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Tens of thousands will have to give up car as zero-growth policy kicks in


Attached Image From next February, motorists will have to contend with zero-growth allowance in the vehicle quota system. The move to lower the allowable annual growth rate from 0.25 percent currently to zero reversed what former Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew had previously pronounced.

Mr. Lui had indicated that a small, controlled growth was necessary to meet the car-owning aspirations of Singaporeans. Well, that was before the 'car-lite' slogan became a mantra among policymakers.

What does zero growth mean? At first glance, it does not look like much. After all, the current growth rate is already 0.25 percent (down from as high as three percent during the first half of the 27-year old vehicle quota system).

But it is actually a big deal. And not just from the ideological perspective which Mr. Lui alluded to. Zero growth will in fact shrink the car population more than it has already been shrinking.

Even at 0.25 percent, the car population has been contracting. From the peak of 607,292 cars in 2013, the population has fallen by 10.4 percent or 63,301 to 543,991 (as at September this year) - the lowest since 2008.

Why the shrinkage? Simply because there is a three-month lag between the time a car is deregistered and its Certificate of Entitlement (COE) is recycled back into the system.

In the past, the growth rates were large enough to mask this lag. But at 0.25 percent, it is no longer able to do this. The clawback of some 17,600 oversupplied COEs five years ago contributed to the shrinkage, but it does not account for the population contraction of 63,301 cars.

Zero growth will accelerate car 'depopulation' - a term Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan used in Parliament in March this year.

How big an impact is a population contraction of 63,301? Well, in a simplified way, it means some 63,000 households which had cars before no longer have them today (assuming one car per household). That's about five percent of households.

With zero growth, my own conservative estimate is that more than 100,000 families who had a car in 2013 will no longer have one by 2023. And if one household has four people, we are talking about more than 400,000 people losing access to private transportation.

That will no doubt fuel the Government's ambition to have more people take public transport. At a conservative 2.5 trips a person, the 400,000 'car-less' people will contribute to more than one million additional trips on buses and trains a day.

Hopefully, the public transport infrastructure can cope with the influx.

But what will it mean for those with car-owning aspirations? Alas, they will have to come to terms with the fact that no more than 30 percent of households will have a car in the near future - down from about 40 percent today.

With Singapore's resident population continuing to grow, the near-term car ownership figure could be nearer 25 percent, and in the long term, 20 percent.

So, those who want to own a car by say, 2030, will have to be the top 20 percent earners. That will be the new reality, if policymakers continue their 'car-lite' push.

The Government, of course, says this is necessary, given that land is scarce in Singapore, and roads already take up 12 percent of surface space today.

Without a doubt, Singapore cannot be a city for cars. But can it be viable with such a hard anti-car policy? Will this policy lead to a brain drain as young and upwardly mobile people look elsewhere to start a family? Will foreign investors be put off by say, $200,000 for a COE (almost a certainty if only a small fraction of the population can own cars).

The Government is of the view that people need not own a car to have access to a car. It seems to think the explosive growth in private-hire car services and the looming emergence of autonomous cars will see to this.

When Mr. Khaw used the 'depopulation' term in March, he indicated as much. "There will be less need to own cars," he proclaimed. "It is about a lifestyle change, a mindset shift, and improving the quality of life for all."

He also said, "New technology, disruptive business models and commuters' demand for higher levels of service are transforming the way we move about. History is truly in the making. Where these will lead us, we cannot be sure. But it sure is exciting."

Clearly, change is upon us. But whether it will be 'exciting' or 'terrifying' remains to be seen.

The following article is written by Christopher Tan, a Senior Transport Correspondent with The Straits Times.

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  • 1
Twich Dec 16 2017 06:14 PM
Government appointment holders should set a good example.
Go to work by public transport
Remove their car entitlement.
Twich Dec 16 2017 06:17 PM
Get the MRT right. Then, we talk car lite society.
Look at the Japanese. Very reliable train service.
Yet, their automobile industry has generated million of high value added jobs.
Vinceng Dec 16 2017 06:50 PM

Government appointment holders should set a good example.
Go to work by public transport
Remove their car entitlement.

 

This may have adverse effects on productivity if these top civil servants are late for meetings as a result of frequent train breakdowns.

Brass Dec 16 2017 06:58 PM

Get the MRT right. Then, we talk car lite society.
Look at the Japanese. Very reliable train service.
Yet, their automobile industry has generated million of high value added jobs.


Agree.
People there voluntarily take public transportation.
Here, people are forced.
So I am thoroughly pissed.
If the garment is capable of pissing people to the extent all or most migrants avoid Singapore and Singapore's residents, and there is an uprising against the garment, then they really deserve it.
Twich Dec 16 2017 07:14 PM

This may have adverse effects on productivity if these top civil servants are late for meetings as a result of frequent train breakdowns.

Twich Dec 16 2017 07:14 PM

This may have adverse effects on productivity if these top civil servants are late for meetings as a result of frequent train breakdowns.


Fully agreed
Twich Dec 16 2017 08:19 PM
My greatest fear is not 0 growth vehicle population.
But, it is the ignorant of the appointment holders.
The world has changed since Donald Trump has become President of the United States of America.
Second, China has become the power house of the world economy.
Singapore is going to face very serious challenge in the future, if we don't buckle up.
Ake109 Dec 17 2017 12:27 AM

Article states 63k car contraction. But with say 40k PHVs which run 20x more on the road than a traditional private car, road usage actually went up by (40x20)-63.... kinda like having 700k more cars on the road isn't it? Only savings is on the car parking.

Ash2017 Dec 17 2017 09:47 AM

trust us, just before the coming election, the quota would be increased again

 

if you can wait why not

Sdf4786k Dec 17 2017 11:02 AM
I am sure the population growth plays a part. But not necessarily people will give up their rides unless the affordability rules them out
D_orai Dec 17 2017 11:11 AM

Government appointment holders should set a good example.
Go to work by public transport
Remove their car entitlement.

I completely agree. If they want us to take public transport, they should be also using it. The fact that some of them go around in cars bought using taxpayers' money but advocate a "car-lite society" really angers me.

Chucky2007 Dec 17 2017 12:57 PM

Government appointment holders should set a good example.
Go to work by public transport
Remove their car entitlement.


They are the top 5% income earner... in line with prediction of top 20% will own a car 🤣
Jordanplus Dec 17 2017 01:04 PM
Since car lite policy is co-introduced by URA and LTA. Their staff shall be not allow to drive to work to set as initiative to convince our people. Following up all civil servants should also ban to drive to work.
Sdf4786k Dec 17 2017 03:29 PM

in many develop countries like UK, US , mostly australia have a very strong culture of work from home and be able to deliver strong results.

 

If SG want car lite to works, the country has to first develop the changes in the working concept to adopt work from home as a way forward.

 

After all, Philipines, Malaysia and india has started to provide remote support in a big way for call center, Finance and IT remote support.

 

What is stopping us is the resistance to accept changes.

 

After all, some of the banks are also having headcount listed in SG but work from their home country. I see possible big adoption if the policy and working culture shifts. Car lite should be thot of as a whole eco system. Not a silo idea to push for less polution, more of a push to the next evolution of the whole landscape

kensk76 Dec 18 2017 03:49 PM

you still can own a car. just have to work harder than your colleague next cubicle. 

No other way round to this rat race.

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