SINGAPORE: An advisory panel tasked to look into Singapore’s transport master plan for 2040 submitted nine recommendations for an inclusive, well-connected and fast transport system to the Government on Friday (Feb 15).
In coming up with the recommendations, the panel led by Senior Minister of State for Transport Dr Janil Puthucheary considered more than 7,400 responses from the public in the last six months.
They fall under three key areas namely 20-minute towns and a 45-minute city, transport for all, as well as healthy lives, safer journeys. Under each key area, three recommendations have been made.
20-MINUTE TOWNS AND A 45-MINUTE CITY
Under the first key area, the panel recommends that the Government work towards reducing all journeys to the nearest neighbourhood centre to under 20 minutes. Peak-period journeys should also be completed under 45 minutes.
This, the panel said, will help the average peak-period commuter save about 15 minutes every weekday.
To do this, the panel has suggested three strategies. The first is to prioritise the public transport system by growing the rail network and improving bus speeds.
First- and last-mile commutes can also be improved with better pedestrian and cycling infrastructure such as by freeing up space from roads to accommodate more Transit Priority Corridors, which has been implemented on Bencoolen Street.
Transit Priority Corridors are dedicated bus lanes and cycling paths for travel in and across towns.
Secondly, the panel suggests working towards more seamless travel by reducing the number of transfers or by better integrating multi-modal journeys by adopting technology.
Associate Professor Faishal Ibrahim, who represented active mobility users in the panel, said that the panel will focus on pushing for shared paths.
These paths that are widened to support walking and cycling can be found in nine towns. Dr Faishal said that from his observation, the usage of these shared paths, as well as comfort level of users on the paths, have gone up.
"We also realised that the level of acceptance has also gone up because anecdotally ... the different users are able to relate to one another better when we have different types of modes being used on this shared path," said Dr Faishal.
The third strategy is to explore opportunities to introduce more jobs and amenities outside the city area.
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TRANSPORT FOR ALL
To make public transport more inclusive, the panel recommends that the Government work towards fostering a gracious and caring commuting culture, and making more parts of the commuting journey barrier-free.
To do that, the panel recommends the training of public transport workers to identify and help those with different needs.
Commuters can also play a part in making journeys for those who may need more help easier, said another panelist Joyce Wong, who is the director of resources and impact at charity for persons with disabilities SPD.
By 2020, all buses will be wheelchair-accessible and it's likely that more wheelchair users using public transport as Singapore's population is ageing, she said.
"Currently passengers and commuters are not aware that the responsibility doesn't lie solely with the bus captain. So can you imagine if there are multiple commuters on the wheelchair coming up and down?" Ms Wong said.
"If we as commuters can play a part in flipping up the ramp and provide some physical assistance if the commuter is alone, it means that the inconvenience can be significantly reduced," she added.
In addition, better infrastructure such as barrier-free access points for wheelchair and baby pram users can help these commuters enjoy travelling independently, the panel said.
The panel also suggests more platforms, such as Heart Zones, be set up to encourage Singaporeans to help other commuters in need and to recognise gracious or caring behaviour.
HEALTHY LIVES, SAFER JOURNEYS
To make Singapore's transport system safer for use, the panel recommends that the Government dedicate more space to public transport, community uses and active mobility such as walking and cycling.
By making the walking experience more comfortable and improving how active mobility options connect to public transport, streets can be more pedestrian- and active mobility-friendly.
In spite of low accident rates, the panel urged the Government to continue giving emphasis to road safety and aiming for a "Vision Zero" environment, with fewer land transport-related fatalities. Roads and paths can be designed to enhance safety or encourage safer behaviour, for example, the panel said.
Lastly, for a better quality of life through cleaner air and a quieter environment, the panel suggests that the Government adopt cleaner and more energy-efficient fuel sources for the public bus fleet.
Transport economist Paul Barter, who was also on the panel, said that it is timely for the Land Transport Master Plan to plan for the inclusion of electric vehicles.
"Singapore has been slow (in adopting EVs) ... now it's clear that the technology is very close to being financial viable and to be rolled out, (it) is the time to be accelerating. The panel was a little bit audacious in setting some ambitious goals, say for the buses. But 2040 is quite a way off," said Dr Barter.
Shared transport operators could also consider setting targets for cleaner vehicles for taxi and private-hire car fleets.
"Our land transport system needs to transform, continue to support Singapore's growth and meet the evolving needs of our commuters. It will also need to contend with technological disruptions to the industry, demographic changes and land constraints," Dr Puthucheary said.
"The vision, targets and strategies we recommend were developed with Singaporeans' feedback, and together, I am confident we will build a better land transport system for the future."