Wednesday 9 October 2013

More leaving vehicles at home in favour of public transport: LTA Household Interview Travel Survey 2012

By John Leong, Channel NewsAsia, 7 Oct 2013

Efforts to get Singaporeans to leave their cars at home and take the train and bus appear to be paying off.

This was among the findings of a recent survey by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) that was announced on Monday.

Lawyer Jinny Tan still drives to her workplace in the Chinatown area each morning but she opts for the train when she goes out for lunch.

Ms Tan said she is open to using public transport more if one major complaint is addressed.

"For mornings, it does get a bit crowded and you have to really wait for a few trains before you get on a train."

The government has put in place measures to address these and other concerns.

The LTA's latest Household Interview Travel Survey indicates these measures might be working.

The survey found that more higher-income earners appear to be choosing buses and trains over personal vehicles.

Higher income earners refer to those who earn a salary of S$8,000 or more a month.

They contributed to a rise in the number of peak hour trips on public transport last year.

In 2008, just over half of all such journeys were made during peak hours. It rose to nearly two in three last year.

Experts believe the key to increasing these numbers is to show people how using public transportation can benefit them.

The survey also found that more people used public transport if they lived near MRT stations.

The government plans to have eight in 10 households live within a 10 minute walk of a train station by 2030.

Observers said getting commuters from their homes to public transport is straightforward with covered walkways.

The harder part is getting them from buses or trains to their workplace.

Ang Hin Kee, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, explained: "I think the challenge for the LTA is how it incorporates this last mile into a revision of their Masterplan so that for any commuters, it will be very convenient to get from their place of work to their place of residence."

The survey also showed that total daily journeys on public transport increased by 13 per cent to 12.5 million last year.

Having access to a car reduces use of trains by 15.6%: Study
By Woo Sian Boon, TODAY, 8 Oct 2013

While having a train station within a 10-minute walk from their homes encourages more commuters to use the MRT as a primary mode of transport, having access to a car reduces the use of trains by 15.6 per cent.

On the other hand, having accessible bus stops did not lead commuters to adopt buses as their main mode of transportation, with only 16.1 per cent of non-daily public transport users preferring to travel by bus.

These were some of the six key findings from a year-long study conducted by researchers from the National University of Singapore’s Institute of Systems Science, which was presented yesterday during a panel discussion about transport mobility in cities at the Singapore International Transport Congress.

The study, which is supported by the Land Transport Authority, aimed to discover how commuters make travel decisions and the factors that influence their choices, such as convenience, time and cost.

It was conducted from July last year and ended in August, using data gathered from field observations, interviews with transport operators, 1,500 survey responses and 47 focus-group participants.

Its principal investigator, Dr Pallab Saha, said that 37 per cent of commuters between 16 and 24 years old preferred cars as their transportation mode during peak hours, noting that owning a car has become “an aspirational symbol” associated with wealth.

This is compared to 26 per cent of commuters in the age group of 35 to 54, and 18 per cent aged 55 and above, who indicated they preferred private transportation.

Speaking to reporters, he said that more awareness and education is necessary for a mindset shift to “decouple car ownership and car access”. “We have to address the mindset so that cars no longer remain as the preferred mode ... All you need is access to a car, you don’t have to own a car,” Dr Saha said.

As such, he felt that “there is scope for improvements” in providing alternatives such as car sharing and car pooling, but acknowledged that it would take time for change. “It’s not going to happen in the next one to two years, because this is not dealing with the physical infrastructure or hardware, this is dealing with the mental models,” he said.

Parking policy 'can be tool to spur public transport use'
By Royston Sim, The Straits Times, 9 Oct 2013

ONE way to encourage people to take buses and trains instead of cars into the city is to make parking spaces there even scarcer.

That will push parking charges up and force people to think twice about driving, said Assistant Professor Paul Barter from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy yesterday, pointing out that this was how other major cities around the world managed traffic.

The average monthly season parking fee in Tokyo and Hong Kong is around $920. For London, it is nearly $1,340. But in Singapore, the price of parking in the Central Business District (CBD) was $278.20 every month in 2011.

"In a city like Singapore where we are not trying to encourage car use, the parking policy seems to be inconsistent with the rest of the transport policy, in that we're trying to make sure there's enough parking," said the parking policy expert.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a panel discussion yesterday - the second day of the Singapore International Transport Congress and Exhibition at Suntec City.

In its Land Transport Masterplan 2013 launched on Monday, the Government acknowledged that motorists often decide if they should drive or use public transport based on the availability of parking.

In 2005, rules were tightened so that developers could provide up to 20 per cent fewer parking spaces than before in the CBD. And while parking charges here are low relative to other major cities, supply will decrease over time as older buildings, which do not come under the updated rules, make way for newer ones.

Dr Barter believes concerns about insufficient parking spaces leading to parking chaos on surrounding streets can be addressed. This applies not just in the CBD, but islandwide. He said the conventional thinking that buildings should have a minimum number of parking spaces so that cars do not park illegally or queue for parking in surrounding roads should be set aside.

Instead, the spillover onto the streets can be managed in other ways, such as the sharing of parking spaces, or by making private lots open to the public. Increasing parking charges when demand is high is also a way to eliminate parking queues, he added.

Boost car sharing, taxi options, say experts
Combining these with public transport can cut reliance on cars
By Royston Sim, The Straits Times, 10 Oct 2013

TRANSPORT options such as car sharing and taxis need to be improved if Singapore wants to turn commuters away from cars.

This was a key message from a panel of three transport experts who presented their views yesterday on the newly launched Land Transport Masterplan 2013, at the Singapore International Transport Congress and Exhibition (SITCE).

Assistant professor Paul Barter from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy noted that one of the masterplan's key planks is to reduce reliance on cars while increasing public transport usage.

Yet, once someone has bought a car, they adapt their lives to it and soon feel they absolutely need that car, he said.

More options must be provided so commuters do not feel the car is a necessity, he said. "We actually need a heroic effort to grow enormous carrots that are juicy and sweet in Singapore because a privately owned car is a very attractive proposition."

That is why public transport has to be combined with options like car sharing, car rental or taxis to provide commuters with the flexibility of a car, he said.

Mr Tony Dufays, director of regional offices and services at the International Association of Public Transport, said taxis are often underestimated as an important option for commuters who crave the convenience of a car.

He said: "You cannot always provide public transport in a perfect manner. And that is where taxis come in, to allow people to have an alternative."

The Land Transport Authority's (LTA) Household Interview Travel Survey found 63 per cent of people took public transport during peak hours last year, up from 59 per cent in 2008. It aims to raise this to 75 per cent in 2030.

Overall, the panellists said the masterplan sounded the right notes in terms of improving public transport. Still, they pointed out areas that can be tackled.

To improve car sharing, Dr Barter suggested that the authorities allocate more public or street parking spaces to such cars, which are typically owned by a firm, with members paying for usage.

A shared car cannot be parked in a condo where no one aside from the residents can access it, he said. Designated street parking slots will make it open to anyone in the neighbourhood.

Dr Barter also called for more aggressive help to boost the taxi and car sharing industries. These vehicles could be exempted from bidding for a certificate of entitlement, or incur minimal vehicle taxes, he said.

Mr Dufays said it was also important to support walking and cycling. Both are efficient modes of transport for the last mile, which is often the weakest link in the public transport journey, he said.

While the LTA is already building an extensive network of sheltered walkways, he said the waiting time at pedestrian crossings is long and should be decreased.

He also suggested exploring using tramways in the city.

Nanyang Technological University adjunct associate professor Gopinath Menon would like to see bus travel improved. Apart from more bus lanes, he called for buses to be given priority at traffic junctions. The LTA will begin a trial for this soon.

Mr Lai Meng, managing director of Car Club, which has 179 cars and 6,000 active members, said parking is a challenge. "The HDB gave us approval to park in the multistorey carparks, but the grassroots blocked it. Car sharing doesn't fight with residents for spaces - it serves residents."

The three-day event at Suntec Singapore ended yesterday.

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