equilibrium set by the people . All the planners have got to do is to increase the plot ratio of land around MRT stations, stick in a white site and the market determine for itself what it needs.

  23. 39 concerned citizn 8 November 2012 at 22:10

    My suggestion is for us to build an express East-West line train, instead of having more lines. More lines might mean less crowd, but for longer journeys it would still be time consuming (shorter journeys can easily be covered by buses). A duplicate Express line means less crowd, and faster journeys.

    It is not too far fetched to imagine that the East-West line is the most utilised, with Jurong East station seeing massive crowds everday.

    With an express line that runs underground and stopping at Boon Lay, Jurong East, Buona Vista, Outram Park, Raffles Place, City Hall, Paya Lebar, Tanah Merah and Pasir Ris. Long journeys could potentially be cut in half.

    With the opening of the Thomson Line, traveling North to South (city area) will be less of an issue. What is sorely needed, I think, is a faster (and less painful way) of travelling from east to west and vice versa.


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For an update of the case against me, please see AGC versus me, the 2013 round.

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