Archive for December, 2007


Walking in the connector between the Northeast Line and the East-West Line at Outram Park station today, I saw cute little signs on the floor signalling ’30 metres to free wi-fi’, ’10 metres to free wi-fi’, and so on. Wonderful. So we have free wi-fi in MRT stations now. But I’m pretty sure most commuters would prefer more frequent (and hence less crowded) trains over free wi-fi. Yet our public transport overlords would rather spend their budget on such luxuries instead of a basic improvement like less crowded trains.

For Posterity’s Sake

(The context.) Maybe, fifty years later, when this hellhole wakes up to the reality of elitist, short-sighted transportation policies, its inhabitants (if any are left) might find the following show amusing:

Today, 10:54 AM
There are times where vehicles swerve to the right to avoid cyclists, endangering other vechicles travelling on lanes to the right.

Lanes on Singapore roads are very narrow and not cyclist friendly. Until LTA does something about it, cyclist should not endanger themselves by cycling on these roads with heavy vehicles

Today, 11:07 AM
Totally agree with hongchris. Cyclists do not even pay road tax. They often seem oblivious of obstructing motorized vehicles. Bicycles should be allowed only on secondary roads with no bus-stops, for people to cycle out from their house to the main road, only.

Continue reading ‘For Posterity’s Sake’

What Lovely People We Share the Road With

After a particularly unpleasant commuting experience, I wrote to the Straits Times Forum about two idiots who violated bus lane hours and passed me way too closely. Surprise, surprise, one response was the ‘you don’t pay road tax so get off the road’ argument. I’ll accept the argument the day when you stop polluting the public air, raising the collective air temperatures of the island, increasing noise levels on the island, and killing people. None of the road taxes you pay goes towards removing your negative influences on our shared environment. It only goes towards building more roads and hence encouraging more pollution.

And another ‘if other people swerve to the right to avoid you they endanger other people and it’s your fault’ comment. Right. If it’s not safe for you to either pass me without swerving or swerve to the right, yet you choose to swerve to the right, it’s my fault?

My full letter below the fold.
Continue reading ‘What Lovely People We Share the Road With’

Ho Hum

Singapore’s last kampong will likely make way for more faceless flats and schools. (Via Singapore Surf)

More False Entitlement

In yet another complaint about the rising cost of taxis and/or driving.

“Singapore has one of the best transport systems in Asia,” they say. “You don’t need a car.”

I would have agreed if not for the taxi fare hike this week. If you’re a taxiphile who lives in Bishan and who works in the city, you’re going to be forking out about $450 a month just getting to and from work. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to get a cab.

You can take the bus and the MRT for leisure activities, of course. But when you’ve got tons of Christmas goodies or weekly groceries to lug home, taxis are the best option.

With bus, taxi and MRT fares rising, it looks like you have to set aside about $500 a month in transport expenses — which is how much my little car costs me in COE repayments, season parking fees, normal parking, ERP fees and fuel when it is running well.

But it’s not just cost alone that’s making me stick stubbornly to my wheels. The other reason is convenience. Singapore may have an efficient public transport system, but you can’t deny that there are some places that are woefully unconnected.

I sputtered when I read that this person lives in Bishan and works in the city, yet insists that she has to either drive or take a cab to work. It takes 20 minutes on the MRT from Bishan to the city. There is just no excuse. Your tons of ‘Christmas groceries’ are not purchased on your daily commute. Your ‘weekly groceries’ are purchased once a week by definition. And there is no reason why you should have to get groceries from outside of Bishan. There’s even a huge shopping mall there, for fuck’s sake.

The writer goes on to say that she likes to go to far-flung places like Changi Village and Kranji on the weekends. Granted, getting to those places by public transport is a pain in the ass. But she’d save a darn lot in fuel costs if she restricted her car usage to driving to those places on weekends instead of driving to work every day. She could then just get a ‘red plate’ car that can get her a $17,000 COE rebate and an $800 discount on road tax.

There is no right to drive. If you pollute, don’t complain.

Commuting and Happiness

Excellent article in the New Yorker on the underestimated psychological effects of commuting. A few choice excerpts:

“I was shocked to find how robust a predictor of social isolation commuting is,” Robert Putnam, a Harvard political scientist, told me. (Putnam wrote the best-seller “Bowling Alone,” about the disintegration of American civic life.) “There’s a simple rule of thumb: Every ten minutes of commuting results in ten per cent fewer social connections. Commuting is connected to social isolation, which causes unhappiness.”

Drivers often say they prize the time alone—to gather their wits, listen to music, or talk on the phone. They also like the freedom, the ability, illusory though it may be, to come and go as they please; schedules can seem an imposition, as can a crowded train’s cattle-car ambience. But the driver’s seat is a lonely place. People tend to behave in their cars as though they are alone in a room. Road rage is one symptom of this; on the street or on the train, people don’t generally walk around calling each other assholes. Howard Stern is another; you can listen to lewd evocations without feeling as though you were pushing the bounds of the social contract. You could drive to work without your pants on, and no one would know.

The loneliness quotient might also account for some of the commute tolerance in New York. On the train or the bus, one can experience an illusion of fellowship, even if you disdain your fellow-passengers or are revolted by them. Perhaps there’s succor in inadvertent eye contact, the presence of a pretty woman, shared disgruntlement (over a delay or a spilled Pepsi), or the shuffle through the doors, which requires, on a subconscious level, an array of social compromises and collaborations. Train riding has other benefits. Passengers can sleep or read, send e-mails or play cards. Delays are out of their control.

Three years ago, two economists at the University of Zurich, Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer, released a study called “Stress That Doesn’t Pay: The Commuting Paradox.” They found that, if your trip is an hour each way, you’d have to make forty per cent more in salary to be as “satisfied” with life as a noncommuter is. (Their data come from Germany, where you’d think speedy Autobahns and punctual trains would bring a little Freude to the proceedings, and their methodology is elaborate and thorough, if impenetrable to the layman, relying on equations like U=α+ß₁D+ß₂D²+γX+δ₁w+δ₂w²+δ₃log y.) The commuting paradox reflects the notion that many people, who are supposedly rational (according to classical economic theory, at least), commute even though it makes them miserable. They are not, in the final accounting, adequately compensated.

“People with long journeys to and from work are systematically worse off and report significantly lower subjective well-being,” Stutzer told me. According to the economic concept of equilibrium, people will move or change jobs to make up for imbalances in compensation. Commute time should be offset by higher pay or lower living costs, or a better standard of living. It is this last category that people apparently have trouble measuring. They tend to overvalue the material fruits of their commute—money, house, prestige—and to undervalue what they’re giving up: sleep, exercise, fun.

“They have to trade off social goods for material goods,” Stutzer said. “This is very difficult for people. They make systematic mistakes. We are very good at predicting whether we’ll like something but not at knowing for how long.” People adapt to a higher living standard but not to social isolation. Frey and Stutzer infer that some people, even when the costs become clear, just lack the will power to change. “People have limited self-control and insufficient energy, inducing some people to not even try to improve their lot,” they write. In this regard, they say, commuting resembles smoking and failing to save money.

Road-building doesn’t much help [reduce congestion]. Atlanta is a showcase for a phenomenon called “induced traffic”: the more highway lanes you build, the more traffic you get. People find it agreeable to move farther away, and, as others join them, they find it less agreeable (or affordable), and so they move farther still. The lanes fill up.

Having abruptly gone from a lifestyle where I walked 5 minutes to school every day to one where I spend 2 hours a day commuting (whether by train or by bicycle), I can attest that living near work is severely underrated.

Bloody Idiots

More than 25% of those who drive after drinking do so after drinking too much. At least, that’s what I gather from the fact that out of 99 people who were asked to take a breathalyzer test by the police on Friday night, 26 of them failed it. Only those who had had alcohol detected in their breath by a preliminary gauge (indicating that they had been drinking) were asked to take the breathalyzer test.

Intuitively, it seems to me that if the drink-driving rate is as high as that, the maximum punishment of a $5000 fine or six months’ jail is too low. Way too low. A vehicle helmed by someone not in full control of her faculties is like a gun in the hands of a madman.

Seems to me we could do with something like the blunt slogan of Land Transport New Zealand:
dui new zealand