Wednesday, 14 December 2011
It does not smell of urine
So yes, I do not own a car, and I do travel by public transportation... this is quite a new experience to me. The time that I did not own a car is but a distant memory.
So let me explain two points:
1. Why do I not own a car
2. Why I use public transportation
(yes I know, this is closely connected)
1. Why do I not own a car
The short answer: it is simply not worth it!!!
First: Singapore has a strict car-bashing policy. There is a limit to the maximum number of cars that are allowed on the Singapore roads. That number is slightly raised every year, but in principle, it is reaching its maximum. In order to own a car, you need to buy a special permission, the Certificate Of Entitlement (COE). The COEs are auctioned, and they are currently very scarce. They went up a factor 4 in the last few years, which is also reflected on second hand cars. Yes, that's right, if you bought a car 3 years ago, you can get much more money for it now!! It is in fact a good investement.
Currently, the COE costs around 68 000 Sing Dollars (around 40 000 Euros). In many countries, this money will buy you a decent BMW, but in Singapore, it buys you a piece of paper that allows you to drive a car for 10 years. After 10 years, the value of this paper will be zero. After having acquired this piece of paper, you will still need to buy the actual car....
Roughly: it will be hard to buy anything with four wheels for under 60 000 Euros. Yet, there is an INCREDIBLE number of Porsches, Ferraris, Mercedes and Lamborghinis on this little island, with its speed limit of 90 km/h. So you will rarely take your Lamborghini beyond the third gear. But as you race from one traffic light to the next (from 0-50km/h in 2,2 sec), I am sure it will feel good and manly that it will take your fellow drivers at least 5 seconds or more to catch up and queue up behind you! The complementary roaring sound of course is priceless.
For those that are not yet scared enough of driving a car in Singapore: there is Electronic Road Pricing! Depending on time and location, a few Euros will be automatically charged anytime you pass certain portals. Privacy concerns are not big in Singapore.
The result: a city where everybody complains about the traffic density, but compared to other 6 million people cities I would say: Singapore is pretty easy to drive around, even at peek hours. I wish Amsterdam traffic could be this smooth (with its 800 000 population)
2 Why I use public transportation
First of all: I live within walking distance of a subway station; this is called MRT here (Mass Rapid Transit). The subway is easy to use, cheap, and one particular feature that I like, something that hits you right away when you enter, is that it does not smell of urine! The fact that you are not allowed to bring food or drinks (300 Euro fine) does not spoil the pleasure.
The arrows on the ground will tell you where to wait before entering, and where the exiting passengers will go (See picture at the top). Even this works.
To complement this, there is a fine web of buses. And after midnight, when the MRT stops, there is the 'Night Rider', buses that will take you home anytime if you want to go bar hopping and clubbing.
And then I have not even mentioned the taxis. Expensive, compared to surrounding countries, but dirt cheap compared to any European country. You can stop them in the street. Or you call from your cell phone, your number is recognized and will give you your home address or work address as menu options. After choosing any of the default addresses or a new pick up point, you will receive an SMS with the license plate number of the taxi, plus the arrival time. I tend to greet them with a jovial 'hello-how-are-you-can-you-please-turn-down-the-airconditioning'.
And that, my friends, is why I do not own a car in Singapore.