Saturday, February 02, 2008

Divorcing the car

We are all creatures of habit, aren't we? Which is why, if you had been driving for the last 10 years, you probably won't stop driving, even when Mr Raymond Lim, Transport Minister, strongly insists that you not drive anymore. Yes, he is making it more expensive for anyone to continue driving his/her private car and carriage in his Ministry's remake of the Transportation system announced over the last few days.

The only reason why one would abandon his/her beloved car would be when it is too expensive to keep. On the positive side, if public transport became very convenient, then the lifelong habit of driving daily could be 'kicked'. But fulfilling these two conditions are by no means certain. There is a limit beyond which making the cost of owning a car becomes politically unacceptable, never mind that the PAP government has prided itself on instituting unpopular policies. Why are we working so hard if not to own something that we take pleasure in? If the daily grind involves having to be packed like sardines in a moving box for an hour of so, what is the point of working any harder? So that we can continue to be packed in a moving box for even longer hours? So people will still drive, never mind that they are going to pay through the nose on ERP charges, petrol and the like. One just has to earn more money to defray these expenses, and if this means more time at work and less time with the children and the family, so be it. Priorities to reproduce ourselves will take an even deeper backseat, with dire consequences for the future and more headache for MOM.

Can people not drive? That is the million dollar question that only the bus and rail companies can answer. Right now, the rail services are pretty consistent and reliable. They are taking steps to stop people using their open platforms as launchpads to nirvana. More rail tracks are being built, meaning more destinations will become available through rail. But that has not been the problem all these many years with our public transport. It is the bus, stupid! If a word from the Transport Minister will cause our bus companies to ship up, then we would have solved this problem a long time ago. If he can be so effective, then we must be prepared to erect a pedestal somewhere on this island to commemorating such as person. But I think even Minister Lim may not have such powers. Meaning that the bus companies will continue the way they are now, perhaps making some incremental and unimportant improvements, and people will continue to stick to their cars. By the way, have you tried taking a SBSTransit's spanking new buses on its service 100 and 62? The interior layout of this bus is terrible and the display of its Service Number at the front of the bus is too bright and blurred, especially in the night. I have to squint to try to make out the number as it approaches. But I digress.

Why would our bus company executives want to stick their necks out for Minister Lim. After all, their loyalties are to their major shareholders, all of whom drive private cars, anyway.

The only party that will benefit will be the tax collectors, particularly those who work in the ERP department. I can imagine them throwing a party some time down the road to congratulate themselves for having improved their revenue collections and thus deserving of fat 'performance' bonuses. Yeah, as if it has anything to do with productivity. Its the law, stupid.

Image source: Author: Nicolas Raymond

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