Thursday, July 31, 2008

Planning a journey

If I have to drive to a place that I am not familiar with, I get the journey guide from this website:

I provide my starting point (e.g. my home) and my destination. I can use the address or postal code. Within 5 seconds, the application displays a map showing the route and also the roads to take and the distance.

At the destination, I needed a bigger scale of the map. I was able to change the scale and view the "last mile" road in detail. This is helpful.

I like the fast speed of this website.

PRT proposals for other cities

Visit this website:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Does PRT just duplicate the road system?

Source: ??

Not really. In Seattle there are 1,691 centerline-miles of streets for the city's 78.75 square miles. PRT needs only about 2 miles of mainline guideway to serve a square mile, so a PRT system reaching every square mile would be only 157.5 miles of guideway— less than 10% of the length of the street system. And this means, obviously, that PRT guideway would not go down every street.

I heard this guy say that "we already have PRT, it's called the car." What about that? Cars aren't automated on their own track so as to prevent accidents and avoid congestion. Cars burn gas, PRT vehicles are electric. But the fundamental difference is that PRT vehicles are used and reused by different people 24/7. When you're not using your car, it sits idle in your driveway or in a parking garage.

If PRT is Personal, how much will buying a pod cost me? PRT is Personal, but that does not mean "privately owned." Rather, Personal refers to "PERSONALizing" the level of service—the individual, or small group of people traveling together. This basic assumption leads to the appropriateness of demand-responsive service, small stations and vehicles, and low-profile guideways with small spatial footprints.

But how can PRT replace cars if the rail doesn't go to your house? PRT is not a panacea; the goal is not to replace the car. PRT has been designed to be more convenient than buses and trains, and suitable for more kinds of travel. Think about what kind of trips you usually take by bus or train: it's usually the rush hour commute, just you and maybe a briefcase, to and from work. And maybe you even have to transfer along the way, or drive a car to a park-and-ride lot.

Under PRT, every location in the service area would be within easy walking distance of a station— access would just be a quick walk down the street. So in addition to your commute, it would be just as easy to take PRT to the movies, restaurants or events, anywhere in town (—that is, attracting a larger variety of journey types). This would reduce the number of occasions when people would need to drive.

PRT could even be used as a convenient way to reach light rail and intercity rail stations—helping the overall transit network function better.

Masdar in Abu Dhabi - World First Car Free City

WWF and Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Initiative unveil plan for world’s first carbon-neutral, waste-free, car-free city“Masdar City” to be flagship of WWF One Planet Living Programme

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cities trying out Personal Rapid Transit systems

In 2008 construction of the first modern PRT system will be completed at London's Heathrow Airport; it will start carrying members of the public in 2009 after testing is completed. POSCO, the South Korean steel company, is testing a PRT system in Sweden. A second PRT test program is starting in Sweden, and sophisticated new concepts are being developed in Poland, Finland, and South Korea. Masdar, on track to become the world's first "green city," is planning a city-wide PRT system.

Today's leading PRT designs utilize a combination of commonplace, straightforward engineering, and off-the-shelf components. It is only a matter of time until it will be proven to the satisfaction of U.S. decisionmakers who are intrigued by PRT, but see political risks to being the first to try it.

Personal Automated Transport

Read more about this new system here:

Transport using electricity

With the high cost of petrol, many car manufacturers are looking at a new mode of transport using electric driven cars.

Some town planners are re-looking at using rail based systems for public transport, such as the MRT, LRT and trams.

There is a system called the PAT (personal automated transport). The vehicle carries 4 to 5 people and does not have a driver. It runs on rails and the route is controlled by a computer system. It operates like a taxi without a driver.

This type of system is being tested in some cities.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

GPS Navigation System

I have a GPS Navigation system in my car. It is produced by Packard Bell. I have tried several devisces previously. I found the Packard Bell to be quite easy to use. It cost less than $500.

I use the navigation system all the time, including driving to my home. Although I know the way, I may overlook to take the right time due to lack of attention. The voice prompt will remind me.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Design of Expressways

A friend made this observation. The traffic along East Coast Parkway (ECP) was quite smooth. The traffic along the Central Expressway (CTE) was congested. Why?

ECP started at Changi Airport with fewer lanes. As it moved towards the city, additional lanes are added when the slip roads join the ECP. From three lanes, it became four lanes and five lanes. When the slip road takes traffic away from the ECP, the number of lanes reduced.

CTE was not designed in a similar way. He said, "We did not learn the lesson from the success of ECP". The number of lanes along CTE did not change in a similar fashion.

I do not know if his observation is correct. But it is a point worth exploring!

Double length buses

SMRT operates some services using double length buses. They occupy the space of two buses and crowds out other bus services at the bus stops. With double capacity, the bus can take more passengers. This means fewer buses to serve a certain demand, and double the waiting time for a bus. These buses are more unweildy and may cause traffic accidents.

I suggest that SMRT should use these buses for an express service with few stops. They should use the regular size bus for their normal services, which are expected to pick up passengers at many stops.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Expensive taxis

I took a taxi from Yio Chu Kang to Bugis in the morning and from Bugis to Changi Airport in the evening. Each trip cost me about $15, inclusive of the peak hour surcharge. A similar trip by train would have cost about $1.50. It is expensive to take a taxi, as it cost 10 times of the train.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Infrequent trains

I waited for the MRT at Bugis station at 7.50 pm (after the rush hour). The train was packed and some passengers could not board it. The next train arrived 6 minutes later. I changed train at City Hall station. The trains were at 5 minutes interval and were packed on most of the way.

MRT should have scheduled the train at intervals of 4 minutes during the off-peak hours to give passengers a more comfortable ride, instead of packing the train for most of the journey.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Unnecessary commuting

My friend lives in Woodlands and works at Changi Airport. Another friend lives in Redhill and works in Senoko (near Woodlands). Each person has to spend two hours each day, using their private cars, to commute to office and return home.

How wasteful! How much petrol is used each day? Surely, it is better to encourage them to live near their place of work and reduce the commuting time and cost?

Why don't they? They bought nice HDB flats and do not want to re-locate. If they change their residence, they have to pay up to $20,000 in stamp duty and legal fees. This is the negative aspect of our home ownership strategy.

Reduced commuting in Europe

My friend went on a tour of Europe. The tour guide said that in Europe, most people live within 3 kilometers from their place of work. This reduces the commuting time and cost. It is a more sensible arrangement. There is less need for public transport.

Mini-buses in Hong Kong

Source: Wikipedia

A public light bus is a common public mean of transport in Hong Kong. It mainly serves the area that standard bus lines cannot reach as efficiently. It is also colloqially known as a minibus or a van.

Minibuses carry a maximum of 16 seated passengers; no standing passengers are allowed (although some drivers allow a standing passenger in the stairwell if he or she is about to let off another passenger). Minibuses typically offer a faster and more efficient transportation solution due to their small size, limited carrying capacity, frequency and diverse range of routes, although they are generally slightly more expensive than standard buses. The popularity of public light bus services in Hong Kong is due to the high population densities which are needed to support the extensive network of minibus routes.

A passenger wishing to get on a minibus simply hails the minibus from the street kerb like a taxi. A minibus can generally be hailed down at any point along a route, subject to traffic regulations, although sometimes particular stops are marked out. To alight from a minibus, a passenger customarily calls out to the driver that they wish to get off. The driver then raises his hand to acknowledge him. Tourists are often confused by the calling system, as one must know the route somewhat well to know when to call.

Landmarks, intersecting streets, and even grocery stores such as Wellcome can be used. Some Green minibuses are now equipped with a bell similar to those that are found on the regular buses. Passengers who ride on minibuses equipped with such bells are encouraged to ring the bell if they wish to get off at the next stop. However, calling out to the driver is still the dominant method of letting the driver know that a passenger wishes to get off the minibus.

There are two types of public light minibus, Green minibuses and Red minibuses. Both types have a cream coloured body, the distinguishing feature being the colour of the external roof, and the type of service that the colour denotes. In the past, the minibuses had a band of red or green painted around the body instead of colouring the roof.

Most of the minibus are Toyota Coasters, but a new and environmentally friendly Iveco Daily Green minibus has also been introduced to reduce air pollution. Most of the buses run on Autogas (liquefied petroleum gas or LPG). This type of fuel is not only cheaper, but also reduces emissions. The transport commission is making further efforts to reduce emissions by providing incentives for bus drivers to make the switch to even more efficient electric vehicles.

By 2005, there are 4,350 public light buses in Hong Kong, of which 1,660 are red minibuses (RMBs) and 2,690 are green minibuses (GMBs). The operations of these two types of services are regulated through conditions imposed by the Commissioner for Transport under the passenger service licences (PSLs).

Green minibuses
Green minibuses operate a scheduled service, with fixed routes and fixed fares. There are currently around 250 green public light buses routes with route numbers assigned. The exact fare must be tendered, or payment can be made by Octopus card. On some routes, passengers may pay a portion of the full fare (called section fare) if they are only travelling a section of the route. Sections are usually distinctive physical landmarks, such as crossing a tunnel or a bridge.

Red minibuses
Red minibuses run a non-scheduled service, although many routes may in effect become fixed over time. Red minibuses may operate anywhere where no special prohibitions apply, without control over routes or fares. The operation of red minibuses provides services according to market demand.

In most red minibuses, passengers pay just before they alight, and change for cash payment may be available, or may have a small amount deducted off the amount of change for the inconvenience (of giving change). Only a few red minibuses are equipped to accept payment by Octopus card. Red minibuses’ fares and timetables are not regulated by the Government, and so, may occasionally be more expensive than their Green counterparts.

As routes are not tightly regulated, the flexibility of routes is higher than green minibuses, since drivers may choose the optimum route to travel.

The greatest problem are with fares. As the minibuses do not have fixed fares, routes and timetables, the fluctuations in fares can be quite large. Some routes may reduce their fares to an unreasonable price in order to win more passengers, but when demand increases (e.g. during typhoons, when regulated buses and minibuses services are suspended), they can make increases in fares without limitation.

Another issue is speeding. From late at night to the early morning, in order to make more rounds during their shifts to earn more, drivers may risk speeding. A typically long journey can be dramatically reduced

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Secruity check at Changi Airport

I dislike the security check at Changi Airport. Although I remove my keys, pens, wallets, coins and other metallic devices, the metal detector will always beep. I decided that there is no point in removing these items.

At other airports, the metal detector is set at a more sensible level. It does not beep for the normal things that a passenger will carry.

I hope that our metal detectors at Changi Airport can be set at a more sensible level. I am surprised that this situation has been continued for more than three years, after it was introduced. Surely there must be some feedback from passengers?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Support for Feeder Service

Dear Mr. Tan

I like the suggestion on the feeder service. In the past, back in the 1970s and 1980s, there were this privately operated bus services using small coaches and vans which used to even ply between housing estates and the city. I remember very well that I like to take those small little buses from MacPherson estate to the old National Library at Stamford Road. I really wonder how much it will cost now to travel from Tampines to Tanglin for work.

Before, my only concern was a $0.50 or $1.00 ERP at Stevens Road and the carpark charges at work but now I'm not sure how many gantries I have to pass before reaching work 9 and having to pay an increased carpart rate some more).

Anyway, I'm quite lucky. If I switch to public transport all I have to do is to walk less than 200 metres to a bus stop to take bus to Bedok, cross over (via underground walkway) to the Bedok Interchange and then take No. 7 to Napier Road.

Experience of commuter on our train service

Dear Mr Tan,

I totally agree with you that there is a serious need for our "World Class Transport System" to learn from the "Super Class Transport System" like Hong Kong and London. I have visited cities like many others and made fair observation of how user friendly their transport system can be with living population much larger or area much smaller than Singapore.

Making news about how "great" and "someone else in the World learning from our ERP, town planning, etc", in my opinion, LTA is simply making news about how popular they are but I seriously think that our transport system is a failure.

No.1: There is a totally lack of efforts to encourage commuters to take the public transport. Trains are pack everyday with frequency of 3 min - 5 min per train in the NE Line. Even the fines mted to SMRT does not help. What explaination can the commuters who are late for work that day explain to their bosses? Especially if the new graduate who is going to his first day of work?

No.2: My poor pregnant wife takes MRT to work because the high price ERP to Raffles place will make us poorer. But, no education what so ever has been set by the transport company to educate commuters to give up seats to really those who need it? In Taipei, when the designated seats is for those who need it, no one will even sit on it. What else is in the mind of SMRT, SBS, etc other than thinking of ways to increase cost?

Mr Tan, I hope my long email did not bored you, but I hope that this can be posted to your popular website or blogs so that more readers can share their views and to take neccessary actions than sitting back.


Shy of maps?

I took the train to Toa Payoh station. I wanted to visit a restaurant next to the Toa Payoh library. I search the station for a map or sign to tell me the direction to take to the library. I could not find any useful information.

I made a guess and decided to follow the sign to Toa Payoh Central. I asked a shop attendant, who gave me the direction to the library.

Why is there a lack of maps in Singapore. It seems that the Land Transport Authority does not like maps. They are not willing to display maps at the bus stops. They prefer to use a list of roads.

There is a locality map at the train stations, but it is not helpful. It does not show sufficient detail about the bus services to take to the locations (within 1 km) served by the station.

Many cities have excellent maps to help the locals and tourists to move around. I hope that the maps can be provided in Singapore at our bus stops.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Excellent public transport in Hong Kong

Hi Mr. Tan

I read your article on improving transport system in Singapore ....

I have been living in Hong Kong for almost 4 years and noticed that a few of your recommendations are actually live examples in HK... for eg, the minibuses, trams and express buses.... I must say that the HK transport system is very good.

Of the two offices I used to work in, scheduled buses brought me to work with door-to-door convenience... minibuses gave me short travelling times at a fraction of what a taxi ride would cost. And the express buses are great.... not to mention the cheap trams (at less than 40 SG cents) which give you the ease of hoping on and off along the main arteries in Central....

And there is one more thing that I add... something that wasn't in your articles.... condos here have their own shuttle bus services... they are affordable and provide express transport for residents who live further away the main centres of activities like Central..

My baby is one year old and I decided to move to Lantau for its open spaces and greenery... the distance is long... (I am almost at the HK airport) ...but the shuttle bus brings me to work within 45 mins... when I was living in Mid-levels... it was even better... no more than 30 mins... and if its winter... I could even use the escalator...which is free!

Best signages in Singapore

I consider the signages at Changi Airport to be among the best in Singapore. I find the signages at our train stations to be poor.

I hope that the Land Transport Authority and SMRT will find out the name of the signage consultant used by Changi Airport and get their help to improve the signages at our train stations.

Check in at Airport

I checked in at the airport for flight to Manila. There is a long queue at the check-in counter. The self-service check-in kiosks for Singapore Airlines was under-utilised.


Planners forget that customers have many things to take care of. They are not familiar with the use of self-service kiosks, unless they are regular travellers on the same airline.

It is better to have more staff at the check-in counters to serve customers. By cutting down on service staff, the airline hopes to reduce cost and make more profits. But, they are adding a burden to the customers.

World class transport system

Here are my views, published in the Straits Times Review:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Daily fee (in lieu of ERP charges)

I suggest that taxis should pay a daily fee (in lieu of ERP charges). This allows them to go to places where there is demand for taxis. It will improve the utilisation of taxis and lead to a more efficient system.

If there is a per-entry charge, the taxi drivers are unwilling to enter into the central business district as they may not be able to find a passenger. A "per day" charge will remove this uncertainty.

Does this mean that more taxis will congest the expressways and central business district? I think that this should be all right. I am told that New York City has plenty of taxis and most people do not drive their private cars.

Taxi Booking Fee

A large taxi operators charge $3.50 to book a taxi during prime time (7 to 9.30 am, 5 to 11 pm) and $2.50 during the non-prime time.

Many commuters find these charges to be too expensive. They prefer to flag down a taxi on the road. They will call a taxi, if they are in a hurry, is desperate or on rainy days.

If the taxi operator can reduce the booking fee to $2 (prime time) and $1 (non-prime time), many people will be willing to pay the extra fee for the convenience of having a taxi at their doorstep.

The booking fee can be reduced, by the use of SMS booking. This will bypass the need for a call center to receive the call and match the taxis. Taxi drivers do not have to ply the road to look for a passenger. They can wait under a shaded tree and wait for a SMS to be sent to them, indicating the contact number and location of the passenger.

Such a system is now being developed.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fee to call a taxi

I carried out an online survey to ask respondents on the fee that they are prepared to pay to call a taxi to their pickup point. The results for 37 repondens are:

30% - prefer to call taxi on the road
60% - willing to pay $1 fee
10% - willing to pay $1.50 fee

60% are willing to pay a fee of $1. These are commuters who now flag down a taxi on the road. If the call fee is reduced to $1, many commuters will be willing to pay this fee for the convenience of a taxi arriving at their pickup point (i.e office or home).

If more people call for a taxi, there will be less cruising of taxi looking for passengers, and less diesel consumption.

New Fare Structure

The Ministry of Transport is introducing a new fare structure that is based on distance rather than the number of transfers. On the surface, this looks fairer to commuters who has to make transfers.

I am worried about the high cost of implementing this new system, which will probably be several tens of millions of dollars. This is an added cost that must be borne by the commuters through higher fares. A simpler approach is to give a higher rebate for a transfer. This will not require massive changes to the fare charging equipment on every bus and train station.

In my view, a better approach is to introduce competition in the feeder services. Let small operators provide the feeder services using small buses or passenger vans. With a smaller capacity, the small bus does not have to take a long route and make many stops to pick sufficient passengers. It will reduce the waiting and travelling time and make it more convenient for commuters to travel by public transport. Commuters should not have to wait more than 5 minutes to get into a feeder bus.

The big buses should be relieved from the task of picking up passengers at individual stops. They should be used to provide an express service with fewer stops on the journey. This will reduce the travelling time and lead to a more efficient use of the buses.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Driving instructions

If you have to drive in Singapore, and you need driving instructions to reach your destination, you will find this service to be excellent:

Tram system in Melbourne

My friend lives in Melbourne. He said that there are many trams operating in the city center. It is easy to get into a tram, which comes within 3 to 5 minutes. Many people use the tram to get around the city easily.

It is difficult to drive a car in the city center of Melbourne as the trams have the right of way, and they are "all over the place".

The trams also operate to the suburbs at lower frequency. They keep to a time schedule, so people can plan their journey. Many people find the trams to be more convenient.

The trams operate on electricity. It is more efficient than buses.

I hope that Singapore can have a tram system within the central business district and the housing estates.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Trains in New York City

New York City has a system of local and express trains. The local trains stop at every station. The express trains skip the minor four stations and stop at the major stations. They use the same platform. There are two separate rails for the local and express train.

This system is quite ingenious. A commuter can take the express train, which travel faster due to limited stops until it approaches the destination. The commuter alights from the express train and takes a local train for the last few stops.

This makes the system more efficient. Wonderful New York!

Abundant Taxis in New York

My friend observed that parking charges are expensive in New York - a few times of Singapore's charges. Many people do not drive in New York. They take the train or taxis. Taxis are abundant and easily available.

There is no ERP in New York. If people wish to drive in congested roads, it is their problem. The city Government does not need to impose charges to speed up the traffic flow.

In my view, it is better to have more taxis on the road than private cars. The taxi drivers are familiar with the road. They drop the passenger at the doorstep. There is no need to have a lotof parking space for many private cars.

The transport system can be more efficient, by having more taxis compared to private cars. In Singapore, ERP charges should be waived for taxis. Instead a daily flat fee of say $20 should be imposed on the taxi. This will allow for the taxis to be efficiently used, without the need to bother about paying ERP charges for each entry or collecting the ERP charges separately.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Feeder service

Some commuters said that they do not like to take a feeder service. This is based on their current bad experience with the system now used in Singapore.

A good feeder service system has the following characteristics:

> waiting time less than 5 minutes
> cost lower than the current charge
> brings the commuter to the MRT station or the boarding point of the express bus
> uses a light bus or passenger van
> have more stops at shorter distance
> does not have to make a stop if the bus is full

I hope that this new type of feeder service will be welcomed by commuters. It will make our public transport system to be more efficient. This will reduce cost and travelling time.

Review the taxi calling fee

A letter is printed in the Sunday Times suggesting that the taxi calling fee be waived. This will encourage commuters to call for a taxi. The taxi does not have to cruise around to look for passengers.

I think that the taxi calling fee can be reduced to $1. Many commuters will be willing to pay this fee for a taxi to arrive at the doorstep.

I have seen a automated taxi matching system using SMS. It does not need to have an expensive GPS system to locate an available taxi, or to have people to answer calls at the hotlines.

The SMS system can be operated economically. It is feasible to reduce the taxi calling charge to $1. I hope that some of the taxi companies will use this low cost, efficient system. I also hope that the Land Transport Authority will allow this a third party provider to offer this SMS based system to taxi drivers who wish to use this system.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Bus Interchange

At a large bus interchange, there are many boarding points for different bus services. A commuter taking a feeder bus to the interchange now has to walk a long distance to reach the boarding point for the required bus.

I hope that the feeder bus service will stop at each of the boarding points at the interchange, so that the walk will be shorter.

Give way on the road

Sometimes, as I am not familiar with some roads, I have to switch lane at the last moment. I gave a signal and usually get a loud horn from the car behind in the next lane. The car rushed up to the lane, to prevent me from making the switch. Often, it is a taxi. I hope that our drivers are more considerate and give way to allow the car in front to switch lane, even if it is done at the last minute.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Stressful journey by car

I used my car to attend a meeting which finished at 7 pm. I wish to avoid paying the ERP charges at Orchard Road and the Central Expressway. It was a bad idea. My journey home took one hour and was very stressful in congested traffic. It would have been better to pay the ERP charges and have a faster journey.

Crowded train during off-peak hours

I took a MRT train at 10 p.m. It was certainly off-peak hours. I waited a long time for the train (perhaps close to 10 minutes). The train was packed all the way from City Hall station to Yio Chu Kang station.

I hope that MRT will be more considerate to the commuters, by running more trains during the off-peak hours, so that the waiting time is shorter and that more commuters can have the chance of a seat during the off-peak hours.

They should not be purusing the "cut cost" and "make more profit" to the extent of disregard for the comfort of the commuters.

I hope that the Land Transport Authority and the Public Transport Council will make the public transport operators more considerate towards commuters.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Public transport is top issue

Two months ago, I carried out a survey on the issues that concern Singaporeans, such as:

> wages
> investment yield
> public transport
> health care cost
> and others

The issue that is voted of greatest concern is "public transport". It seems to affect everyone.

Reduce plying on the road by taxis

Taxis have to ply on the road to pick up passengers. This is wasteful. Petrol is costly.

We should encourage people to call for a taxi. The taxi can wait in a side road and wait for a call. To make this feasible, we have to reduce the charge to call a taxi. Most commuters find a booking charge of $2.50 to $4 to be too expensive.

We need a way to reduce the booking charge. Taxi companies now operate a call center to handle the taxi booking. This is expensive.

We have to introduce a new way of handling taxi booking entirely by SMS, without the need for any human intervention. This can reduce the cost of handling the taxi booking. If the charge can be reduced to $1 per call, many people may be willing to book for a taxi.

This will reduce the consumption of petrol - as the taxi does not need to ply the road to look for a passenger.

Hub and spoke for public transport system

We should introduce a hub and spoke system to improve the public transport in Singapore. I wrote this article, which was printed in the Straits Times a few months ago.

Look forward to your views.