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Fresh ideas on easing urban transport

18 April 2013

To ease congestion on roads and public transport, new approaches and policies are required to address urban mobility issues

Photo: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings

Assoc Prof Chin (left) and Adjunct Assoc Prof Barter during the seminar

Commuters who travel on congested roads or crowded transportation may get some relief if fresh ideas to ease such crush come to pass. Addressing the issues of sustainable urban mobility and transport policy, four academic and industry experts shared their insights during a seminar organised by the Social Science and Policy (SSP) Cluster and the Singapore Centre for Applied and Policy Economics at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) on 15 April.

To manage commuters' experience on public transport, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and bus utilisation could be optimised with 5 persons per square metre, suggested Associate Professor Anthony Chin of NUS' Department of Economics. In order to optimise transport infrastructure, there could be car-free zones, lesser parking spaces and subsidies removed for car park space to discourage car ownership.

Agreeing, Adjunct Associate Professor Paul Barter of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS, said that parking reform is needed. Currently, there are minimum parking requirements and unresponsive parking pricing. As an alternative to car ownership, he proposed the idea of "mobility mixes" which include a connective public transport system coupled with a good bicycle infrastructure and taxis.

Telecommuting can also be a means to alleviate the movement of people from one point to another. Assoc Prof Chin opined that working professionals can be offered the choice to work from home. However, this will need an institutional change with regards to work time and attitudes on telecommuting.

Offering an international perspective was Mr Adrien Moulin, Regional Manager of the UITP Centre for Transport Excellence. He gave examples of novel ways that countries in Europe and Asia adopt in tackling transport issues. For instance, in downtown Seoul, Korea, a freeway was converted to restore a river which now provides a conducive and green gathering space to residents. To accommodate the drivers who used the freeway, the city built its first Bus Rapid Transit Line as an alternative means of travel.

The fourth panellist, Adjunct Associate Professor Menon A P Gopinath from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, presented his views from a transportation engineering angle.

During the engaging Question and Answer session, participants raised issues which included ways to incentivise operators and service providers to meet commuters' demands, and the idea of a shared street for the various modes of transport to gain traction.