Caught (up) in traffic

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Moving about in Singapore

April 2011
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I’m back in Singapore and enjoying going around the city using its efficient public transportation system and pedestrian facilities. I am quite at home with the system considering I lived in Japan for quite some time and commuted daily using the rail and bus systems there. It was in Japan where I had a first hand experience of what an efficient public transport system should be whether for long distance commuting (i.e., I knew some supercommuters in Japan who used the shinkansen to go to the office or laboratory every weekday although using the Tokaido Line to commute between Kanagawa to Tokyo qualifies as supercommuting.) or for short distance trips.

I was able to appreciate mobility in Japan considering the interconnectivity of transport modes and the ease by which one can use the system. Even the payment of fares was efficient as one had many options for paying fares and could use various cards including using either the Pasmo card issued by private railway companies or the Suica card issued by Japan Railways (JR). One only needed to load the cards with enough credits to be able to use the cards for not only transport fares but even for paying for items such as food and drinks. One can even personalize the card and it can be reloaded after a period of not being able to use the card.

Singapore is not so much different from Japan in terms of transport systems and if one considers the electronic road pricing (ERP) being applied throughout the state, may even be more advanced in applications of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). Moving around in Singapore is so easy considering its rail and bus systems. There are even a number of bus types plying routes around the system including articulated buses much like those used by Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems and double deckers like the ones in Hongkong and London. I haven’t noticed and am not aware if there are paratransit systems outside the human powered rickshaws I found near Bugis but which appears only during night-time, considering the city-state being compact and there seems no need for paratransit like the jeepneys, multicabs and tricycles in the Philippines, or the tuktuks in Thailand. There should be no need considering the strategic placing of bus stops and train stations throughout the city and the well planned pedestrian facilities that complement these mass transit modes.

I have always looked forward to having such a system realized in the Philippines whether its going to be in Metro Manila or another city. It is still a vision that has often been derailed what with the systems that have been constructed so far and the weak handling of issues pertaining to bus, jeepney and tricycle services in the Philippines. And some people even argue that “service” shouldn’t be a word to be used to describe public transport in the Philippines. Rationalization of public transport systems back home seems a distant vision considering the chaos surrounding the matter. We can only hope that our efforts will not go to naught and that we can realize an efficient system within our lifespans. Perhaps that will be our legacy for the coming generations, for them to have system that they can be proud of and not drool over when they experience such in other countries such as Singapore.


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