The Straits Times
Published on Dec 29, 2012

Want more to use public transport? Make driving less of a joy


THE suggestions regarding the certificate of entitlement (COE) system ("Car buyers want COE system reviewed"; Tuesday, and "Cooling measures needed for cars" by Mr Chew Eng Soo; Thursday) do not get to the crux of the problem.

The strength of the COE system is also its greatest weakness.

Singapore stands out among cities throughout the world as being one where driving is a joy.

The success of the COE system means that there are few traffic jams.

Our roads are well maintained and new roads are constantly being built to ease traffic congestion.

Parking is relatively plentiful and cheap compared to other city centres.

Consequently, private cars have become a highly desirable good.

This has profound implications - regardless of how one tweaks the system, its desirability will always mean that the majority of people who cannot own a car will be disgruntled.

This is regardless of whether one rations out cars purely on willingness to pay (like the current system), or partly on subjective needs (as suggested by some).

Driving, as a result of the system's success, will always be a better option than taking public transport.

There is absolutely no incentive for people to switch to public transport, no matter how great it is, when driving is such a desirable option.

In many other cities, even the rich would leave their cars at home and take the subway to work because that is preferable to sitting for hours in a traffic jam, or circling the blocks looking for a parking space.

The solution, then, is obvious, if counter-intuitive.

There needs to be more traffic congestion, not less. Only then would it be preferable to take a train.

The COE system thus has not failed; rather, it has worked too well.

Calvin Cheng