Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cars, Carparks and Parks, a matter of Perspective

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I was reading the news on Rochor Center making way for a new expressway, and wondering about the fate of the 570 families and 190 retailers and eateries who will have to move out of Rochor Centre.


Hands up for those who wish to own one; know someone that fervently chase the monthly COE trends more than trends in global economy; Someone recently recounted to me about a friend's good fortune who actually gained a profit from selling their 2nd hand BMW. Who would have thought cars, which are traditionally a liability can turn in a handsome profit?

Environmental issues aside, I don't know if anyone took a long hard look at the amount of space that cars are occupying in land scarce Singapore. So I decided to see what I can find online.

According to LTA's figures on motor vehicle (MV) population by COE,  we have 945,829 motor vehicles in 2010 ** Assuming 2.5 x 5 m size for each carpark lot, this translates into 8.74 sq km of usable land area that stationary motor vehicles occupy.
What's 8.74 sq km to you?
To put things in perspective, Singapore's total land area is 694 sq km, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) occupies only 0.2% of our country's total area or 1.63 sq km, but it is amazingly rich in biodiversity with about 40% of the nation's flora and fauna.
BTNR together with Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) covers an area of approximately 30.43 sq km, according to National Parks Board. #

Maybe the idea that we have enough motor vehicles to cover 28% of CCNR isn’t shocking enough.
Singapore has a road system covering 3,356 kilometres which includes 161 kilometres of expressways according to Wikipedia.
Assuming the roads are single lane dual carriageways the width of 2.5m, and 3 lanes dual directional expressway, we have about 16 sq km in roads and 2.4 sq km in expressways. The new 21.5 km NSE that will be built at Rochor centre site might possibly occupy only 0.3225 sq km. But it represents a 1.75% increase in overall road area. Construction is planned to start at 2015, and end at 2020. Assuming that we have been growing our roads by 1.75% every 5 years and carparks by 3.18% yearly (average growth rate of MV for past decade), we would have created enough motor vehicle infrastructure that will be bigger than CCNR by 2017( 30.6 sq km ). By 2050, the combined area for carparks would have rivaled CCNR in area!(30.57 sq km)

I have to applaud LTA’s vision to ‘cut peak-hour travelling time by up to 30 per cent’ with the NSE project. But honestly, if I was in a rush for time, I would go public to save time, instead of waiting 9 years for the NSE and suffering 5 years of even more horrendous jams due to construction works. I understand that LTA is under pressure, e.g. they have been receiving “an average of 10 complaints a month from motorists about the Lornie Road jam in recent years.” However, to exhume 5,000 graves (inconveniencing 5,000 families) for the benefit of a vocal 120 (hopefully unique) individuals sounds a tad reactionary. Similarly, I hope that LTA did an excellent cost benefit analysis that fought for saving 30% of peak hour travel time of a group of car drivers of unknown size over the 570 families and 190 retailers.

The aforementioned are only the ones directly affected. You and me? We may not benefit from the time savings (especially since majority of Singaporeans do not drive a car) but we are going to pay for the construction and maintenance through taxes. Furthermore, all of these actions to improve traffic have to take land away from land scarce Singapore. I would hate to see the government regret only when citizens start staging the equivalent of to convert parking lots into temporary public parks. 
We need the outdoors:  local researchers in childhood myopia have advocated outdoor activity to reduce short sightedness.
For your personal health, unless you aim to do your 150 minutes of physical activity a week in a carpark, I think you would agree that parks are more important. I would urge everyone to reevaluate the true cost of smooth traffic, that whether your need to save 20 mins might affect others unfairly.

By the way, two cyclists are hit by a motor vehicle everyday@ and 16 pedal cyclists died in 2010.  Assuming that all the cyclists write to LTA to ask for bicycle lanes, we might have 59.5 complaints every month and some action (that hopefully doesn’t require moving dead people).

# On Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

**source: LTA 2011 motor vehicle population by COE report

 @ Ride of Silence is in honor of those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways.

Transport in Singapore - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

Notes: One might argue that most carparks are multi storey and it's unfair to calculate the area as such. I think my figures are only to be taken as a rough guide till some others improve on it, so I have adopted a KISS approach to the numbers, and I could have doubled the carpark areas, since most people have 2 carparks (home and workplace)
I have collated these numbers from the web, and as everyone knows, the web can be WRONG .. so ...

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