Archive for the 'public transport' Category

In Paris, bus lanes = bike lanes

Bus lanes in Paris are physically separated from car lanes, so that motorists are less tempted to cut into the bus lane, but if the street has only one car lane, the dividers are low enough so that emergency vehicles can cut across lanes to get ahead. Furthermore, the bus lanes are wide enough to let two-wheeled vehicles pass stopped buses. Two-wheeled vehicles are allowed in the bus lanes even though some roads have parallel bike lanes.

Human Transit has pictures and more.

As a comparison, some Singaporean drivers seem to think that 1) cyclists shouldn’t be in bus lanes, and 2) if a cyclist is in a bus lane during the bus lane hours, it’s OK for cars to violate traffic law, cut into the bus lane and pass the cyclist at a dangerous distance.

Potentially Misleading Averages

In today’s Today:

The average door-to-door journey time in Singapore is 36.8 minutes, lower than that in Hong Kong (39 minutes), London(38 minutes) and Tokyo (43 minutes), according to the data.

It’s worth noting that this average time may not necessarily mean that our transport system is on average better than those of the other cities. For it’s quite conceivable that, for example, a larger proportion of trips made on public transport in Singapore are over short distances. One could be more inclined to walk short distances in a climate like London’s, while (perhaps) in Singapore, the heat and humidity causes one to make a disproportionately larger number of short-distance trips on public transport. In short, the shorter average journey time in Singapore could just be because journeys made on public transport are shorter on average. So I wouldn’t interpret this as evidence of faster public transport in Singapore without more data.

Why I’ve been ignoring the foldable bike trial

Paul Barter of Cycling in Singapore points out that despite the positive-sounding announcements about allowing folding bikes on buses and trains, what’s effectively been done is to put restrictions on how/when/where folding bikes can be brought on buses and trains:

Sadly, now that the details are out, this looks like a trial of RESTRICTING folding bikes on MRT and buses. The guidelines are much tighter than they were before this. In practice, MRT and buses (when not packed) had been allowing foldables without problems for some time. This long list of restrictions seems like overkill. They are also rather inflexible. For example, trains traveling in the reverse peak direction are often quite empty even during peak hours. But with these rules, foldables are not allowed on these spacious trains either. I don’t see a need for so many complicated rules! If the intention here is to make it easier to bring folders onto public transport then this is a very strange way to go about it.

On a related note, I just did something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time: send a letter to the ST forum suggesting that we install external bike racks on buses:

With foldable bikes now allowed on public buses and MRT carriages during certain hours, I wonder if the our public transport companies would consider installing low-cost external bike racks on public buses. America is not known as a cycling-friendly country, yet the American Public Transportation Association reports that in 2007, 62.7% of public buses in America have external bike racks. These are usually mounted in front of the bus and take up no passenger space. They have a simple mechanism that allows the cyclist to mount the bike securely in a few seconds. Certainly, it would cost less to install one such bike rack than to install one TV. Yet, many buses in Singapore have TVs, and none have bike racks. I hope our bus companies will consider this simple action that would provide a significant incentive for people to make part of their commute healthy and environmentally friendly.

Telling, innit?

When we decide that we have to build a transport route right through some of our last remaining nature reserves (and thus at huge environmental and cultural cost), we choose to build an expressway instead of a rail link, although the latter would carry more commuters in total and help those commuters who at present have the relatively longer commutes (public transport commuters versus drivers).

Elitist transport policies, anyone?

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).

Dodging the Question

So SMRT has responded to letters from ST readers complaining that the shuttle buses deployed during the recent breakdown had drivers who got lost and took more than an hour to make trips that would have taken only a few minutes by train. However, SMRT’s letter does not address the issues of unsatisfactory bus service. They merely reiterate that they had responded quickly, deployed all the staff they had, deployed all the buses they could get, etc. Not a word on the poor set-up of the replacement bus services or the incompetent drivers.

Letters below the fold.
Continue reading ‘Dodging the Question’

Well Spotted.

By zm the studious bloke:

from the annual report, passenger trips have increased 11% from 2002 – 389.7m to 434.9m. However, car kilometres operated dropped from 81.4m to 77.1m. SMRTC has been aggressively cutting costs by cramming as much as people into each train and reducing frequencies since 2004, to maximise shareholder value.

You can download SMRT’s annual report here.

I have excerpted the relevant table from the 2007 annual report:
SMRT’s cost-cutting

This shows that the more crowded trains aren’t just an illusion of grumpy commuters. Average operating car occupancy rose by more than 10% between 2002 and 2007.

Now look at their financial statistics:
SMRT’s 2007 profits

Railway EBITDA per car kilometre, a measure of profit, rose by more than 10% as well between 2002 and 2007. Total car kilometres had dropped, but by only about 5%, so overall their profits rose.

All this makes their following self-praise rather nauseating:
patting yourself on the back

You know that someone is lying through his teeth when he uses the phrase ‘quantum leap’.