Land Transport Policy and Public Transport in Singapore

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  • Land transport policy and public transport in Singapore

    SOI HOI LAM* & TRINH DINH TOANSchool of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Nanyang Technological University,

    Blk N1 #1A-29, 639798, Singapore

    (*Author for correspondence, E-mail:

    Key words: integration, land transport policy, multi-modal transit, road pricing, trac

    management, transport planning

    Abstract. Singapore has a sophisticated and ecient system of land transport to serve a

    growing demand for transportation. Constrained by limited space, a comprehensive set of

    land transport policies has been in place to balance the growth in transport demand and

    the eectiveness and eciency of the land transport system. A multi-pronged approach has

    been used to achieve the objective of a world-class transportation system. These include

    integration of urban and transport planning, expansion of the road network and

    improvement of the transport infrastructure, harnessing the latest technology in network

    and trac management, managing vehicle ownership and usage, and improvement and

    regulations of public transport (Ministry of Transport (MOT) (2003) Policy and Regula-

    tions, Land Transport, Available:, Date of Access: 15 September 2003).

    Singapore was the rst country in the world to introduce various new techniques, notably

    the Area License Scheme (ALS) in 1975 and the Vehicle Quota System (VQS) in 1990. An

    Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system replaced the ALS in 1998 to take the role of con-

    gestion management, the experience of which has also drawn particular attention from

    many large cities in the world. In 2003, the worlds rst and only fully automatic heavy rail

    Mass Rapid Transit system was opened to the public, marking a new chapter in Singa-

    pores innovative approach to solving its land transport problem. This paper reviews the

    land transport policy implemented in Singapore and pays special emphasis to its public

    transportation systems.

    Abbreviation: ALS Area Licensing Scheme; ARF Additional Registration Fee; COE Certif-

    icate of Entitlement; ERP Electronic Road Pricing; HDB Housing and Development Board;

    MRT Mass Rapid Transit; OMV Open Market Value; VQS Vehicle Quota System

    1. Introduction

    With almost 4 million people living on an island of about 650 km2, Singapore

    faces challenges in meeting the daily needs of commuting by its population.

    Transport land use now already covers 12% of the island, about the same per-

    centage as residential areas. If the current trend continued, roads alone would

    occupy 16% of Singapores land area by the year 2010. In 2001, an average of

    Transportation (2006) 33: 171188 Springer 2006DOI: 10.1007/s11116-005-3049-z

  • 7.7 million motorized trips were made in a day. The estimated number of trips

    may grow beyond 10 million by 2010 (MOT 2002). The limited land area on

    the island has constrained the development of road networks.

    The majority of the working population needs a motorized transport

    means to get to work. About 60% of them use public transport such as

    buses, Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) or Light Rapid Transit (LRT). In the

    year 2002, there were 3144 km of roads. Eight expressways with a total

    length of 150 km constitute the back bone of the road infrastructure in the

    island, the longest of which is the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) 42 km long.

    By the end of 2002, the total motorized car population registered in Singa-

    pore was 405,797 and about 19,007 taxis (MOT 2003). There were about

    132,607 goods vehicles and buses.

    To maintain a sustainable transportation system to support the growth of

    the economy and activities, an integrated and comprehensive approach has

    been taken to managing the demand and plans for the provision of transpor-

    tation systems. The formation of a Land Transport Authority in 1996 and

    the subsequent publication of the land transport white paper (LTA 1996)

    outlined the multi-pronged land transport policy which achieved a world-

    class land transportation system in Singapore. In the area of public trans-

    port, as stated in the white paper (LTA 1996), it will continue to be a major

    mode of land transport, and the vision of a seamless and integrated multi-

    modal public transportation system was illustrated.

    In this paper, the land transport policy implemented by Singapore to

    achieve its objectives will be reviewed. This is followed by a discussion of the

    components that make up the multi-modal transit system in Singapore.

    Finally, the infrastructure and strategies to integrate the multi-modal transit

    services are discussed, as these strategies have profound impact on the way

    the multi-modal transit system in Singapore is planned and modelled.

    2. Land transport policies in Singapore

    Since the 1970s, when the rst comprehensive transportation for Singapore

    was completed (Wilber Smith and Associates 1974), the alleviation of trac

    congestion has been the main objective of land transport policy. In a land-

    scarce island like Singapore, it was recognized ever since early days that a

    comprehensive land transport network, which meets peoples needs and

    expectations and supports economic and environmental goals, is much nee-

    ded. To achieve the above objectives, based on MOT (2003), a multi-pron-

    ged strategy has been adopted as early as the 1970s. The comprehensive

    policy comprises the following ve main components:


  • Integration of town and transport planning Expansion of road network and improvement of transport infrastructure Harnessing the latest technology in network and trac management Managing vehicle ownership and usage Improvement and regulations of public transport.

    3. Integration of town and transport planning

    In Singapore, the planning practice shows that careful consideration has been

    given to integration of transport planning into the master plan, called the

    Development Guide Plan (URA 2003). The physical provision of transport

    infrastructure has been made in such a manner that the system delivers a high

    level of service for the population. Urban areas, including industrial, residen-

    tial and social infrastructure, are normally located in close proximity, within a

    walking distance of bus stops and MRT stations, making travel by public

    transport more convenient. In public housing, or the Housing Development

    Board (HDB) estates throughout the island, the road network is designed in

    such a way that the placement of bus stops and routing of bus services provide

    the greatest accessibility to the public. Island-wide covered walkways linking

    the estates together with the bus stops in the vicinity also provides greater con-

    venience and protection against weather conditions for residents travelling by

    public transport. In certain new developments on the island, the town plan-

    ning has provisions for LRT and/or mass rapid transit. It is planned that in

    the next 1015 years, commuter facilities and housing development will be

    fully integrated so as to create a seamless transport system. Building more

    homes near work places and more work places in residential areas will moder-

    ate the demand for transport.

    4. Expansion of road network and improvement of transport infrastructure

    Among various supply-side tactics for reducing congestion, building more

    roads or expanding the existing infrastructure seems unavoidable for accom-

    modating vehicles in a city that has experienced such rapid growth as Singa-

    pore, which has already devoted about 15% of its extremely scarce land to

    roads and road related infrastructure. Although the whole island has an

    integrated and comprehensive system of streets and highways, the construc-

    tion of new roads/expressways is still considered necessary to provide better

    connectivity to new or established areas. An example is the current construc-

    tion of the KallangPayaLebar expressway which is designed to serve the

    increasingly congested northeast corridor and intersects with a number of


  • existing expressways. Targeted to be completed in 2005, the most part of this

    new expressway will be built underground, reecting the fact that land space

    in Singapore is scarce. Apart from this, major intersections have been con-

    verted into interchanges to relieve the congestion at arterials, in addition to

    the widening of roads due to increased demand for road space. Some of

    these new interchanges are multi-tiered serving not only roadways but also

    other facilities such as MRT tunnels.

    5. Harnessing the latest technology in network and trac management

    Advanced technologies have been used to improve road capacity and to

    smooth trafc ow. These are parts of the Intelligent Transportation System

    (ITS) solutions deployed by LTA (LTA 2002b) to raise the standards of tra-

    vel in Singapore. Currently, the deployment of ITS technologies is mainly

    focused on the Advanced Traveller Information Systems (ATIS), Advanced

    Trac Management Systems (ATMS) and Advanced Public Transportation

    Systems (APTS). In ATIS, the main component is, which is a

    web-based system that provides one-stop comprehensive real-time trac

    information. The main sources of real-time trac information are from the

    TracScan, for travel time information using taxis as probed vehicles, and

    the Expressway Monitoring


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