LAND TRANSPORT POLICY AND LAND-USE PLANNING IN SINGAPORE
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LAND TRANSPORT POLICY AND LAND-USE PLANNING INSINGAPORETAI-CHEE WONG aa Division of Geography , Nanyang Technological University , SingaporePublished online: 15 Dec 2010.
To cite this article: TAI-CHEE WONG (1998) LAND TRANSPORT POLICY AND LAND-USE PLANNING IN SINGAPORE, AustralianPlanner, 35:1, 44-48, DOI: 10.1080/07293682.1998.9657808
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07293682.1998.9657808
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TAI-CHEE WONG is a Senior Lecturer in the Division of Geography, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
LAND TRANSPORT POLICY AND LAND-USE PLANNING IN SINGAPORE
'F iscal measures such as Central Area licensing, road pricing or parking controls offer other means by curbing demand. Such
measures are generally restrictive in nature, and they require considerable political resolve for their implementation and effective use ... Singapore's well-entrenched, un$ed government may accept the need for them even though they may be unpopular." (Olszewski & Skeates 1971 p68)
The newly published white paper by the Land Transport Authority of Singapore describes an ambitious transport policy proposal. The policy provides Singapore with a world class transport system through expansion of the road network, better management of road usage and inte- gration of land-use planning and transport policy, the latter in particular designed to promote greater transit usage. The white paper proposals reinforce land transport policy implemented more than two decades ago and concepts of economic and financial sustainability (World Bank 1996; Toh 1969 & Willeke & Simons 1994). Revenue-generating traffic restraint policies which have been effective in financing expensive transport improvement schemes in the past, are also described.
This study examines the origins of the integration of transport and land-use plan- ning. It also evaluates the long term land- use planning intentions of the city-state contained in the Concept Plan revised in 1991 (URA 19911, and its potential prob- lems in matching the objectives of the 1996 white paper's transport policy. Final- ly, the study looks at some practical prob- lems and questions the effectiveness of car restraint policies in a society, at least in the
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short and medium term, where car owner- ship is seen as much as a status symbol as a commuting tool.
Origins of integration of transport and land-use planning
Before 1965, Singapore's land-use planning policy was focused primarily on public health and housing. Planrung objectives were modest, being restricted to urban design and control measures granted to regulate physical development of the island (Bristow 1992; Wardlaw 1971). Having lost a direct hinter- land following a political split from Malaysia in 1965, the newly independent city-state pursued a survival strategy exploiting the world trade network. In the face of high unemployment and political instability, thls survival strategy adopted an 'economic priority model' in which transport was expected to help raise the efficiency of the city-state's economic functions (Burtenshaw, Baternan & Ashworth 1981; Bmton 1992). Typical of t h model was the initial liberal transport policy from 1965 to 1974 which was accommodative to car growth.
Singapore has long had strong seaport services to its hinterlands in the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian archipelago. As seaward trade developed, linlung goods and services from Singapore to other key nodes in Southeast Asia and major devel- oped economies, so too did air transport services. From the small colonial airport at Kallang, Singapore has built up the intema- tionally known Changi airport. At the same time, land transport facilities have had to catch up to match rapid industrial growth and trade development. land transport was
seen as instrumental in attracting multi- national investments and technology by achieving two key objectives. First, it should serve to ensure smooth flow of traf- fic, particularly in the central business IS- trict (CBD), which is adjacent to the sea- port and houses key financial and trade-related services. Second, it should facilitate the commuting of workers from new towns to the CBD and new industrial estates in industrial areas such as Jurong. In a decentralisation process begun in the early 1960s. new towns built by the Hous- ing Development Board have served as new homes to resettled low-income households from the Central Area and its fringes.
The 'economic priority model' was fur- ther reinforced by a study of the Ministry of Finance in 1969 which confirmed road expansion projects as being beneficial to the economy in terms of time and cost sav- ings for vehicle operators, rising land val- ues and through enhancement of user com- fort and convenience. Negative effects were recognised but were seen as less important (Toh 1969).
The Concept Plan and transport planning
The first broad-based land-use plan was prepared by a United Nations Development Program Study in 1971. The team pro- duced a Concept Plan which comprised an island-wide transportation network, based on a 'ring concept'. The aim was to build high density residential areas, industries and urban centres in a ring pattern, con- nected by a high capacity and efficient transportation network. The 'ring develop- ment' encircled the forested Central Catch-
ment Area in the centre of the island which serves as a water conservation and recre- ational zone.
Three objectives were identified for long-term transport planning. They were: a) minimising travel demand with appro- priate land use planning; b) providing a transpon system which supplied adequate services, thereby influencing commuters' choice of travel mode; and c) undertalung administrative measures to restrain private car usage, particularly commuting trips. A 'car-oriented' transport policy was con- ceived by the Concept Plan team as expen- sive, a waste of land, incompatible with basic planning objectives and destructive to the city fabric (Olszewski & Skeates 1971).
Having accepted an island-wide policy framework in 1971 to guide future trans- port development, the Singapore Govern- ment was prepared to implement car restraint measures. Attention was focused on the Central Area, the island's financial core located adjacent to the seaport.
Policy to control car usage and ownership
Led by an export-driven strategy since the late 1960s, the modem manufacturing base expanded and jobs gradually increased in Singapore. Growth brought higher living standards which helped the ruling govern- ment to win political support through votes, a strong jusufication that the economic pri- ority model should continue to dictate the transport policy. However, as living stan- dards rose and the business sector expand- ed, private car ownership also increased substantially. From 1969 to 1973, while annual population growth recorded an aver- age of 1.7%, the average annual growth of private cars was 9.2% (Depament of Statis- tics 1978/79). The Central Area, containing the CBD, saw a drastic increase in traffic flows as a result of the sharp rise in office blocks and urban renewal whch had gener- ated additional traffic demand. By the end of 1973, it was estimated that 28,000 cars daily entered the CBD during the two morning peak hours and strong concern was expressed by the Ministry of Communica- tions at its impact on business (Mincom 1974). Fiscal measures such as increases in import duties, registration fees and taxes on petrol were considered useful restraint mea- sures to car ownership by the Road Trans- port Action Committee, set up in early 1970s. However, it did not serve to regulate traffic flows at congested times in congested arras. The Committee was convinced that an accommodative policy to allow unrestricted
traffic growth would lead to demolition of many buildings in the business district whch was unacceptable (Watson & Holland 1978 p13-22). This fear of heavy but unfea- sible infrastructure expansion called for con- trol measures to ensure the continued smooth flow of vehicular traffic.
Car usage control measures
Staggering of work hours was first seen as a possibility to ease CBD congestion if report- ing time for duty could be stretched from 7.30 am to 10.30 am to achieve a more even traffic flow. But the idea was discour- aged for its adverse effects on work efficien- cy and productivity A strong counter-argu- ment was that staggering could affect 'intra-departmental dependencies' within individual firms, thereby creating disruptive effects contrary to their organisational goals (Mincom 1974). An additional obstacle to staggered work hours was the bad timing in 1974 at the aftermath of the oil crisis which saw rising costs in business operations worldwide. Extended usage of high energy- consuming air-conditioning in tropical Singapore and its accompanying overheads would be significant.
The Area Licensing Scheme (ALS) was introduced in June 1975, operating within a restricted zone and covering about 6 square lulometres, within the Central Area (endnote 1). In 1975, restriction for vehic- ular access began with two restricted hours (7.30 a.m. to 9.30 a.m.). Restrictions applied to all passenger vehicles but excluded goods vehicles, a ruling that matched well with one of the declared objectives of 'minimum disruption in the economic life of Singapore'. From June 1989, however, in light of the rising traffic in the CBD, goods vehicles and motorcy- cles were no longer exempted. In 1994, restriction was extended to a full day (7.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. weekdays).
At the same time that the ALS was introduced in 1975, parking fees were raised in the restricted zone. Increased hourly parking rates were similarly designed to discourage long term parking. Between 1974 and 1977, parking provision was based on zonal standards to comple- ment restrained traffic growth. A deficiency charge, however, continued to be imposed for shortfalls in provision, a reflection of the need to ensure the level of provision seen as essential for regular business opera- tions in the Central Area. Only in Novem- ber 1988 did the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) begin to revise parking standards downwards following a survey
which showed that the vigorous efforts to curb car usage in the CBD had effectively reduced parking demand.
Park-and-ride was another measure introduced to restrict car use. Some 10,000 parking lots were made available in 1975 at the city fringes where shuttle buses would take passengers to the CBD. Initially, the control was believed to have resulted in under-utilisation of roads. A study showed that the number of vehicles entering the restricted zone during the morning peak hours three weeks after introducing the ALS in June 1975 dropped by 45% from 55,310 to 30,270 (Tan 1976). A World Bank survey conducted in November 1975 on car-owning households also showed a decline in commuting by car from 56% to 46% after the implementation of park-and- ride. The park-and-ride scheme, like car pooling, had not however proved to be entirely successful. Many reserved lots were, and are not taken up, even today
Though having advantages such as low- ering shared transportation cost, car pooling has many practical problems, thus attract- ing few car owners. Another measure, the weekend car registration scheme, was intro- duced in the late 1980s to encourage car use only during off-peak hours (before 7.30 a.m. and after 7.30 p.m. weekdays).
The most recent measure, electronic road pricing (ERP), will replace the ALS and weekend car registration when imple- mented in early 1998. This sophisticated traffic management system requires vehi- cles to be fitted with a pre-paid 'in-vehlcle road unit' which will automatically charge motorists according to usage in restricted zones at restricted hours (PWD 1992). Contrary to the ALS, which allows licence holders to enter the restricted zones freely, the ERP will charge users on a per entry basis (endnote 2).
Car ownership control
In addition to various taxes introduced since 1975 whch acted as deterrents to car ownership, a quota system was implement- ed in 1990. The system controls the issuing of car booking tickets, known as certificates of entitlement (COEs), through a monthly tender system (e.g. the tender price for a 1601-2000 cc car was $53,360 or US$38,100 in December 1996). The num- ber of new cars allowed to be marketed is tied to the prevailing traffic conditions evaluated by the Land Transport Authority created in 1995. This vigorous control mechanism has been effective in curbing the annual car population growth from 6%
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in 1990 to 3% after implementation. The aim of ERP is to distribute city traffic
more evenly. If more effective control on con- gesti...