Target usage, not ownership

Mr Samuel Ee's commentary ("COE system - steer clear of the populism pothole"; May 23) and Mr Soon Sze Meng's letter ("A more equitable COE system promotes stability"; last Saturday) offer divergent views on the certificate of entitlement issue, but the crux of the matter is the affordability of cars versus the need to keep our roads relatively congestion-free.

Only 7 per cent of car owners own more than one car and their vehicles make up 14 per cent of the car population. So moves to curb multiple car ownership may not resolve the congestion issue as they do not target the majority of the car population.

Also, the average car in Singapore clocks about 20,000km each year, so owners will look to maximise the usage of their cars in order to amortise the high costs of ownership.

The Transport Ministry seems to be shifting towards targeting car ownership by the wealthy. But how does this address the underlying issues of road usage and congestion? Yes, one could argue that fewer cars mean less usage but, as Mr Ee pointed out, a tycoon with five cars is unlikely to have any real impact on the roads. And proposals to restrict ownership to one car per household can be easily circumvented by the wealthy.

If promotion of social equality is driving this shift in stance, the Government should focus instead on disallowing concurrent ownership of HDB and private properties or re-introducing estate duty.

I urge the Transport Ministry to continue its multi-pronged efforts to target car usage. We need look no farther than Hong Kong to see a city where many own cars but few drive them on a daily basis. This is because of:

Its superior public transport system. The multiple entry and exit points in MTR stations, the frequency of MTR and bus services, the many minibuses plying popular routes and the easy-to-understand taxi rates (no confusing surcharges except for call bookings) are things our Transport Ministry should study and implement.

The high cost and inconvenience of parking. Parking charges are high in Hong Kong and it is difficult to find parking spaces in popular areas like Causeway Bay. Our Transport Ministry should look into levying a surcharge on parking in popular areas in Singapore while potentially allocating less land to carparks.

Lastly, the ministry should implement satellite Electronic Road Pricing as quickly as possible and charge high rates based on mileage, with even higher rates incurred during certain hours or in certain zones.

Adrian Tan

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