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Make it inconvenient to drive a car

The high costs have not really been a strong deterrent to owning a car in Singapore ("High costs of owning car a drawback" by Mr Sum Kam Weng; last Sunday). Convenience has been cited as the main reason for the continued reliance on personal transport.

And no wonder. In a country which has one of the highest numbers of millionaires on a per capita basis, a $200,000 car might ultimately seem like an affordable purchase.

Indeed, high financial costs create perverse incentives: Now that I have spent so much money buying a car, I must get maximum use out of it by driving it as much as possible.

There seems to be only one deterrent to car ownership - private car transport must be seen as more inconvenient than public transport. In practice, this means that private cars must encounter traffic jams, restrictions on entry, and low or non-availability of parking.

So there should be a moratorium on major road building works. Work on roads to reduce minor bottlenecks, or to redesign accident-prone areas, should continue, but the Land Transport Authority must be relieved of its guarantee of maintaining a certain average speed across the expressways and roads it manages.

We can expect brickbats from car owners. But one can point to the various public transport options available to them, and more in the future. There are also pooled and efficient transport resources such as Grab and Uber.

Saving time, not money, will be the greatest reason for using public transport.

Abdul Malek Mohamed Ali

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 09, 2016, with the headline 'Make it inconvenient to drive a car'. Print Edition | Subscribe