Tag Archive | ERP

Oh, the pain of food inflation!

Earlier this week, the Government revealed that Singapore’s inflation rate is 5.2 percent in March, 2012. From 1962 until 2010, the average inflation rate in Singapore was 2.73 percent with an historical high of 34.00 percent in March of 1974 (following the oil price shocks) and a record low of -3.10 percent in September of 1976.

I should point out that the terrible high inflation rate almost 40 years ago was matched by bank or finance company deposit rates that were sky high. I remember mum enjoying 13 or 14 percent per annum interest while property prices were only a fraction of today’s prices. Mum sold a Grange Road walk-up flat for $64,ooo while our local helper and her husband bought a 3-room HDB flat in Avenue 2, Clementi for $12,000.

By contrast, today interest rates are about 0.5 to 0.75 percent per annum on average and no one can buy any meaningful roof over their head with the amounts I cited. Not even a COE, let alone a car.

Be that as it may.

But what struck me truly starkly about inflation was my return to Imperial Treasure Windows of Hong Kong at Triple One Somerset on Monday for some comfort food.   

I hadn’t intended to go there but had a few errands to run in its vicinity. 

Then bad luck struck. I had removed my cash card from my IU be4 setting off because it had fallen below a certain value and its beeps were driving me mad. But I forgot to replace it with my other cash card with higher value.

And so I fell into a f-foul mood. That 50 cent ERP fee at the Orchard gantry would now have to be met with a hefty fine. FF mood not improved when I text LH for help “with a name, please” and got no response, because LH I guess doesn’t believe in extending help for such “petty” matters.

Errands done and feeling really sorry for myself, I needed some comfort food.

With Triple One just across the road from where I was, I was like a homing pigeon.

It’s been a while since I ate at Imperial Treasure Windows on HK.

The prices looked a bit higher but no matter.

I’m hugely a creature of habit and settled for Set B which comprised half a salted egg, one BBQ chik wing, some siew yoke (roast pork), some marinaded slices of squid and rice.

I was charged $8.50.

When the food came, I vaguely remembered there should have been an accompanying bowl of soup. But again, I was happy to eat some comfort food and didn’t want to stir up my FF mood again.

It wasn’t until today when i checked my blog that i discovered how prices have gone up at the Windows on HK cafe over less than 2 years.

When I first discovered the cafe in July 2010, I couldn’t stop singing its praise. As witness here!

Back then, the set I ate on Monday had come with a hearty Cantonese pork soup and was priced at $7.

I was quite miffed to discover a few months after that the rice and mixed meat dish had de-coupled from the soup. The main was priced at $6.50 while the soup was priced at $2. I ranted against the higher prices here.

Since then, prices have gone up even higher. Now the main is $8.50 sans soup. But then, that’s about what’s charged in most food courts, if one isn’t too careful with one’s selection, especially at brand name nasi padang stalls!

Even worse may come as suggested by this website  –which I must warn is trying to sell fear rather than hope.

And hope there should be. After all, didn’t I start this blog in 2008 with a post anxiously wondering if rice would reach $15 a kg after oil prices broke the USD100 mark?

Since that post, the world has been living more or less with oil prices above that defining level. Yet rice — if one settles for the no-frills variety — isn’t priced anywhere near $15. Yet! 🙄


LTA, do something fundamental re taxis!

Great to read in the Straits Times today the “leaked” news that the Land Transport Authority is going to review rules for our taxis. http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_761205.html

Never mind if LTA isn’t going to touch the recent controversial fare hike.

Better that LTA doesn’t just tweak here and there but do something truly fundamental and passenger beneficial.

By this I mean remove the need for taxis to have COEs for crying out loud. Scrap too the ERP charges on taxis.

True, taxis as road users will contribute to congestion but aren’t roads built so that vehicles can drive on them?

So what’s the problem?

Doesn’t the Government want to encourage vehicle owners to switch to public transport? But it might not be easy for them to go immediately from car to bus and/or MRT because a car for most aren’t a luxury (unless like one of my neighbours, you own four!!) but a necessity.

Isn’t the best way to wean people like me off our dependence on our cars is to make taxis comparatively cheaper instead of making both taxi and car COEs bid for the same shrinking pool of the CAT A certificates and suffer auction prices that can buy two or three cars in nearby countries?

The current way, taxis have to pay an arm and a leg for COEs, resulting in their owners having to raise fares to cover this sky-high COEs as  well as other rising costs.

For a car owner, it makes no sense to give up my car and pay higher taxi fares, as well as ERP charges for going into an expanding ERP catchment — and then suffer the frustration of never being sure of getting a cab when I need one!

For a car owner it make sense to quit driving only when one is either flat broke or when one’s taxi fare though high is still relatively cheaper than owning a car and there is no compromise on the ease of securing a taxi as and when one is needed.

For this, the LTA should bring back taxi kiosks like the one that used to exist in the Holland Village of old and allow more kiosks to spawn across the island. Instead of running empty hoping to find passengers — and thereby adding to much pointless road usage and air pollution — taxis could then head for these kiosks to await the call for their next pick up or for drop-by fares.

Cruising taxis should still be allowed as should call-taxis under the current system. But to incentivise passengers to call their nearest kiosk, scrap the booking fee, as a pre-booked taxi guarantees the driver business.

Initially, such no-fee booking passengers might have to pre-register with the taxi companies to prevent nuisance or no-show bookings, till the system is entrenched.

Alas, this is likely to be another of those pre-Budget pipe-dreams that LTA will steam-roller over in tunnel-visioned fashion 😛

Bye bye ERP on Saturdays?

and good riddance too, if the three PAP MPs’ concerted effort to move the Ministry of Transport into high gear on getting rid of the wacky Electronic Road Pricing charges on Saturday is successful.

Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo’s explanation of the rationale for introducing Saturday charges failed to placate the MPs and really Ms Teo, they don’t placate your voters either — not that I voted in the last General Election since my home is in the Tanjong Pagar GRC 🙄

Neither did her repeated emphasis that the implementation of ERP charges is not static, and that the Government will continue to ‘fine-tune (the charges) from time to time’.

Frankly I wonder if Ms Teo has ever driven in the city area on a Saturday when ERP is on, to be able to say what she said with a straight face on Parliament on Tuesday, Nov 22?

Let me show her what’s real on the ground with links to my various encounters with ERP on Saturday.






Thank you Messrs Liang Eng Hua, Lim Biow Chuan and Seah Kian Peng for putting pressure on your MOS. Here’s to your anticipated success in making Ms Teo take the road she’s probably not travelled on 😆

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 😎

ERP is AN election issue!

Now and then, I have beefed about the ERP, especially when I find myself having to pay when I didn’t expect the gantry in a particular spot to charge.

Read about it here, here and most recently here when I suggested, tongue in cheek, that we should make the sometimes quirky/whimsical charges imposed by the Government’s electronic road pricing system an election issue.

Now, believe it or not, I see that the Singapore Democratic Party — founded by Mr Chiam See Tong and hijacked by u-no-hu — has started to make a song and dance about the same subject with its post yesterday on the ERP gantries being in strange places .

Am I pleased about this?

Yes and no.

Yes, because I think the Government should be more thoughtful about the charges and the timing of the charges. While an extra — and pointless — 50 cents, $1 or even $3 isn’t going to make me cast my vote for the likes of Chee Soon Juan, what irks is that it demonstrates that some of the people managing this country aren’t close enough to the ground in grassroots matters.

(It’s like I always wonder who sited the bus stops so that they are always on the left hand side of roads so that buses often have to cut across three or four lanes because they need to make right hand turns at a road junction! Don’t the people in charge drive?)

No, because I wish the ruling party will wake up to this — about how their bureacrats are running some of the infrastructure in Singapore with potentially detrimental effects on their political masters — be4 the Opposition capitalises on this area of discontentment.

Still, with the general election at least three months away, the ruling party still has time to sweeten the ground a bit on the roads.

I suggest starting by removing all ERP charges into the CBD on Saturdays. If that’s not doable, at least scrap the afternoon charges.

Because the people going into the CBD on a Saturday to play will surely be far fewer than the number going in to work. So by any stretch of the imagination the roads won’t be as crowded as those on week-days. And ERP shouldn’t be needed to discourage congestion.

And no ERP charges on Saturdays will help somewhat to ensure that all the billion$ properties in the Marina Bay area don’t become ghost towns on week-ends.

Win-win for all except perhaps the tax collector though what he loses on ERP charges will likely — or more than likely — be recouped through GST collections. So it could be a win-win for all, with no ifs and buts 😉

Lucky break or what?

Today, I appeared to have had two lucky breaks. Note, I use the word “appeared”, meaning I don’t know if in the end they are lucky breaks.

It started this morning with my rushing out to look for a tyre repair shop, because of what happened yesterday, detailed here.

Well, not exactly rushed out. Siti was sent to ask a neighbour’s chauffeur if he knew where I could get a patch for my punctured tyre. She came back to say that the Caltex station across the road has such a repair shop.

Huh? I pass that station day in and out but never noticed.

Alas, when I got there, the repair man told me there’s a queue and I needed to wait two and a half to three hours. But he took pity on me and told me to try the Shell station down the road.

I found only an Esso station but was kindly directed to continue driving, go over the flyover, keep right and then make a U turn to the Shell station there.

At last I found a repair shop!

This long preamble leads up to why I checked the value in my cashcard and then removing it from the IU for safe-keeping since I was handing over the car for a few minutes.

There was $33.17 in the cashcard.

The first lucky break came when I went into the CBD via the North Bridge Road gantry after 1pm and tadadada… found the ERP light was off.

I wonder why because I had seen the ERP light on at the Bencoolen Street gantry, although I didn’t go thru it.

Still who cares? I’m not the LTA. Just hope it doesn’t whack me for not paying the ERP charge!

Then much later in the afternoon, I drove out of Raffles City after a couple of hours there and lo and behold, my cashcard still showed $33.17 after I had exited, indicating that I wasn’t charged for parking.

Again I wonder why? Although I’m quite honest, I wasn’t about to waste time turning around to go back into the carpark and offer to pay!

I got out of paying perhaps a total of $5 to $6 in all.

What a cheap thrill!

 Just hope there won’t be consequences, especially from LTA.

Make ERP charges an election issue?

First, don’t get me wrong. I’m a supporter of our Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system insofar as it helps to improve traffic flow.

I’m not against the principle of paying for what I use. Which is what road tax is for or that’s what I’ve been led to believe while ERP is the premium to be paid for using our roads when more people are using them.

What I find incredible is that the ERP is in operation on some roads which are patently free from traffic.

I had written be4 about this last March and again this March (on the same day some more! 🙂 )

I’m writing about it again tonight because of what happened yesterday afternoon, after I finished a WDA-financed workshop class (yes, continuing education has gotten to me too).

As it was raining, I was sending a newly acquainted fellow course-attendee to the MRT station on a route I won’t have normally taken, had I been heading for home.

And blow me, I got caught by an ERP gantry at exactly the spot where the letter* writer to the Straits Times was last month and whose sentiments I supported in my “Wacky ERP charges” post.

OK, my cash card was deducted by just $1, compared to the $2 deducted from the letter writer’s cash card. Perhaps it’s because I passed the gantry leading towards the Esplanade at 3.22pm while he went thru at around 1.30pm.

Yesterday afternoon’s traffic was light to almost non-existent. Perhaps it was because of the rain and the Saturday of a long holiday week-end.

More interestingly, the morning traffic was heavy along Cantonment Road when  I turned into Tangjong Pagar Road on my way to my course. I expected to be whacked for $2.50 at the gantry, as I had been during week days. But surprisingly, the gantry lights were off!

Which brings me to this question: are the people in charge of the ERP on auto-pilot? Don’t they think? Most offices within the inner CBD don’t operate any more on Saturdays, especially on a long week-end. And long week-ends are known long be4 the official calendars are printed! 

Why can’t the ERP be switched off for all gantries leading in and out of the CBD on Saturdays, especially long week-ends?

I won’t want to join the Opposition in demanding that the Government do this or that at the next GE. But I think it won’t hurt to ask that the PAP promise that when it is returned, it will ensure that the civil servants be more proactive when it comes to adjusting ERP charges downwards or switching off the lights altogether, at the appropriate times.

* Letter that was carried by the Straits Times on March 4

Esplanade Bridge

‘The gantry should not even be switched on.’

MR MICHAEL LOH: ‘The Land Transport Authority’s reply last Saturday (‘ERP gantry location based on overall traffic condition’) prompts another puzzle: Why is it necessary to turn on the ERP gantry at the Fullerton Hotel in the direction of Esplanade Bridge on Saturday afternoons? And why is there a premium of $2? I drove along that stretch on Saturday at about 1.30pm. Traffic was very light, with perhaps three or four cars in a stretch of 100m. There was no question of the average speed falling below 40kmh. Logically, the ERP gantry, which is to regulate heavy traffic, should not even be switched on and even if it should be, $2 is an exorbitant charge.’