It may seem that I’ve got something against our LTA, judging by some of my posts in this blog. But I haven’t.
It’s just that I don’t think we have the sort of seamless travel that one enjoys in Hongkong. Which is a considerable cause for alarm because with our population now over 5 million and nudging HK’s, it’s about time Singapore does a lot better helping people to move around.
And seamless travel isn’t achieved by making it from cheaper to free to transfer from bus to MRT and back again, if the commuter so wishes. Frankly, which commuter would go to the trouble of making these transfers unless there’s also a huge saving in time — and that one can’t be sure of, given the erratic and whimsical time arrivals of our buses.
What makes for seamless travel and movement should also take into consideration the connectivity of buildings and this, alas, is an area that Singapore, while trying to catch up, is still a long way from Hongkong.
I was amazed by how easy it was to move between several buildings, without once needing to hit the road, dodge traffic and search for pedestrian crossings when I was on assignment in that city years ago.
And every visit since then, my admiration continues to soar for how linkways between buildings, small buses, the MTR and the plentiful availability of taxis all combine to make it such a breeze to get around Hongkong, the outlying islands, the New Territories and Shenzhen.
Not so in Singapore as I was reminded once again yesterday. I couldn’t get to Cathay Building from Plaza Singapura without getting out of the building into crowded Handy Road with its octopus-like series of lanes carrying impatient traffic into and out of the Plaza.
For some reason, I had believed that the Plaza was linked to Cathay Building via one of the basements. After all, isn’t Dhoby Ghaut the MRT station for both the Plaza and Cathay Building?
Dhoby Ghaut may be the station for Cathay Building but just like Park Mall, one can’t access the station from within the building. Which means no below street linkage between the Plaza and Cathay.
A fact I couldn’t believe to be true at first, hence I asked one shop-keeper in the Plaza to tell me how to get to Cathay. And then a passerby. And a leaflet distributor. Each said something along this line: “You have to get out of the building and then turn left…”
But I’m stubborn, convinced that the information given me must be wrong. So I went down to B2, followed the MRT sign till I got to the Dhoby Ghaut station. Dead end.
Still I refused to give up. I asked someone going into the station if I could go through the station and then reach Cathay Building. No, I was told, followed by a look that spoke volumes.
All right, I gave up. Got out of Plaza Singapura and walked to Cathay Building in the blazing sun and counted it a blessing, it wasn’t thunder and pouring rain I had to brave.
Now I somehow can’t help feeling that if Plaza Singapura and Cathay Building were in Hongkong, they won’t have been allowed to stand unconnected, unlinked and completely commuter unfriendly.
Chew on that LTA!