CBD parking high fees and lack of season carpark spaces drive away many motorists

An automated multi-storey car park at the Club Street. The struggle for parking amid a growing carpark crunch in Singapore's congested CBD means that a sizeable portion of the estimated 200,000 professionals based there choose not to drive to wo
An automated multi-storey car park at the Club Street. The struggle for parking amid a growing carpark crunch in Singapore's congested CBD means that a sizeable portion of the estimated 200,000 professionals based there choose not to drive to work. -- PHOTO: SPH

Although he owns a car, Mr Seah Chee Koon, 35, prefers to take the train from his Jurong East home to his office in the Central Business District (CBD).

"I don't see the need to drive to work. It is too expensive," said Mr Seah, who works in the banking industry. He spends about 45 minutes commuting each way.

The struggle for parking amid a growing carpark crunch in Singapore's congested CBD means that a sizeable portion of the estimated 200,000 professionals based there choose not to drive to work.

The parking situation is likely to get worse. Going by a transport masterplan released last week, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) expects the CBD parking supply to "gradually decrease over time as older buildings make way for newer buildings".

The district lost 704 carpark spaces in July 2011 after CapitaCommercial Trust (CCT) decided to turn Market Street Carpark, then Singapore's oldest multi-storey carpark, into a new office development called CapitaGreen.

The next carpark to disappear could be CCT's 10-storey Golden Shoe Carpark on Market Street with 1,053 parking spaces, according to media reports last year.

However, a CCT spokesman said last week there were no definitive plans to redevelop Golden Shoe, adding that the trust is focusing on its CapitaGreen project, which is expected to be completed at the end of next year.

The trend towards fewer parking spaces in new buildings is likely to result in higher parking fees and longer waiting lists for season parking.

The LTA said in its masterplan last week that "parking charges, especially season parking rates, are also low relative to other major cities". It cited a Colliers International survey done in 2011 that showed that Singapore's median season parking fee in the CBD was $278.20 per month. This was lower than $919.41 per month in Hong Kong, $918.52 in Tokyo and a stunning $1,337.77 in London for that year.

Colliers said the carparks it looked at were mostly in the Raffles Place and Shenton Way areas.

CBD carparks are diverse. Most are covered, but there are some open-air ones such as the carpark at Bestway Building.

Prices run from below $300 a month at some older buildings in Raffles Place and Shenton Way to above $500 a month at newer ones in the Marina Bay area.

Parking fee data for this year is not available, but Colliers said fees are likely to keep climbing.

High fees are not the only bugbear for motorists in the CBD. Those willing to cough up the amount can find themselves waiting for season parking spaces to become available.

For instance, there were 79 people waiting to get a season parking space at Golden Shoe as at Oct 10. Season parking there costs $345 a month for both tenants and non-tenants. The queue at Shenton House is even longer, at more than 100 people. Season parking there costs $330 a month for both tenants and non-tenants.

But there are some motorists who still brave the CBD carpark crunch, mainly because of a lack of better options.

"The important thing is accessibility," said Deutsche Bank banker Vincent Wee, who drives to his office at One Raffles Quay, where he has a season parking space. "I used to take public transport to work when I worked in New York and Hong Kong. But in Singapore, it can be difficult to get taxis in the morning."

Speciality recruiter Robert Half director Stella Tang said firms often provide a parking space for employees in senior positions. But in general, parking in the CBD is not a big issue for people looking for a job here, she said.

Some firms in the CBD are taking steps to help staff cope with the carpark crunch by making it easier for them to use other forms of transport such as bicycles.

Citi Singapore, for example, has shower facilities on all floors it occupies at Asia Square for staff who cycle to work, said its human resources head Evangeline Chua.

Asia Square has secured bicycle bays, lockers and shower facilities that all its tenants share.

But there can be other reasons for not driving to work in the CBD apart from cost and parking supply. Mr Christopher Calvert, chief executive of Cambridge Industrial Trust, takes the bus to his office at Robinson Centre every day. "It is the most stress-free part of the day," he said.

melissat@sph.com.sg