The ERP System

June 20, 2008

Here comes the depressing news. With effect from 07/07/2008, the Land Transport Authority (LTA), in conjunction with the Singapore government, is attempting to further burn deeper holes out of the pockets of local motorists. Escalating fuel costs aside, motorists now have to contend with both higher ERP rates AND new ERP gantries around the city centre.

For the benefit of Singaporeans who have been living in a slumber, as well as for our overseas counterparts who may find it bewildering why complaints about Singapore’s road and transportation system have been rife lately, the ERP stands out Electronic Road Pricing, designed to keep Extremely Rude People who road-hogs off the roads so as to regulate traffic during peak hours.

Sounds good? Perhaps, but the question remains whether the ERP is actually suffice in fulfilling its role in controlling traffic. Statistics from the Straits Times have shown that average speeds along North Bridge Road and South Bridge Road have dropped from about 25km/h in 2002 to 19km/h last month during peak hours of 6pm to 8pm.

So, will the latest review of ERP rates actually work?

Considering the fact that Singaporeans (as well as many people around the world) suffer from this innate disorder known otherwise as the complain-about-new-system-yet-still-revert-to-the-old-ways-because-it’s-after-all-the-way-of-life-so-what-if-it’s-pricier syndrome (for a case in point, look at the nil impact on passenger frequency despite the hike in taxi fares a few months ago), this will probably end up a red herring.

In addition, this does not seem to go along well with the government’s efforts to promote healthier family lifestyles. Picture a car owner (with a family) who drives to work. In a bid to escape ERP charges, said car owner decides to work overtime (earning more money simultaneously) and settle his dinner in the vicnity, before driving home after the ERP operations cease at 8pm. As if this shall go a long way in boosting the floundering birth rates of the nation. Of course, said car owner may decide to leave his vehicle in the car park and use the public transport instead, but he’ll end up having to squeeze his way home on the MRT. Despite the LTA’s promised increase in frequency of the trains, they’re still as packed as sardines during peak hours. So why forego the comfort of one’s own car for public transport if one can still afford it?

Nonetheless, all the ERP brouhaha has resulted in several pictorial spoofs attempting to make a mockery of the entire system:

Singapore 2010 - An ERP Spoof

Image credited to www.phuakahkengthomas.blogspot.com/

Transport in Singapore

February 10, 2008

In recent months, much has been said about the (increasingly deplorable state of) transport systems in Singapore, as compared to previous years. Also, there has been a lot of talk on what we can look forward to in the future.

Firstly, an increased number of ERP gantries (some of which are being placed at ridiculous locations such as in the Toa Payoh heartlands – notice how the authorities are somewhat evading the touchy topic by giving extremely non-commital replies to complaints about the issue. Replies such as “This is a necessary measure so as to curb the rise in…” tell the public nothing at all – instead they should focus on the “How” of the issue and dwell more in depth as to how residents will not be shortchanged.

Secondly, higher ERP rates, especially during peak hours, so as to reduce congestion on the roads and to coerce more people into utilising public transport and to leave their well-groomed trusty vehicles behind in their own car parks, failing to acknowledge the fact that this will eventually lead to more congestion on public transport itself. (But of course, people are obsessed with the age-old antediluvian idea that Singapore has a ‘world-class public transport system’ to acknowledge the flaws which have started to show up.. No wonder, while I find that the recent MRT disruption was handled properly on the ground, what with the numerous shuttle buses catered to shuttle affected passengers, people were nonetheless left bewildered as to what the entire issue was until they managed to catch the news on television that night)

Thirdly,  the LTA is in the midst of testing and developing a world-first GPS-based ERP system, which charges commuters based on how much they “contribute” to congestion on the roads in ERP-activated areas (factors include the length of time spent on the roads as opposed to being parked in some carpark somewhere within the CBD), tentatively slated to be up by 2010. This would mean that the flat rate system currently adopted will be abolished.

Next, the government has announced plans to accelerate the expansion plans of the MRT, which is definitely a good thing as it will cut travel time around the region. (Of course, the downside is that with all the costs in maintaining a larger network of MRT lines, we are bound to be faced with a further hike in MRT fees?)

The following shows an artist’s impression of the future MRT-LRT network. (Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_Rapid_Transit_(Singapore))

Future MRT-LRT Network
* Click to enlarge

Meanwhile, SMRT and SBS will be implementing measures to ease congestion on public transportation, through measures such as increasing the frequency of trains, especially during peak hours (a move which SMRT has announced was to take place on 4 Feb 08), as well as revising the frequency of buses on the roads (which is an irony all by itself as wouldn’t more buses, while it means good news for the commuters as it eases congestion on the buses itself, add on to the congestion on the roads?).

Mr Brown recently posted an article on his blog www.mrbrown.com, titled “There is a reason that MRT train feels less frequent and more crowded…”, which is worth reading.

My personal opinion? The SMART announcement which SMRT made regarding the increment of train services on 4 Feb 08 doesn’t seem to have made any difference. Prior to 4 Feb, at least on the East-West Line, the waiting time for trains for peak hours is about 2-3 minutes, while it is 7 minutes for off-peak hours. Even after 4 Feb, there isn’t any improvement made to the waiting period for trains, while trains are as crowded as usual during peak hours.

SBS and SMRT personnel (especially those ‘with rank’) allege that they understand the actual situation on the ground, using some statistics they gather from who-knows-where, to boost up their claims to make them sound more credible (or laughable,. you decide). But I doubt they actually have even a pea-sized inkling of how the situation actually is, on the ground, and how horrible travelling on public transport has become, in comparison to the past.

You know what? I think they themselves do not travel on the public transport they govern, driving their own flashy cars to work.

PS: If anybody of importance is reading this, I would like to make an appeal to increase the frequency of bus service 518, especially during peak hours on weekdays and weekends. It is exceptionally frustrating when the company charges so much, since it is after all, an express service, but people on the bus are packed like sardines most of the time. Whatever happened to travelling in comfort?

*Written by aR