Friday, October 30, 2009

Reserved parking in HDB estates

REX said that in some HDB estates, the reserved parking for season tickets apply only from 7 pm to 7 am.
I am not aware about this arrangement. Can someone please confirm that this is the situation and name the HDB estates? For others where the reserved parking is full day, please report also.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hub and spoke system for bus services

I wrote about the hub and spoke system for bus services two years ago. I like to explain this idea again.

The hubs are the bus interchanges where many bus services will bring commuters to other towns. Preferably, these buses should run on express services that have few stops only at major interchange stops. They should run on fixed schedules. The travelling time should be short, as there are few stops to pick or drop passengers.

Each town should have two or three local services to bring commuters to the hubs and the MRT stations. These local services provide the "spokes" to connect the different parts of the town to the "hubs". They should run at frequencies of less than 5 minutes. If the demand is low, they can use small buses. If there is more demand, they can use bigger buses.

The feeder services can be runned by small operators, similar to a taxi service. This will give greater flexibility to change the supply according to demand. Hong Kong is operating this type of system, using light buses that are owned by invidiudal drivers.

The local services are shown in different colors for easy identification. They also have a single digit number. It will be easy for commuters to know which local service to take to a different part of the town. The fares should be fixed at an affordable rate. The road taxes and ERP charges on these local services should be waived or reduced.

This is how a commuter can take public transport. First, the commuter takes a local bus to the hub. Next, the commuter changes to a train or express bus to take to the destination hub. At the final leg, the commuter takes a local bus to the destination.

If the starting point or destination is close to the hub, the commuter can walk instead of taking the local bus. As the waiting time for a local bus is less than 5 minutes and the fare is affordable, the commuter may not mind taking the bus.

I understand that the Land Transport Authority is in favour of the "hub and spoke" approach, but there was so little news about the plans during the past two years. I hope that they can announce their plans earlier, and invite public discussion.

Tan Kin Lian

Unreliable display of bus arrival times

There is a letter in the newspaper about the unreliable display of bus arrival times. This is another example of expensive technology that does not serve its purpose. This electronic display uses GPS and broadcast technology to display the projected arrival times in the display boards, but is subject to traffic conditions, weather (blocking GPS) and system constraints.

I hope that the Land Transport Authority will implement my suggestion of local bus services that run at frequency of less than 5 minutes. There is no need to have a display of bus arrival times.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Inadequate parking for visitors at HDB estates

A few days ago, Today paper printed my letter regarding inadequate parking spaces for visitors at HDB estates, when many spaces are reserved for residents and are unused during the day.

HDB has replied that they have to strike a balance between the needs of residents and visitors. I hope that the person who replies for the HDB are aware of the following:
a) The inadequate spaces for visitors occur in many HDB estates
b) The situation has worsened during the past one or two years due to the expansion in car population
c) It is glaring to see many "reserved spaces" that are underutilised during the day
The HDB reply said that the spaces have to be reserved for residents at night. Surely, they can make the reserved spaces available for vistiors during the day (i.e. before 7 pm) rather than kept underutilised?
I hope that our planners will open up their minds and also visit the parking lots to get a feel of the actual situation.

Tan Kin Lian

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Will smart roads save money?

IBM is giving an award for ideas to improve transportation. Read here.

Electronic display on MRT trains

I noticed that the MRT train now has an electric display near the train doors. It displays the names of the next station and also the door that will be opening. I find this sign to be the most practical approach. It is probably the most economical and useful of all the display systems.

I hope that all the MRT trains will be equipped with this electronic display soon. I suggest that the messages should include Chinese to reach to a large proportion of the population. The Malays and Indians will probably find the English messages to be sufficient.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Automated gates - a waste of money?

The Singapore Immigration invested a lot of money to install the automated gates to check the passports and fingerprints of travellers. For a few months now, it has also employed a security person to check the passport of the traveller passing through these gates.

This is probably a reaction after an incident last year where someone left Singapore on another person's passport. Is it necessary to take this additional measure, i.e. have a person to check the photograph, when the risk is quite small? The automated gate already employed a finger printing checking system.

Does this suggest that the money spend on the infrastructure and the technology of the passport check and automated gages is largely wasted?

A courteous and attentive counter staff

I was waiting at the check-in counter for Valuair in Jakarta airport. This display showed the counter to be ready, but there was no staff a the counter. I waited for nearly half hour until someone came and told us that the check-in have moved to another counter in the next section of the airport.

After completing the check-in procedure, I told the counter staff about the time that I wasted at the original counter. She listened attentively and understood my unhappiness. After a pause, she said, "I will pass your feedback to the airport authority. Thank you for giving this feedback".

This is a rare occasion to have someone who can listen, and is not defensive about a mistake, and is free of stress. The closing remark showed that she is well trained.

Taxi ride to the airport

I took a taxi to bring me to the airport. I asked the taxi driver about his plans for the return trip. He had arranged to pick up another passenger to bring to the airport after my trip.

On other days, he would wait in the queue at the airport for about 1 hour to get a passenger. As there will be a plane arriving at a specific time, there will be passengers who need a taxi.

Both methods seems to be quite inefficient. The taxi driver has to drive 10 km to pick up the next passenger or to wait for 1 hour for another passenger. The wasted time and distance must add to the cost of taxi fares.

What is the solution? Make better use of taxi calling. This will reduce the waiting time and travelling distance. But, the taxi calling charge is now too high and customers are reluctant to call a taxi and pay $2.50 or $4.

In some countres, the taxi calling is free. This will improve efficiency of the taxi service and reduce wastage. This matter needs to be regulated, rather than left to the taxi companies to work out.

Tan Kin Lian

A counter staff who said "yes"

I bought a budget air ticket that does not have any check-in baggage. I am allowed to bring a small carry on bag up the plane.

I asked the counter staff to look at my carry on baggage. Can it be taken up the plane?

She said that there is a weight limit of 10 kg. My bag weighed 11.5 kg. So, it should be disallowed.

She asked, "Do you have a laptop computer?". Yes. She said "Tell the security guard that you have a laptop and he will allow you through".

Wow. This is unexpected. A counter staff who said "yes". This is so rare in Singpore. People are used to saying "no", even when they are in doubt.

Kudo to Jetstar.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kallang Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE)

I have driven along the KPE a few times since it opened a year ago. I find the KPE to be rather underused. There were few cars, and the traffic moved quickly.

KPE is supposed to provide a convenient connection for residents of Sengkang, Punggol and Hougang to bring them to the city and other parts of Singapore. There is a large catchment of residents here. Why are they not using the KPE?

I wonder if it is due to the poor connection to other roads? Or that people are still not familiar with the KPE?

On a few occasions that I used the KPE, I was lost. I took the wrong exits and had a great deal of trouble to find back the right way.

It is so very costly and took a long time to build the KPE. It is rather sad to see it being under-utilised. Its failure to attract more traffic means that the Central Expressway (CTE) continued to be congested.

10 years ago, I wrote to the Minister for Transport to build a second level for the CTE as it was clearly congested at that time. This suggestion was not taken up - presumably as the Ministry had taken the decision to build the KPE. I believe that the second level CTE would be have "cheaper, better and faster" in relieving traffic congestion in Singapore.

But, I may be wrong in declaring that KPE is under-utilised. Perhaps people who use it can share their experience.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Road names and house numbers in America

I like the way that roads are named in America. For example, in New York, the avenues run from North to South and are numbered sequentially. The streets run from East to West and are numbered sequentially.

Even the houses are numbered in blocks of 100 to follow the street. So, a house 1704 will be after 17th street. It is easy for taxi drivers and visitors to find the right house.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wasteful reserving of parking spaces

I visited my brother at his flat in Ang Mo Kio town center. My son, who was driving, went into the multi-story car park to park the car. We went up 11 levels to the roof. There were many empty spaces at the lower levels, but there were marked in red and reserved for season parking by residents. My son said, "This is crazy".

I agree. It seemed rather wasteful to have so many spaces reserved for residents, when they were unoccupied. Visitors had a difficult time to find an empty space to park the car. This situation has become extremely bad recently, due to the large increase in car population. It is difficult to find a parking space in many places all over Singapore.

The situation is very bad in HDB estates, due to the "crazy" and wasteful reserving of spaces for season parking that is not used in the daytime.

Confusing road names in Singapore

Dear Mr. Tan,
I have decided the Land Transport Authority must have a secret agenda of thwarting criminals. The road design in Singapore makes a quick getaway, or getting anywhere for that matter, nearly impossible.

As a transplant from the flat grid of Los Angeles, navigating the illogical, too-many-named or too-few-named streets here is maddening. What genius decided one neighborhood should have Springleaf Rd, Springleaf Ave, Springleaf Heights, Springleaf Gardens, Springleaf Drive and Springleaf Link?

When your friend says he lives on Springleafe Ave, you remember Springleaf, not avenue drive or road, it takes you longer to find the correct street than it does to reach the neighborhood. Couldn’t the designer have thought of a few more names?

Never mind that Singapore doesn’t have a Spring anyway, but the Springleaf theme could have been taken further and you could have distinguishable street names like Palm frond, Pandan leaf, etc.

Okay, so maybe some developer who never studied urban planning really liked the name Springleaf, and he doesn’t know the difference between an avenue (should have trees on either side), a road or a lane (narrow, lacking a median or shoulder).

But numbered streets should be straightforward, right? Wrong! Firstly the streets aren’t straight, secondly, there is no apparent order: 1 is not followed by 2, and so on. Ang Mo Kio Ave 1 crosses Ang Mo Kio Ave 3, 4, 5 and 6. It is a total maze.

Not only are there too few names, there are too many names too, for the same road! Balestier turns into Lavender which turns into Crawford. Kallang turns into Victoria which turns into Hill St. and the list goes on.

If there is any logic to the road design in Singapore, it is a perverse logic. Which is why I think the aim must be to prevent people from getting around easily.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Cash card for ERP

I wanted to top up my cash card for ERP. I went to 4 places and made 6 attempts to top up the cash card at DBS, POSB and ATS terminals. I got the mssage, "transaction failed".

I called my relationship manager at DBS. He suspected that my cash card was faulty. If this was the case, the ATM machine should give the correct reason, and not mislead me with the wrong reason.

I went to the Cheers outlet at the MRT station to buy a cash card. Sorry, out of stock.

Wow. It is such a hassle to top up the cash card. If I get fined for not paying ERP, it will make me explode!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Speed of automated car

I am visiting Paris to see an automated car that runs on electricity. There is no driver. The car uses GPS to find its position and has a computer to control the direction of the vehicle. There is a sensor to stop the car if there is obstruction ahead.

Recently, I have been observing my car to see the ideal speed of this automated vehicle. I found that a speed of 50 kph is acceptable and quite safe.

The automated car can be safer than a car driver by a human driver, as there is less human error.

I shall be checking if the car can be used in congested roads and if it can detect red light and stop the car at a traffic light. If the light turns green, it should start the car.

I shall also check how the car handles a change of lane, and if it is dangerous to cut into another lane with a car behind.

Interest in Driver-less Taxis

An Indonesian student studying in Singapore read my blog posting about the driverless taxi and expressed interest to know more about it.

She said that the public transport system in Jakarta needs to be improved. Some commuters are worried about taking taxis due to security. They would love to have a driver-less taxi, if this is possible through technology.

I planned to visit Paris in November to study the driver-less electric vehicle that is being developed and tested in a few cities in Europe.

I believe that this system can operate as follows:

a) provide local transport within a distance of 3 km
b) bring commuters to the train station, bus terminus, or shopping mall
c) can be called by SMS
d) operate on green energy, i.e. electricity
e) be on call most of the time; reduce need for parking space
f) can be cheaper than taxi, as there is no need to pay the driver
g) can be safer than a human driver

I hope that this type of vehicle and driver-less taxi service can be implemented in Singapore to provide local transport. The current taxis can continue to provide long distance transport.

Tan Kin Lian

Monday, October 5, 2009

Efficient train system in Europe

I have to visit Paris for a short business visit. I decided to spend a few days in London to visit a friend.

For the day visit to Paris, I have the following options:
a) normal flight
b) budget flight
c) train

My friend advised that the train is the best option. It takes 2 hours to travel by train from London to Paris (less than the time required to pass through security at the airports). The fare is lower by train, e.g. a return ticket can be bought for SGD 160. There are many train services every day.

I hope that Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand can develop an efficient and fast train service to connect the cities, to encourage tourism and travel among the people.

Tan Kin Lian

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Re-structure of Taxi Service

I suggest the taxi service be restructured as follows:

a) Standard service - managed by LTA. Taxis offering standard service can pick passengers at taxi stands. Standard flag down rate, distance rate and peak period surcharge. Booking of taxis through a common call center controlled by LTA but outsourced to a service provider.

b)Local service - managed by LTA. Taxis can operate within a specific town. For short distance travel.

c) Premium service - managed by each individual company. Customers call their call center of the individual company to book for a taxi. The rates and conditions will be determined by each company.

LTA can change the terms of the standard service depending on the market demand and supply. If the rates are too low, there will be less taxis available and longer waiting time. If the rates are too high, there will be less customers and taxis have to wait (or they can rely on their taxi company's premium service.

This is market sensitive and helps to promote a free market for the standard and premium service. The premium service has to compete with the standard service to attract its customers. Competition works best when there is clarity in the market on the terms of service.

Tan Kin Lian

Give your views in this survey.

Advertisements and public transport

I dislike the painting of buses, taxis and trains for advertisements. These vehicles should have a uniform colour for easy identification by the commuters. When they are painted, they are no longer uniform and may be confused with private vehicles.

Similarly, there are too many advertisements in some train stations, especially those in the city area. These advertisements obscure the information needed by commuters for the next stage of their travel. At the exit in Republic Plaza, I had difficulty finding the direction and staircase to the escalator as there were so many food outlets, with their advertisements, that clutter the "exit" sign.

The Land Transport Authority officers should inspect the stations and make sure that there is a standard of clarity in the direction signs for commuters. They cannot leave these matters to the operators who are more focused on their profits.

Some commuters believe that when the operators make more money from advertisements, they will keep the fare low. From my observation, these are separate issues. The fares are based on several factors, excluding advertising revenue.

It is all right for advertisements to be placed in the inside of trains and buses or on the back panel of buses, but the amount of advertising space used should be limited and should not from the primary purpose of the vehicle or stations.

This will leave the advertising for other media, such as the mainstream media and the outdoor signs.

Tan Kin Lian

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Train from London to Paris

I wanted to travel from London to Paris for a day visit to meet with a research institution.

I searched Google for "London Paris train". I got a few links that brought me to the booking page for Euro Rail. It is impressive and easy to use.