Bumper to Bumper: How Singapore Is Combating Traffic Jams

The problem of traffic in Singapore has been a subject of heated discussion among drivers and lawmakers for more than 40 years. The problem was first widely addressed in 1975 when traffic shut local traffic at peak times to such a crawl, commuters were only averaging about 12 miles per hour, even on multi-lane highways.

A Complex Problem

Singapore is a relatively small island city-state with a population density equal to about 180 times that of anywhere in the United States. Such a dense population coupled with the need to maintain productive lives has made the problem worse over time.

One drastic, yet ineffective stop-gap solution came in 2017 when the local government placed a cap on the number of cars on Singapore roads. This measure impacted the sale of new vehicles as well as the already exorbitant fees associated with buying and owning a car there. Even with these measures firmly in place, traffic issues persist.

Local government is now looking at a few more information-age solutions to the problem with the following three topping the list of ways Singapore’s traffic issues, while not being solved, are likely to become better-managed and alleviate some of the crippling congestion on its roads.

Public Transportation

In 2018, Singapore launched an experimental on-demand public bus service that utilizes technology similar to ride share apps like Uber. The app allows riders to digitally hail a bus to designated pickup areas. They can also request drop-offs or find convenient transfer options.

Ironically, the upsurge of ride-share services has not only lessened the problem, but it has also actually made it worse, and, in some ways, more dangerous to get around in Singapore. Drivers rushing to meet fares, taking risks, and breaking traffic laws all prompted the government to come up with a counter solution.

This new public transport model is showing early signs of success where it is being implemented. In fact, tests involving similar systems and technologies have been implemented in parts of New York City and Chicago. It isn’t a fool-proof solution as cities like Helsinki can attest. The same basic model actually wreaked more havoc on the city’s public transport system than it helped with traffic congestion. The lesson learned by that particular experiment is that different implementations are necessary for different markets to ensure success.

Economic Solutions

Singapore has also implemented some drastic economic solutions to its traffic nightmare. To many, these measures amount to financially-crippling fees, not the least of which is a dramatic increase in the imposed Certificate of Entitlement (COE) fee associated with a new car purchase. In 2011, a COE cost the buyer just shy of $4000 USD. Today, that number has skyrocketed to a virtually untouchable $70,000 USD or more.

The real reason for the increase is the auction-style sale of COEs implemented by the Singapore Land Transportation Authority. Under current conditions, only the super-rich can even afford to think about buying a new car.

A less aggressive solution involves variable toll rates on some Singapore roads during peak times. Just like surge pricing on ride-share services, drivers in Singapore pay premium toll rates for using certain roads at certain times. This measure is in addition to the exorbitant COE rates and other taxes and duties levied on people who buy and operate vehicles in Singapore.

GPS and AI Solutions

One last way that Singapore is using information age technology to combat traffic is through the use of a more sophisticated, government-backed GPS system. The newer, more advanced systems automatically determine the best routes from one place to another based on traffic density, tolls, and more.

Much more than just a standard GPS device or smartphone app, the system is still in its experimental stages. It involves two-way satellite communication and physical sensors that measure both motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic to determine the best ways to keep traffic flowing in some of the hardest-hit areas in Singapore.

Singapore Traffic in the Future

New technology brings with it the opportunity to experiment with and implement more viable solutions to Singapore’s traffic problems. Only time will tell which one(s) will have significant enough of an impact to provide long-term relief.

Jennifer Lockman graduated from UCLA majoring in Journalism. Now she is a blogger at EssayPro.com. Her expertise includes general education, e-learning, business, writing, and lifestyle. Contact her at LinkedIn.


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