Think of new ways to curb demand for cars

I was dismayed to learn that the Government is adopting a zero-growth approach for the car and motorcycle populations in Singapore (LTA scraps vehicle growth rate; Oct 24).

This means that an even smaller fraction of the population will be able to afford a car, along with likely higher driving costs for the owner.

This will weigh on families.

Regardless of how efficient public transport is, it cannot replace the convenience a car affords. This has been aggravated by the fact that train delays remain common, bus service intervals may be erratic and the service gap in intra-town connectivity has yet to be addressed.

Cars cater to those who want point-to-point travel, especially families with young children or aged parents.

The Government should look at new ways of managing demand, instead of merely driving costs up.

For instance, GrabHitch introduced "social carpooling", allowing drivers to utilise spare capacity in their cars and reduce costs. Passengers, on their part, gain travel convenience at half, or even less, the usual cost of a cab fare. Residents can also get to know one another while carpooling.

This is a good example of tackling challenges creatively using technology.

The number of vehicles sitting idly in Housing Board carparks during weekdays gives a good picture of the number of cars "hogging" certificates of entitlement (COEs).

If the average annual mileage of a family car is 20,000km, perhaps those with very low mileage - say, 25 per cent of the average - should be subject to higher taxes to discourage ownership and free up more COEs.

Households with multiple cars could be made to pay higher taxes to discourage such a practice. In the same vein, taxes on cars could be reduced for families with young children and elderly folk to alleviate costs.

We should think of new ways to curb demand.

Felix Kim Heok Eng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2017, with the headline 'Think of new ways to curb demand for cars'. Print Edition | Subscribe