TRANSPORT & LOGISTICS | Krisana Gallezo-Estaura, Singapore

Could Singapore have a car-free future?

Singapore government won US$20,000 grant to investigate the issue.

Imagine Singapore as being free from traffic jams and smog a few years from now. Commuters are walking or cycling to much extent while electric bicycles and hydrogen-powered vehicles have become common modes of transportation.

It might sound impossible as of the moment, but the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Singapore will soon be investigating the possibility of a car-free future in the city after the national council won last month an ULI Urban Innovation Grant to rethink the future of urban mobility in the City state. The US$20,000 grant, which was awarded at ULI’s annual Fall meeting, is given to submissions that recognize or launch innovative public/private partnerships and advance the responsible use of land in building healthy, thriving communities worldwide.

ULI Singapore’s submission "Disrupting Mobility - Car Share Singapore: Urban mobility options for future cities” aims to rethink the future of urban mobility. Although Singapore has been a leader in urban transportation mobility, it still devotes significant amount of its limited land and resources to building roads. Roads already account for 12% of the city state’s land area today, only a little under housing, which takes up 14%.

Scott Dunn, Vice President, AECOM Southeast Asia and ULI Singapore Executive Committee Member told SBR that a car-free future in Singapore is possible as it has all the elements that could lead to the first 100% public transportation system. More realistically, Dunn added that the immediate future is probably more around car-sharing, alternative types of engines such as electric, hydrogen-powered and advancement in technology such as autonomous vehicles (cars & trucks) leading to better road safety, efficiency of the road corridors and reduction in carbon output.

“Would this then lead to a completely shared economy around mobility for Singapore? Our study should help lead to an answer,” he noted.

However, Dunn cautioned that while there is the basic need to move people and goods around Singapore in a safe and efficient system, the main challenges to reducing personal car use include government income from COE and import taxes and the current state of the public bus and rail network which would need better coverage and capacity.

Dunn added that challenges related to human behavior for automotive enthusiast meanwhile include the personal freedom of transportation options and the commodified status symbol which a vehicle represent.

Over the next few months and using the downtown Marina Bay development as a model, ULI Singapore will team up with the Center of Livable Cities (CLC) to hold workshops. ULI Singapore members, sector experts and a variety of public and private stakeholder groups will be consulted on the implication of car free neighborhoods, car sharing and autonomous cars on livability in Singapore.

During the workshops issues such as the impact of car-free lifestyles on the urban framework, on livability, on economic viability and real estate outcomes will be addressed. The joint report will be published in July 2016 at ULI’s World City Summit 2016 and shared at the ULI Fall meeting towards the end of the year.

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