Eat out or get home delivery? Download from iTunes or head to the cinema? Drive yourself or use Uber? Just when you think you have it all figured out, modern life jumps in and offers new ways to do things.
Whatever you think about eating out or going to the movies, the last puzzle is much easier to work out, especially if it involves driving into the Central Business District (CBD).
If you’re an occasional visitor to the CBD, you'd know that driving there has financial consequences — parking can be frighteningly expensive.
A recent study commissioned by Uber found that the average Singapore driver wastes S$5,000 a year just looking for a parking space — enough for a holiday to Japan.
If you’re wondering where the time for an extra vacation would come from, the same study found that searching for parking takes up five days every year.
The study also claims that being stuck in traffic consumes seven days a year of the average driver’s life and costs S$8,000.
Factor in the opportunity cost of looking for parking and the average driver could reclaim 12 days and S$13,000. That would be like having 377 days in a year, with a nice pay raise to go with the extra time.
But if you need to own and drive a car, here are some strategies to ease the pain of parking in the CBD.
1. Be prepared to walk
Just because you have a meeting in a certain building doesn’t mean you have to park there. Use an online resource that aggregates parking charges (like the one at onemotoring.com.sg) to see if there’s a cheaper car park nearby.
To figure out the potential savings on parking alone, we looked at the costs involved for a three-hour meeting in the Shenton Way area — plenty of time to dazzle your client with that killer presentation.
For instance, if your appointment is at Capital Tower on Robinson Road, parking there for three hours will cost S$16.80. But International Plaza is just 300m away, and parking there for the same time costs S$13.20. That’s a little easier to stomach and surely worth a 5-minute walk?
Similarly, a three-hour slot at Asia Square costs (are you sitting down for this?) S$19.26. That drops to just S$6 at Bestway Building on Prince Edward Drive, but only you can decide if the savings are worth the 750m walk. Or the sweat-soaked shirt (and your clients’ grimaced expressions) you’ll have to put up with.
Bear in mind that the idea of “cheap” parking is relative. If you can find anything under S$12 for three hours of parking in the CBD, put it down as a win.
2. Work out the per-entry entry costs
Most car parks charge a flat fee at the end of the work day, after 5pm or 6pm.
That’s great if you intend to spend plenty of time there after the cut-off, but perilous if you schedule a meeting close to that time.
Why? Because once you’re in the car park beyond the cut-off time, you get charged the entire amount.
Say you intend to talk fast and limit your meeting to one hour. Parking at Asia Square is expensive enough at S$1.07 per 10-minute block, but there’s also a S$5.35 per-entry charge after 6pm.
So, if your meeting with a client starts at 5.30pm and runs till 6.30pm, you’d pay S$8.56 for an hour’s parking.
If the same meeting had run from, say, 4pm to 5pm, it would have cost S$3.21 instead.
You can’t control how long your meetings run, or when a client wants to meet you. So sometimes being at the mercy of the customer means you’re also at the mercy of the car park operator!
3. Get someone to drive you instead
At some point, it’s going to make more sense to use a ride-sharing service instead.
You’ll avoid CBD parking charges, you can use the journey time to compose yourself for your presentation or run through your notes again.
You can actually make better use of your time — book an Uber ride into the CBD and you can schedule several back-to-back meetings at different locations without worrying about parking fees or finding a parking space.
Parking, at a price
It may be worth remembering why parking is so pricey in the first place: Car park charges are a mechanism for allocating a valuable resource.
In Singapore, it doesn’t get more valuable than land, yet the study commissioned by Uber estimates that serving the parking needs of cars here takes up enough space to occupy an area that’s equal to about five CBDs.
Of course, no one is saying that it would be practical or even possible to free up huge tracts of land in the country by wiping out private cars.
But ride-sharing services like Uber give people a way to move around more efficiently — the same way home-delivery frees up tables in restaurants while allowing them to make more efficient use of their kitchens.
That’s modern life for you.
One way to make better use of our road networks – and our time – is to have fewer, fuller vehicles on the road. This is one way ride-sharing services may be able to help by helping us use cars more efficiently so cities can move more smoothly.
Find out how we can #UnlockSingapore if we #RideTogether.