Consider 'real-estate factor' of car ownership

In the continuing discourse on a car-lite Singapore, much attention and effort have gone into infrastructure and campaigns of persuasion.

To discourage car ownership in Singapore, it is also useful to appreciate the psychology of why many Singaporeans, compared with their global counterparts, are willing to pay a huge premium to own cars.

Although we assume the car is a mode of transport, space-starved Singaporeans may also value their cars for privacy. Hence, the car is also a piece of real estate where individuals and families can find the same solace as in their own homes.

In the daily commute for the busy executive, the car is a dining and living room, as he eats his sandwich while listening to the latest news on radio. Families discuss their day at work and school in their cars on the way home.

As Singapore's population density increases, the car might turn out to be a precious third space, after our homes and workplaces. Shrinking sizes of houses may also make the sense of having personal space in a car more pronounced. Furthermore, with driverless cars, it is not difficult to imagine how the interior of a car would resemble our personal living spaces more and more.

If the "real-estate factor" of car ownership indeed turns out to be a strong one, there needs to be a rethink of our car-lite strategy to directly influence car ownership, on top of persuading citizens to cycle to work, much like how we apply property cooling measures to temper demand or provide affordable housing to those in need.

Alvin Chow Keat