Incentivise public transport travel

Of all the Cabinet changes announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today, I’m happiest to see a new minister in charge of transport.

Not that I’ve anything against Mr Raymond Lim, the exiting transport minister. Instead, I’m hoping that a new transport minister may be able to “re-think and re-shape” public transport policies in a way that makes bus, MRT and taxi travel cheaper, faster and easier through incentives rather than thru penalties like the over-use of COE and ERP charges.

Here is what i hope the new transport minister, Mr Lui Tuck Yew, would do.

1) Scrap all ERP charges for taxis and buses. It doesn’t make sense to charge these multi-peeps carriers the same way you would private cars. Sure, a taxi takes up as much if not more road space than a private car but if taxis are more plentiful and meaningfully cheaper than private cars, more commuters would switch from car owning to taxi-taking.

2) Scrap COE for taxis, for the same reason as point 1. To deter the unscrupulous from abusing this by masquerading as taxi-drivers to enjoy COE-free vehicles, impose suitably harsh penalties on the abusers when caught.

3) Give non-transferable bus and MRT vouchers of a certain value to all citizens on a regular basis. This will benefit the lower-income groups in particular and may convert the borderline car owners. The cost to the state may not be as huge as implied as most in the top 10 to 15 income earners and their family members are unlikely to be seen dead using the bus or MRT while in Singapore.

4) Let the state subsidise one-price mini buses that loop constantly between clusters of private condos to MRT stations, in the same way that is done in Hongkong (the seamless loops I mean; I don’t know if the mini-buses are subsidised over there). Sure, there are already such buses plying between private condos and MRT stations but they run infrequently and often only during peak hours which make them a poor alternative to cars or taxis.

That’s all for now… and here’s hoping for cheaper, faster and smoother travelling around Singapore 😎

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