Peak-hour commutes of no more than 45 minutes by 2040: Panel

The land transport system must transform to support Singapore's growth and the evolving needs of commuters, while taking into account technological disruption, demographic changes and land constraints, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Jani
The land transport system must transform to support Singapore's growth and the evolving needs of commuters, while taking into account technological disruption, demographic changes and land constraints, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary.LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE PHOTO

This is among its proposals to make public transport faster, safer and more inclusive

By 2040, peak-hour commutes on public transport should take no more than 45 minutes, the Land Transport Master Plan Advisory Panel has proposed, which will help the average peak-hour commuter save about 15 minutes a day.

This is one of the recommendations that the panel submitted to the Government yesterday to make public transport faster and better connected, as well as safer and more inclusive.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary, who chaired the panel, said the land transport system must transform to support Singapore's growth and the evolving needs of commuters, while taking into account technological disruption, demographic changes and land constraints.

The 15-member panel took in more than 7,400 responses from commuters, transport workers, industry representatives and academics in the past six months to formulate its proposals.

At a news conference yesterday, panel member Paul Barter - a transport policy researcher at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy - said the needs of various groups must be balanced.

For example, one of the recommendations is to redesign roads in residential areas to lower motor vehicle speeds.

INTERSECTING INTERESTS

No one is just a motorist, or a cyclist, or a bus user. We are just all people who want to get around.

PANEL MEMBER PAUL BARTER, noting how the interests of various groups of road users often intersect.

While this might impact motorists, it would help significantly reduce injuries and fatalities among pedestrians, said Dr Barter.

The interests of these various groups often intersect, he noted.

"No one is just a motorist, or a cyclist, or a bus user," he said. "We are just all people who want to get around."

National Transport Workers' Union executive secretary Melvin Yong said some trade-offs are inevitable when improving the transport network here.

"For bus speeds to improve, buses must have greater priority on roads. For better first-and last-mile journeys, more road space may have to be freed up for pedestrians and cycling infrastructure," he said, giving two of the recommendations as examples.

The panel also sought to make the transport system more inclusive by, for example, using technology to enhance signs and announcements for those with disabilities.

SPD resource and impact director Joyce Wong said those with visual impairment may have difficulty in identifying bus numbers.

Singapore needs to build a more "caring and gracious commuting culture", she added.

 
 
 

The panel also considered the issue of affordability of public transport, said Dr Janil.

One of the proposals is to have decentralisation through the development of more regional centres to allow jobs and amenities to be closer to homes.

Public Transport Council chairman Richard Magnus said this could help cut travelling costs for commuters.

But experts such as Nanyang Technological University senior transport research consultant Gopinath Menon said more could be done to lower private vehicle ownership, in line with the Republic's car-lite vision.

National University of Singapore economist Timothy Wong said "heavy-handed anti-car policies" such as raising the price of parking may be necessary, rather than just pro-public transit policies.

In a Facebook post, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan thanked the panel, and said his ministry would study the recommendations carefully.

"I will respond to the recommendations at next month's Budget debate in Parliament," he said.


Recommendations submitted by panel

The advisory panel's recommendations for the new Land Transport Master Plan cover three broad areas that aim to make Singapore's transport network well-connected, inclusive and safer by 2040.

FASTER JOURNEYS

• Prioritise public transport through measures such as dedicated bus lanes for faster rides.

• More investment in cycling and walking infrastructure for first-and last-mile journeys. For example, repurpose roads to allow for more and wider shared paths for bicycles and pedestrians.

• Make travelling more seamless by reducing the number of transfers needed.

• Increase adoption of technology such as by introducing autonomous vehicles.

• Develop more regional centres - such as the Jurong Lake District and the Punggol Digital District - to bring jobs and amenities closer to people's homes.

TRANSPORT FOR ALL

• Give greater recognition to commuters who go out of their way to help others.

• Provide more extensive training to transport workers so that they can help all commuters, including those with special needs.

• Make public transport infrastructure barrier free, enhance signs and announcements for the benefit of the elderly as well as those who are hard of hearing or have visual difficulties.

HEALTHIER, SAFER JOURNEYS

• Redesign towns to provide more space for walking, cycling and personal mobility devices.

• Redesign roads to slow down traffic, especially in residential estates, to make it safer for pedestrians.

• Create more dedicated cycling paths to reduce potential conflict between pedestrians and cyclists.

• Adopt cleaner, more energy-efficient fuel sources for public buses to reduce air and noise pollution. Taxi and private-hire car fleets should also set targets for the adoption of cleaner vehicles.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2019, with the headline 'Peak-hour commutes of no more than 45 minutes by 2040: Panel'. Print Edition | Subscribe