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Public Transport Policy in Singapore (a long view)


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Presented by Paul Barter at the 3rd International Public Transportation Forum, 3 Sept 2013, Seoul, Korea.

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Public Transport Policy in Singapore (a long view)

  1. 1. Public Transport Policy in Singapore Paul Barter Director, Reinventing Transport and Adjunct Professor, LKY School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
  2. 2. Summary Transit-oriented planning Constraint of cars Bus improvements history Urban rail Public transport integration efforts Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  3. 3. POLICY CONTEXT: TRANSITORIENTED PLANNING 3 Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  4. 4. Forty years of transit-oriented strategic planning Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  5. 5. The transit-oriented plan predated mass transit A 1969-71 planning process resulted in the highly transitoriented 1971 Concept Plan 1971 Dense New Towns along major corridors and a strong city centre But final decision on MRT only in the early 1980s after a debate 1991 Arguably, MRT became essential because of the Concept Plan 2001 Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  6. 6. POLICY CONTEXT: TDM AND CONSTRAINT OF CARS 6 Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  7. 7. Singapore has had a tough TDM ‘bargain’ that faced up to the spatial constraints Since 1974, strict • to keep the arteries moving for commerce policies to slow car ownership • cars remain out of reach of ~60% of households and traffic growth In return for this ‘sacrifice’ (either expensive car or no car) Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport • speed and convenience for motorists • improving public transport
  8. 8. Usage-based tools played a role: ALS then ERP Parking restraint (for a time) But ownership restraint has been more significant ARF, excise duty and road tax Parking unbundled in HDB Archives and Oral History Department Singapore ALS = Area Licence Scheme (manual cordon pricing system) Fuel tax Vehicle Quota System (VQS) ERP = Electronic Road Pricing (congestion charging with variable prices) ARF = additional Registration Fee (currently 100% of cost of car) HDB = public housing Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  9. 9. Strict constraint of car ownership and pricing of usage predate mass transit by 12 years Late 1960s: congestion; unreliable buses; pirate taxis; rapidly rising car ownership 1972: vehicle purchase & ownership taxes raised motorisation drastically slowed major bus improvements (govt. intervention) 1974: Manual cordon pricing + bus lane network debate over MRT versus bus 1980s: Further tax hikes; Expressway network very small until mid 1980s Very high bus ridership; MRT opens 1987 Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  10. 10. Slowed traffic growth had many benefits Revenue Road space to allocate to alternatives Time to gradually improve infrastructure without traffic crisis Less urgency on road capacity (just one short section of expressway in Singapore until 1980s) Retain and grow the market for buses and metro Political power of motorists limited and delayed Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  11. 11. But troubling side-effects of car constraint too Sunk cost effect for motorists Some tendency to take public transport customers for granted Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  12. 12. BUS IMPROVEMENTS 1970S - 1990S 12 Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  13. 13. Bus Regulation in Singapore Singapore’s bus system has always been privately owned and has been shifting slowly (step-by-step) to the left on this diagram Bus regulatory options (diagram by Paul Barter) Government takes little responsibility for outcomes Government takes much responsibility for outcomes Public monopolies Proactive planning with service contracts Wellregulated Franchises Passive Deregulation franchises Compatible with ambitious integration Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport Competition for the market possible Incompatible with integration Competition in the market
  14. 14. Singapore’s buses pre 1935 Singapore Traction Company (STC) – private but initially with monopoly in urban core (trams until 1926 then trolley buses and diesel buses until bankruptcy in 1971) ‘Mosquito buses’ (1910 or so to 1935) - 7-passenger vehicles - little or no regulation until mergers in 1935 into 10 ‘Chinese’ bus companies - initially served rural areas beyond STC domain Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport Source: Archives and Oral History Department Singapore
  15. 15. Singapore’s buses 1935 - 1973 Ten ‘Chinese’ companies (1935-1970) – route monopolies with fare regulation but weak and little-enforced service obligations (“passive franchises”) Pirate taxis (especially in 1960s and 70s) - illegal, unregulated; - cherry-picking opportunity due to poor bus service, which further undermined it Three consortia (1970-1973) - merged Chinese bus companies, still under “passive franchise” arrangements (and STC went bust) Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport A Changi Bus Company Limited bus. Image credit: Yeo Hong Eng (via
  16. 16. Singapore’s buses 1973 - 2008 1973 - : SBS regulated bus monopoly 1982 - : SBS and TIBS (now SMRT) – monopolies serving distinct regions – regulated by Government (by quasiindependent Public Transport Council since 1987) • Fare regulation (balanced) • Quality of Service Standards • PTC approved route change requests Successful approach for almost 4 decades but now reaching its limits? Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  17. 17. Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport On-road priority efforts Singapore has both all-day (as here) and peak-only bus lanes Kerb-side bus lanes since 1974 All-day bus lanes (7.30am-8pm) since 2005 Now 23km of full-day bus lanes and 155km of normal bus lanes Image credit: Flickr user Merlijn Hoek Since 2008: Give way to buses exiting bus bays (extending gradually to more and more bus bays) Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport Image credit:
  18. 18. Image source: Wikimedia Commons user Vsion URBAN RAIL: MRT SINCE 1987 18 Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  19. 19. Singapore urban rail The initial MRT system opened in 1987. This is the 1989-1996 system. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Calvin Teo Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  20. 20. Singapore urban rail MRT system (and “LRT”) today and near future Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport Originally from
  21. 21. Singapore’s funding of public transport (oversimplifying a little) MRT investment from taxation general revenue (but large % of land is state-owned so significant land value increment captured presumably) MRT operations from fares (This is also a criterion for construction decisions. But there has been a recent shift: now achieving operating cost-recovery for the whole network is the test.) Bus investment AND operations from fares (so arguably bus system is underfunded relative to rail. However, recent overcrowding in both rail and bus has prompted a “one off” injection of S$1.1billion) Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  22. 22. Urban Rail proposed for 2030 Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  24. 24. ‘Connective’ versus ‘Direct’ Public Transport Networks • More frequent with SAME resources (in this example, 3 high-frequency lines versus 9 low-frequency lines) The Connective Network achieves Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport • Connections are a feature not a bug • Lower total travel time, despite connections! • Simpler network: easily understood and remembered Based on a diagram in the excellent book, “Human Transit” by Jarrett Walker
  25. 25. Strong Integration Efforts Bus interchanges co-located with MRT stations (gradually improved) Tampines: a significant walk between bus interchange and MRT Ticketing (stored value) and information integration (from 1989 via TransitLink joint venture) Transfer rebate (initially S$0.25 then transfer penalty eliminated in 2010) Covered walkways from bus stops to MRT stations and such like Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport Woodlands: bus interchange directly below MRT station (Image credit: Flickr user xcode)
  26. 26. Remaining integration shortcomings Operators’ reluctant to offer information on rival’s services (now partially rectified by LTA) TransitLink progress stalled No system-wide season passes until recently (and still limited) Long bus headways and poor busstop locations make bus-bus transfers unattractive Lack of readable bus maps Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport Singapore’s bus network is complex Difficult to convey connections on a map But difficult to improve further with this regulatory approach
  27. 27. Bus headways need to be shorter Simpler network enables shorter headways! Short headways make transfers less painful Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport Simpler, connective network Waiting time is huge influence on passenger trip speed Connective network forces more transfers
  28. 28. Singapore’s buses since 2008 and looking ahead 2007 review was critical of half-hearted integration Elimination of transfer penalty LTA took over bus line planning Towards competitive tendering? Moving to the left on the diagram above (in order to more easily enable ambitious integration and a connective network approach) … but how far will Singapore go and how fast? Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  29. 29. Connective networks for buses too? “Competently designed transit networks often consist of trunk lines with frequent service and separate feeders, even when both sections are served by buses…” Vukan Vuchic, Transportation for Livable Cities, 1999, p. 210 Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  30. 30. A major intersection in Hamburg’s suburbs Bus stop 1 Bus stop 2 (Kollau Strasse and Vogt Wells Strasse) Bus stop 3 Bus stops close to intersection Easy to make bus-bus connections here Bus stop 4 Bus stop 2 Bus stop 1 Bus stop 3 30 Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  31. 31. Singapore bus stops far from intersections Without bus stops close to corners it is difficult to create a grid of bus lines 31 Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport
  32. 32. Towards a London/Scandinavian/Seoul model for Singapore? This is my preferred option but time will tell Government agency plans bus lines and schedules High level of ‘system unity’ (connective network aim) Government takes revenue risk (gross-cost contracts with performance incentives) Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport London. Photo by David Hawgood and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
  33. 33. Why is public transport regulatory reform important for Singapore? Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport I advocate a shift to a London/Scandinavian model
  34. 34. Overview of Singapore public transport improvements 1970s and since 1980s and since 1990s and since 2000s and since • • • • Transit-oriented Concept Plan 1971 Bus consolidation (SBS) 1973 Professional management for SBS 1973 Bus lane network 1974 • MRT opens 1987 then expands • Efficient bus franchise system is consolidated (two operators for benchmarking) • Strong integration efforts circa 1995 (eg common ticketing) • Bus service standards raised • North East Line MRT • • • • New bus priority initiatives Circle line and further rapid MRT expansion underway Distance fares (eliminating transfer penalty) Land Transport Authority (LTA) takes over bus line planning from operators Paul Barter, Reinventing Transport