Another Blow to the ‘World-class’ Myth

Some highlights from a study done by a certain Ooi Giok Ling, as reported by the Business Times:

Singapore ranks poorly among global cities for the reach of its public transport system, according to a recent comparative study of 50 cities by Ooi Giok Ling from the National Institute of Education.

The Republic ranked 31st in terms of total length of public transportation lines per 1,000 people, Prof Ooi’s study shows.


Singapore has just 0.1 km of subway track per square kilometre, compared with 0.4 km for Hong Kong, 1 km for London, and 4 km for Paris, said Dr Kog.

‘We still have a very long way to go in terms of MRT transport. To reduce the car population, we need very good public transport,’ he said.

Out of the 50 cities, Singapore also ranked 37th in terms of total length of reserved public transportation routes per thousand people.

Singapore ranked 20th in terms of total number of public transport vehicles per million people.


It also ranked 44th in terms of daily trips made by foot per person, and 8th in terms of daily trips made on public transport per person.

The study covered major cities in Europe, the US, Australia, Japan, China, India, South-east Asia and the Middle East. The European cities did especially well, said Dr Kog.

So Singaporeans walk a lot less than people in the other cities surveyed. Since we have a high ranking for public transport usage, they probably didn’t count walks made to/from public transport stops as trips made on foot. I find the sedentary habits of people here quite shocking —- many would consider even a 200m walk ‘far’. And I think these habits are at least partly a result of urban planning that does not, for example, encourage you to walk to the grocery store instead of driving, even if it’s only 1/2 km away. For example, many of my walks would be a lot more pleasant if they didn’t involve crossing large busy smelly arterial roads where I either have to wait for ages for the green pedestrian lights or detour (both horizontally and vertically) to an underpass/overpass. Small roads are far more friendly to pedestrians.

He also said Singapore’s garden city concept does little for nature and biodiversity – a view echoed by many environmentalists here, including the Nature Society and its president Geh Min.

Instead, planners ought to think about urban biodiversity. Part of this, ironically, is to consider packing more people into a smaller area.

Yes. Singapore’s urban planning seems to be modelled after American urban sprawl. The only difference being we have somewhat better public transport linking ‘suburbs’ to ‘hubs’. But we have the strip malls, the centralization of services within each ‘suburb’, the car-centric design of each ‘suburb’, the channeling of all traffic through a few often-congested arterial roads, the expressways linking suburbs to other suburbs with few other transport options available, etc.

Dr Kog, who is president of East West Engineering Consultants, also said many buildings in Singapore are built in ways that force occupants to rely on air-conditioning, due to lack of ventilation.

The country cannot mandate against use of air-conditioning, but could legislate for building conditions that are less dependent on air-conditioning, he said.

This is another of my bugbears. Many buildings in Singapore have completely air-conditioned interiors. This seems to be quite unnecessary. Supposing that it is necessary for office productivity to have air-conditioned workspaces, we could still design buildings to have outward-facing, well-ventilated corridors (a la HDB flats) or common non-work areas like pantries and lobbies. Like it or not, the whole world, and that includes us, has a responsibility to the environment. Sadly the economy does not provide its own carbon tax, so inefficient, inconsiderate building designs aren’t penalised. And one doubts the government would want to penalise the construction industry thus (besides, non-air-conditioned corridors are so third-world).

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