The annual Formula 1 period is probably about the only time that I take the public transport in Singapore. There are still places around the Marina Bay street circuit that I can find parking at, but the prices have been jacked up and you still have to walk a considerable distance to the circuit. So to make things simple, I just left the car home for the whole F1 weekend and took the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) instead – thank goodness my EZ-link card was still working as it’s been quite a while since I last used it.
Singapore has promised to build a comprehensive public transport network and the S$8 billion-dollar Circle Line (a new train line) has just opened in October after taking a decade to build it. Our MRT map will continue to expand as the Downtown Line is the next major line to be built as segments of it open gradually from 2013 to 2017. In fact, the rail network is said to cover about 280km in 15 years’ time from 160km last year.
I guess the fully-opened Circle Line could not have come at a better time as our Transport Minister announced that Singapore’s annual vehicle growth cap would be cut further from next year – The annual allowable vehicle growth rate will be reduced to below the current rate of 1.5 per cent. That is not good news for the carmakers at all.
What would this cut in vehicle growth mean? Less Certificates of Entitlement (COEs) and higher car prices probably. Will this help to ease traffic congestion problems and also push people to use public transport more often? Maybe but for sure, tough times lie ahead for the local automotive industry I’m afraid.
Getting re-acquainted with the public transport system in Singapore made me realise that, while it is true we do have a pretty good one here, I would still prefer to have a car if I can afford to maintain one. I had the most unlucky encounter recently, where right after the F1 period I was denied the use of my car for an entire week. I was already familiar with the public bus and train system so that was not an issue, but there are some places where it is much more convenient to get to with a car. I tried taking a taxi and each time I had to wait forever to get one!
There are many reasons why it is much better to take public transport – For example, driving to town will cost me ERP gantry charges, parking charges as well as the cost of fuel to get there. Also, taking the train would mean no traffic jams and getting to your destination on time – though you might have to put up with some squeezing in the train with strangers.
My parents are great advocates of public transport, taking the train and bus whenever they can, leaving the car at home to depreciate by itself in a corner. Questioning me each time I go out, I face the pressure of being nagged at when it’s a venue where I can take a straight bus too. The nearest MRT station is a bus or two buses away by the way.
Well, it’s not that I want to waste money by driving but honestly I enjoy being behind the wheel. People take comfort in being inside their car, thus doing things like digging their noses and farting as loud as they want in the car. It’s like being confined in their own private space although still being in public with other motorists around.
There is no denying that Singapore traffic conditions are getting worse and driving makes me so frustrated sometimes. I just hope it will not come to a point where I am forced to give up driving and resort to a BMW – Bus, MRT or Walk.