The government is getting serious about turning Singapore into a car-lite society with their latest announcement that the car and motorcycle population will henceforth grow at 0%.
Predictably, there’s been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, because the thought of being sentenced to a lifetime of MRT breakdowns is terrifying indeed.
We may not immediately feel the effects of the zero growth policy, but in the long-term COEs are likely to get more expensive, especially if Singapore’s population continues to grow and SMRT doesn’t get its act together.
So how should Singaporeans adapt?
Choose your location carefully when buying a home
Think twice before you start balloting for a unit at every single HDB launch in sight. Committing to a property purchase in a less-than-stellar location—especially one that is not within comfortable walking distance of an MRT station—is a bad idea when you consider the fact that you might never be able to afford a car.
Some Singaporeans make do with poor locations while holding on to the hope that they’ll eventually be able to afford a car when their salaries rise in future, or when they have kids. That might no longer be a possibility for many.
Picking a home in a more accessible location might cost you a six figure sum more. But when you consider that a regular family car costs over $100,000 and add up all the hours you would waste over the years on lengthy and uncomfortable commutes on public transport, spending that extra cash might suddenly seem worth it.
Have contingency plans when the MRT breaks down
Now that you’ve put your car-owning dreams to rest, you’ve got to do your best to survive on public transport, which you might be using for the rest of your life.
The most frustrating thing about MRT breakdowns isn’t even the fact that the MRT has, well, broken down. It’s that there is no way to get away from the MRT station.
Buses are so packed during MRT breakdowns that you almost expect to see people hanging off the roof like they do in villages in India. Taxis are impossible to hail, and surge prices on Grab and Uber are so high you might as well use that money to bid for a COE instead.
The more prepared you are for MRT breakdowns, the less frustrating they’ll be, and the quicker you’ll be able to get home.
For instance, if you have a kick scooter, mini skateboard or other personal mobility device, taking it with you on MRT rides will enable you get as far away from the station as possible after a breakdown so you can try to take a bus or hail a cab away from the massive crowds.
Those with car-owning friends or family members might want to put them on standby and persuade them to come get you in the event of a breakdown, perhaps in exchange for a fee or a meal.
Also, make sure you join the MRT breakdown Facebook group, where you might be able to arrange for a carpool or enquire about alternative routes.
Finally, you want to make sure you have a contingency plan for children who need to be picked up from childcare, meals that need to be cooked at night and so on. Coordinate with the other people in your household or your family members so that life can go on even when you’re trapped for eternity in an MRT carriage.
Will 0% vehicle growth change your life in any way? Share your views in the comments!