Sustainable transport 'needs new thinking'

Sustainable transport 'needs new thinking'
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SINGAPORE - A pay-as-you-drive tax on motorists, flexible work times that get around public transport rush hours and encouragement for car-sharing, walking and cycling.

These were among ideas floated by four experts on Monday at a seminar on sustainable urban transport policies.

A major underlying theme of the debate, held at the National University of Singapore (NUS), was whether the country is devoting too much land and resources to transport.

Panellist Anthony Chin, a transport economist at NUS, questioned land use management as the Republic's economy switches from manufacturing to high-value activities such as research and development.

Roads take up about 12 per cent of Singapore's land area, with a similar amount taken up by housing.

"But if you include the airport and port, the percentage (for transport) is much higher," Prof Chin said.

"Do we need a physical port/airport to be a maritime/aviation cluster in the future?" he asked.

The two currently impinge on space available for other uses, he said, adding that in turn, that would drive up land prices and the cost of doing business and living in Singapore.

He said an area used up by a downtown port could instead be used for high-density mixed development.

Prof Chin also said Singapore should move away from building infrastructure to deal with transport needs at peak times - such as by encouraging working from home or flexible hours.

Professor Paul Barter of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy said some roads here are too wide and carparks too cheap.

While Singapore has a sound policy of restraining car ownership, he said, not enough is being done to make the city more liveable - the ultimate goal of any car-curbing policy.

In fact, quite the opposite has been happening with motorists enjoying relatively high speeds while pedestrians and places take a back seat.