Saturday, 23 January 2016

Dedicated bus lanes on North-South Expressway

New Woodlands-to-city corridor to also have cycling and walking paths along entire route
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2016

The planned North-South Expressway - a 21.5km partly-underground road linking Woodlands to the city - will have one of its three lanes in each direction reserved for buses, making it the first highway in Singapore to be built this way.

A cycling path and a wide pedestrian walkway will also be built along the entire route of the expressway, which will pass through towns such as Sembawang, Yishun, Ang Mo Kio, Bishan and Toa Payoh.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced this through an addendum to the President's address yesterday. In a blog following his announcement, Mr Khaw said: "Our founding PM Mr Lee Kuan Yew had thought in great detail about what would make Singapore a pleasant, beautiful city to live in.

"In 1975, he said in a speech, 'Pavements must be designed to allow trees to grow, providing shade to pedestrians, and to cut down noon-day sunshine on roads. Pavements of granolithic slabs and concrete stifle trees. They must be forbidden by law. Some must be unceremoniously broken up.'

"Can we build on Mr Lee's legacy of a clean and green city and his people-centric vision to transform Singapore into a city that prides itself on public transport, walking and cycling, instead of driving?"

Mr Khaw said that part of Bencoolen Street will incorporate cycling and walking paths when Downtown Line 3 is completed. Two out of the road's four lanes will be used for this. This cycling path will connect to Bukit Timah in the north and the city in the south.

Meanwhile, the reconfigured North-South Expressway will now be known as the North-South Corridor. Originally slated for completion by 2020, it is now likely to take at least one year more.

The Land Transport Authority said it is working on the revised plans. "The final design and project timeline will be released at a later date," it added.

But a spokesman said the North-South Corridor's bus lane will not be the same as the current lanes marked in yellow or red. He said it will be a "dedicated lane".

Research associate Hawyee Auyong at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy described the plan as "quite progressive".

"It's fantastic that they're trying out these new ideas," he said. "But they will have to think through it carefully."

For instance, he said the exits and entrances of the expressway will now have to be designed with the right-of-way of buses. Otherwise, there will be bottlenecks, he noted.

Cycling advocate Han Jok Kwang said the plan is "ambitious".

"It's obvious we are starting to realise the merits of going in this direction," he said. "It will go towards making our city more liveable."

Asked if there would be enough people using the cycling path, Mr Han said: "I think so. The distance is quite meaningful. An average cyclist will be able to do the whole 21km within an hour." He said the next step would be to encourage workplaces to provide adequate shower and bike-parking facilities.

Want to know more about how we will connect from our doorstep to our destination in future? To read about our...
Posted by Ministry of Transport, Singapore on Thursday, January 21, 2016

Pedestrians, cyclists to get 2 lanes on part of Bencoolen Street
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2016

Two car lanes on a stretch of Bencoolen Street will be converted into a pedestrian path and a cycling lane - the first time Singapore's road planners are handing over real estate on a major road to walkers and cyclists.

The redevelopment, expected to be completed next year, is one of two projects revealed yesterday in the nation's drive for a "car-lite" society, and to encourage more commuters to walk, cycle and take public transport.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced the revamp of the 450m section of Bencoolen Street - between Middle Road and Bras Basah Road - in an addendum to last week's President's address in Parliament.

This stretch of Bencoolen Street has been closed since October 2011 for the construction of the Downtown Line 3's Bencoolen station.

While two out of the four original road lanes will continue to be used by vehicular traffic, two others will be converted into "wide footpaths lined with trees and benches for pedestrians", the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said.

Bicycle parking facilities will be provided in the area and a dedicated cycling path will connect Rochor Canal and Bukit Timah to the Central Business District, the LTA added. A dedicated bus lane will also feature in the revamp.

A big shout-out to everyone who loves walking and cycling! Let’s work together towards a future where walking, cycling,...
Posted by Land Transport Authority – We Keep Your World Moving on Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cyclists said that having a biking path along Bencoolen Street would greatly increase connectivity to other parts of Singapore.

Mr Han Jok Kwang, a member of the National Cycling Plan Steering Committee, said cyclists can go from Bencoolen Street to Rochor Canal, and then ride along the canal to Kallang River.

They could even push further north into the Geylang area.

"It's a great connection if you are commuting the distance," he said.

Additionally, Mr Han said cutting down the number of vehicular lanes on the street from four to two will have a "traffic calming" effect - meaning cars will have to slow down. This will increase safety for cyclists and pedestrians in the area, he noted.

A spokesman for the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, which is located in Bencoolen Street, said that "widening the footpaths, including a cycling path and benches would improve the general environment" around its campuses.

Besides Bencoolen Street, the Government has pedestrianised roads in the civic district to create a walkable park.

The Sentosa Development Corporation is also building on-road cycling lanes on the tourist island.

Experts welcome dedicated bus lane on North-South Expressway
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2016

Having a dedicated bus lane on the proposed 21.5km North-South Expressway (NSE) will be a first for the island's highways and is a welcome move, said transport experts.

Yesterday, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced that the NSE will be reconfigured as a "North-South Corridor" to facilitate the movement of cyclists, pedestrians and bus commuters.

While walking and cycling paths will be built along the entire corridor, one of the lanes will be dedicated to buses.

Transport consultant Gopinath Menon said: "It's a very good idea. We have been putting bus lanes on major roads, and never on expressways. Buses can carry many more passengers than private cars."

Mr Menon added that express bus services already use highways, and having a dedicated lane for buses will allow them to move faster.

However, he said that on the NSE, there must be special arrangements for cars filtering out of the expressway, as they would have to cross into dedicated bus lanes which would be on the left.

As the NSE was originally designed to alleviate the congestion on the parallel-running Central Expressway (CTE), motorists have asked if giving up a lane to buses is feasible.

Mr Brandon Tan, 35, a shipping executive, said: "The CTE, which has four to five lanes, gets clogged up daily. I don't see how having a two-lane expressway will be useful."

Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo said yesterday: "It depends on how we manage the car population... It could be possible to have congestion-free roads and still meet the needs of cyclists and those who use public transport."

Commuter Charles Patrick, 31, who takes buses which use the expressway, said it is not uncommon for cars and other slower-moving vehicles to compete with the buses for space. That's why the idea of a dedicated bus lane appealed to him.

SIM University adjunct associate professor Park Byung Joon said that compared to driving on a regular three-lane expressway, motorists using the NSE may see their journey times increase, because one lane is reserved for buses.

"But by giving buses the priority, they will be quicker, and this will attract more people to use the bus instead of the car," Dr Park added.

New routes to keep Singapore moving
Initiatives to promote walking, cycling a bold policy change, but public must get on board too
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2016

It may seem novel in Singapore, but allowing bus commuters, cyclists and pedestrians to have equal rights on the road is commonplace in many cities.

The reconfiguration of the planned North-South Expressway to include a dedicated bus lane and to incorporate biking and walking paths signals a bold change in the policymakers' mindset.

Similar plans to reclaim road space for cyclists and pedestrians are also being rolled out, starting with Bencoolen Street, where two out of four lanes along 450m of the city arterial road will be turned into cycling and walking paths.

But for such a "sustainable mobility" project to succeed, a mindset change among end-users is also needed.

It was not too long ago that policymakers felt commuting by bicycle was not feasible in a hot and humid place like Singapore. That, in part, has prevented cycling lanes from being built.

It is clear that philosophy is changing. And in the long run, it is necessary for a small city state like ours.

At the same time, we must be careful not to throw all economic considerations out the window. For instance, for a dedicated bus lane on an expressway to be worth the money, it has to have a high frequency of buses. Few bus services ply expressways today.

Will there be enough demand for "city direct" services to justify a dedicated bus lane in both directions of a 21.5km highway?

There might be, if the services are as frequent and as predictable as train services. A bus rapid transit system, popular in countries such as China, Australia and Brazil, will meet this service criterion.

If Singapore takes this route, it will be another affirmation for buses which, until recently, played second fiddle to trains. Many bus services were "rationalised" whenever new MRT lines were built in the past.

The impact of this new thinking on motorists is clear. When the new highway opens, some time after 2020, it will be the only two-lane expressway for cars. So, it is unlikely to be as speedy as the other expressways here.

That again, is part of the grand plan to wean people off driving. Because no matter how many MRT lines are built and no matter how many services are pumped into the bus network, consumers will choose to drive as long as the efficiency of private transport remains far superior to public transport. From door to door, driving is easily twice as fast today.

So, if Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan aims to have at least 85 per cent of trips made by public transport by 2050, the speed gap between private and public transport has to close considerably.

One way is to degrade the speed on our roads. The other is to attach a substantially higher economic cost to maintaining the current efficiency of driving - either via road pricing, parking policies, fuel duties or a combination of all three.

That is how New York and Hong Kong are able to have two of the highest public transport mode shares in the world.

But Singapore abhors inefficiency, so it is likely to choose the economic avenue to push people away from cars. At the same time, the pull of public transport has to be beefed up. For that to happen, we have to ensure that the train and bus services are, at the very least, dependable. No other way works. Not even building cycling paths.

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