why push people to take public transport?
Below is my article. Why push people to take public transport? The Transport Minister wants our public transport system to be world class. And one of the measurements of a world class transport system is the number of commuters. This has gone done from 67% in 1997 to 63% in 2004, which is bad news to him. So must push more people to use public transport. But then people are getting richer and can afford to travel in the comfort of their own cars. The car population went up 10% over the same period and daily car trips went up by 23%. Now is this a good thing or a bad thing? Travel by cars must be bad, or else why would the Transport Minister want to push more people to take public transport? ‘We will have to work harder to make public transport a choice mode for the vast majority of Singaporeans for routine day to day commuting.’ Said Raymond Lim. But surely to be able to drive around in a car would be the preferred choice of most Singaporeans. Would it not be better if the objective is to develop a first class road system, complimented by a first class public transport system for those who choose not to travel by car? If public transport is such a great deal, perhaps the minister can set a good example by taking public transport to work. Or make it a national campaign that all senior civil servants, MPs and Ministers must take public transport to work. Leading by example will be a better way to encourage people to do something which they would not want to do if they can afford it. I fully agree with the Minister when he said, ‘This is because, for a dense urban city state such as ours, it will be catastrophic to allow private transport to be the dominant transport mode,…’ And what I like to hear best is ‘Our transport system, while having to be as efficient as possible, must ultimately serve the people who use it.’ But I am worried when he added, ‘The comprehensive view,…will take into account the views of the travelling public and stakeholders such as transport operators.’ My fear is higher fares. The Minister’s aim is for bus and rail system to account for 70% of all morning peak hour ride. Without questioning why this is the best mix, this should be achieved by making public transport so attractive and convenient rather than by a string of disincentives and punitive measures for those who opt to drive. A transport system cannot be world class when people are pushed to take public transport and not because it is a preferred choice. Another point that I am worried about is ‘how to cater to commuters who are willing to pay more for better bus services.’ My immediate thought again is to get ready to pay more. There is nothing wrong if the Minister wants to aim high for those who can afford it and wanted to pay more. Actually those who can would just drive their cars. Why buy an expensive car and park it at home. Only those who are barely able to afford a car would be convinced to do the switch. For the rest of the working class, first class transport system or third class, they will still be taking them. And cost is of prime concern. What I thought would be an improvement is to stick to the fundamentals, ‘promote public transport, optimize road usage and manage demand for private vehicles,’ and let people own cars and use them at their convenience. Make people feel very comfortable to leave their cars behind not because they were coerced to but taking public transport is a better, more convenient and effective means of commutation. Then we will have a world class public transport system. And for the non car owners, an efficient public transport system should not burn a big hole in their pockets. And don’t add in more frills to make them pay for more.