For some Singaporeans, expensive car prices have opened up new avenues for them to move around. These include cycling, using personal mobility devices (PMDs) and even becoming private-hire car drivers.
Prices for cars have skyrocketed in recent times, mainly due to the increasing cost of the Certificate of Entitlement (COE). Car park rates around the island are also set to increase in the months to come.
Consequently, it has become more difficult to own a car in Singapore, despite the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s recent adjustment that allows car buyers to pay lower downpayment rates and take up a bigger car loan.
Consequently, some Singaporeans have resorted to taking public transport because of its lower cost.
41-year-old Brendan Goh lives in Punggol and uses an electric scooter to get to work everyday, covering a distance of 16 kilometres in total per day.
“I scoot to work as it saves cost and time. Having a car is too expensive and public transport is too crowded,” he said.
The ride takes him 20 minutes on the scooter, and 35 minutes should he opts for the bicycle which he does some days. It helps that his office at Tai Seng is located right next to a park connector, giving him easy access to and from home.
What about road hazards such as speed limits, one’s right of way and even contact with fellow road users like the pedestrians? “Obviously, we need to observe rules and regulations, and not abuse our rights as road users,” he added.
The recent announcement of the construction of a 150-kilometre Round Island Route, which will complement the 300 kilometres of pathway under the current Park Connector Network (PCN), ought to be music to the ears of those like Brendan, as it provides cyclists and PMD users alike safer routes to their destinations.
For some, the rise of private-hire car services like Grab and Uber has given them an alternative that lets them own a car, but without paying the hefty upfront charges for a new vehicle.
Last year, Jason Wong bought a car with one year remaining on the COE. Like many others, he signed up with Grab and Uber, using his free time to offer private transportation. “Buying a 9-year-old car gives me the option of COE renewal, which offers lower overall depreciation than getting a new car,” he said. “Getting an old car also gives me some buffer time in case COE prices go down. It also requires less upfront payment versus getting a new car.”
Jason estimates that using his car for private-hire has offset about 35 percent of his total car costs. But he admits that having a home that’s closer to his office in the Central Business District will make the switch to public transport a viable option. “Having the ability and option to charge a fee for one’s time and energy is something very empowering, but
© TK Kurikawa
© Tang Yan Song
it’s not for everyone. The driver ideally needs absolute conviction in driving ability, judgment, low reaction times, customer service skills, a good dose of patience and humility, and most importantly a continual desire to do better than one’s current state,” he said.
The proliferation of Grab and Uber has also worked in favour of passengers who were formerly car owners and recently surrendered their car upon the expiry of the COE.
No longer do these people have to deal with road conditions and finding a parking space. Booking a privatehire car from the aforementioned companies is a cinch, and it complements the taxis that are already plying the road. “At present, it doesn’t make sense to renew the COE and lose the rebate that comes with the car,” said Damien Lai, who gave up his car in July. “I believe COE prices will fall in future, but for now, I am enjoying the cost savings of public transport and the comfort of the occasional taxi ride. Private cars that I hire come straight to my doorstep, and I don’t have to think about parking charges or bad motorists.”
As Singapore gears itself for a “car-lite” society, it’s crucial to realise that it will not be one that’s completely car-free. Hence, it’s reasonable to see citizens who use a combination of transport modes, including cars, to move around.
P. Maui counts himself as one of them. Citing a lack of shower and locker facilities at his workplace, Maui chooses to load up his bicycle onto his father’s car and cycle home after work ends. “My job requires me to carry a camera and laptop around, so on the occasions that I don’t, I’ll bring my bicycle out and cycle home,” he said.
Bicycles and PMDs, coupled with the increase in bus operators, MRT lines as well as PCNs, may give rise to the day when car ownership in Singapore becomes less of a necessity, as accessibility to any part of the island becomes convenient and cost-effective, no matter the mode of transportation.