Getting to know senior transport correspondent Christopher Tan

Senior transport correspondent Christopher Tan (left) giving a talk at the Singapore Coffee Festival in June.
Senior transport correspondent Christopher Tan (left) giving a talk at the Singapore Coffee Festival in June. PHOTO: ST FILE

This short Q&A series with ST's beat reporters lets readers meet the person behind the byline. These are the experts who will be answering readers' questions in our askST section.  

1. Your preferred mode of transport: Public transport or car? 

It depends. If I'm heading to town for work, I'll take the train. The Braddell MRT station is just seven minutes' walk from the office. And the Serangoon Interchange is seven minutes' walk from where I live. This is because parking is costly and increasingly scarce in town. 

Otherwise, I drive. I enjoy driving, whether it's my own car or the latest test-drive model. 

2. Which was your first car and what do you drive now?

I've only owned three cars, as I use them till their COE expires. My first car was a Suzuki Swift hatchback, which I bought when I got married. The second was also a Suzuki Swift, but a sedan, when our second child was born.

My third and current car is a Toyota Wish, bought when No. 3 arrived. I decided to renew its COE recently, as it is still in good working condition, and also because our two older children are driving now. 

3. What is your main peeve about Singaporean drivers?

It's probably not fair to generalise, but I absolutely hate people who drive as if they are the only ones using the road - they road-hog, straddle two lanes, take forever to make a turn, do not signal their intentions, etc. Those who drive while using their mobile devices also get to me. Very often, they'll be the ones holding up traffic when the lights turn green. 

4. Is it the right time to buy a car now?

Yes and no. Buy a car when it is the right time for you to do so.  

5. If you were the government for a day, what would the transport system look like? 

No government can change things overnight. But if I had that magical wand, Singapore would now have a rail network spanning 540km, serving a population capped at X. Nearly every household would be within 10 minutes' walk from a station. The system would rival Taipei's in terms of comfort, and Hong Kong's in terms of reliability. It will also be a modular system, which allows trains and stations to expand to cope with rising demand.

On the road, driverless high-capacity straddle buses will ply along main corridors, supplemented by smaller intra-town buses - which will likewise be zero emission models charged via an induction system along the route.

With this connectivity, more than 95 per cent of trips will be done via public transport. Taxi commuters will be able to have access to a cab across any operator with just one click of an app. The current COE system will be redundant. Those who still wish to buy cars can freely do so. But ERP 2.0 will track and charge all vehicles based on distance clocked (with charges varying according to time and location). Each car is limited to a lifetime mileage of 120,000km. There will be no quota, but motorists will pay punitive surcharges for second and subsequent cars per household.

The roads will be freed up for segregated lanes to be built for bicycles and other mobility devices. Walkways will be safe, smoothly paved and truly barrier-free. Urban development will be such that people live, work and play without requiring daily cross-island transits. 

6. Do you get any e-mail and text messages when there is a MRT breakdown? 

Yes I do. But strangely, I don't get any e-mail or text messages when the MRT is working well. 

7. If all cars in Singapore cost $1, which car would you buy for yourself and for your family? 

It would be a time of great catastrophe - sustained depression, war, pestilence, half of the island submerged by rising sea water. Or all of the above. Buying a car would not be very high on my priority list then, even if a Porsche 911 Turbo cost $1.