Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced on 23 Oct that the growth rate for COEs for cars and motorcycles will be cut from the current 0.25% per annum to 0%, with effect from February 2018 until at least 2020.
The LTA said in a press release on its website that the decision to cut the growth rate for cars and motorcycles was made because “in view of land constraints and competing needs, there is limited scope for further expansion of the road network.”
It added that public transport will step up and that the government has set aside a whopping $28 billion dollars to improve the public transport system:
“LTA will continue to improve our public transport system. Over the past six years, we have expanded our rail network significantly, growing the rail network length by 30% and adding a total of 41 new stations. Through the $1 billion Bus Service Enhancement Programme and Bus Contracting Model, we have added new routes and injected greater capacity into the bus network while raising service levels. The Government will continue to invest $20 billion in new rail infrastructure, $4 billion to renew, upgrade and expand rail operating assets, and another $4 billion in bus contracting subsidies over the next five years to improve public transport.”
While the LTA made clear that the growth cut is “not expected to significantly affect the supply of COEs as the COE quota is determined largely by the number of vehicle deregistrations,” news of the growth cut has been met with some criticism online.
Former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Calvin Cheng has asserted that because of the growth cut, “cars will, because they can only be afforded by the well-to-do, become even more of a status symbol. They will become an obvious symbol of a class-divide. The masses take public transport, whilst the minority elite drive their own private cars. This cannot be healthy for a society, as it will breed resentment and division. We cannot have a society polarised by class, between the haves and have-nots.”
We re-publish his criticism of LTA’s decision in full here:
If the car population is not allowed to grow, whilst the general population of Singapore increases, it means that a smaller and smaller proportion of people will own cars.
Although it is a laudable aim to go car-lite, I fear that this, coupled with COEs auctioned-off to those who can pay, will have harmful social consequences, EVEN IF public transport were perfect (it isn’t).
Cars will, because they can only be afforded by the well-to-do, become even more of a status symbol. They will become an obvious symbol of a class-divide. The masses take public transport, whilst the minority elite drive their own private cars. This cannot be healthy for a society, as it will breed resentment and division. We cannot have a society polarised by class, between the haves and have-nots.
Because the vast majority of the population will not have private cars, car owners will also be tangibly better-off. Less crowded roads, nicer drives, faster journeys. That means, that not only do they possess a status symbol, the well-to-do ACTUALLY are better off than the everyone else who has to take public transport.
Money will always buy better lives, more conveniences. But in an inclusive society that tries to make sure that these differences do not also impact meritocracy and the perception of fairness, the advantages that money brings need to be mitigated.
The right way to go about achieving a car-lite society is NOT to make cars available to only our well-to-do. The correct way is to change social mindsets, to make people see cars as a disamenity and an embarrassment rather than a status symbol. Public transport needs to be as perfect as possible. Practically speaking, one also needs to INCONVENIENCE drivers, making cars a less attractive option, not more. Build fewer car parks. Pedestrianise more of the city centre. Build fewer expressways that make drives faster and more pleasant. Use the land for parks and green spaces instead.
Lowering quotas and increasing prices are extremely blunt and lazy policy instruments. By themselves, that is still tolerable, but if the net effect is to have negative social repercussions, then they have to be strenuously opposed.
Our policy makers can do better. They must do better.
If the car population is not allowed to grow, whilst the general population of Singapore increases, it means that a…