No cars go: Singapore reaches a new level in its journey to be a car-lite nation, but what does that mean for us
In the midst of expanding and improving public transport, Singapore has announced plans to freeze the number of private cars allowed on the roads, starting next year. If you’re still unclear on what that means, the growth cap for all passenger cars and motorcycles will be cut from the current 0.25 per cent a year to a clean zero with effect from February. Harsh? Despite the last announcement of COE prices hitting a record low and the Car-Free Sunday initiative that happens on the Sunday of the month which creates a 5.5 km route of closed roads in the heart of the city, it really seems like we can’t have anything nice.
So why such a policy? And what for? We dig deeper.
Picking on your own size
Singapore currently has more than 600,000 cars, motorcycles and other vehicles clogging the roads. We’re already a really small country so we ain’t got space anymore – we’ve used 12 percent of Singapore’s total land area just for roads and now, there is limited scope for expansion.
The push to be more environmentally friendly in all aspects of everyday life – from food to fashion – has also affected transport and how we get around in Singapore. We’ve already got bike-sharing going strong, e-scooters are slowly picking up hype, and the introduction of electric vehicles for car-sharing services. Interestingly, with this zero-growth policy, it means that newer solutions to getting around will crop up, and we’re looking forward to seeing these new ideas take effect. What we can foresee however is that stricter exhaust emission standards – to account for four other pollutants beside carbon dioxide – will likely have a more significant impact in lifting car prices.
Money makes the wheels go round
While the state has significant infrastructure to avoid the terrible traffic jams that affect other cities, Singapore is the most expensive place to own a vehicle. Here’s something to note: the road to become a car-lite city has been ongoing and constantly in a state of flux. When car, COE and parking prices soared, it did not seem to affect the number of cars on the road that actually increased steadily. If the overall population of cars continues to shrink and more drivers choose to renew their COEs, premiums could go up by between 20 to 30 per cent in the long run. While we don’t know how adverse the policy will affect the automobile industry here, we reckon car-sharing apps will not only increase in popularity, but also in fees. But our most pressing questions remain:
If potential Grab and Uber drivers aren’t able to buy a new car, will it become even harder (and more expensive) to book a ride?
And will Singapore really have less obnoxious sports cars and their drivers?
It’s a drastic move to transform into a car-lite Singapore, and you can’t deny that it is a tough bond to break. We’ll see you on the MRT…
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