Build it and they will come

SINGAPORE - Professor Kishore Mahbubani hit the nail on the head when he said "we have failed to develop a world-class ecosystem of public transport" ("Fewer cars, fewer roads"; last Saturday).

After three decades as a car dealer, I can say for certain that those who buy lower-priced vehicles do so because of their needs, and not out of a desire to own "status symbols".

Servicing records prove that run-of-the-mill models are the most heavily utilised, ferrying the owners and their wives to work, their children to childcare, and their parents for grocery shopping on weekends.

The high-end models of multiple-car owners are usually used only for trips to their clubs or to functions at posh hotels.

Prof Mahbubani implied that Singapore's efforts to improve the transport system failed because each of the components was expected, on its own, to be financially viable, whereas the effectiveness of the transport ecosystem as a whole was not taken into consideration.

The profit-driven nature of our public transport operators does not appear to prioritise the satisfaction of end users.

Commercial, public-listed transport operators, mindful of the need to pay dividends to shareholders, cannot be allowed to wait until there is a critical mass of commuters in any particular area before deciding whether or not to beef up facilities.

The driving ethos should be: Build it and they will come!

Just a few weeks ago, another prominent commentator, Professor Su Guaning, wrote that "public transport availability and convenience need to be ramped up" ("Knee-jerk reactions won't solve problem"; Aug 29).

When that happens, I will be very happy to hop on the bus or MRT in Singapore, as I do when I visit my friends and colleagues in Manhattan, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Frankfurt or London, and use the car only as a toy during off-peak hours.

Lee Chiu San

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