Mr Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee kuan Yew School of Public Policy, has been upfront with Singaporeans by commenting on the epic failure of our public transportation. Kishore must be given credit for his take on our public transportation. Hopefully, the government will at least listen for once.
Our road planning, according to Kishore, is based on the ‘make traffic flow smoothly’ KPI and “looking at each artery” instead of “looking at the system as a whole”. “By looking at each unit in isolation, we did not consider its impact on the island or the nation as a whole”, says Kishore.
This is exactly what the PAP has been doing – the various ministries are assessed according to financial yardsticks and view each objective in isolation. They appear not to have been informed by our population planners, resulting in heavily congested roads and insufficient housing.
The problem is not simply confined to the LTA. So Kishore appears to have missed the forest for the trees because even if the LTA had viewed the transport ecosystem as a whole but without any input from other ministries, the result would not have been much different.
The solution lies in a whole-of-government approach which has been sorely lacking. The government also needs to acknowledge there are physical limitations. Singapore city is not SIM city where one can ‘suka-suka’ build anywhere as if real people do not exist.
The dean admires New York City where even the rich has a choice to take public transport. He also cited Bogota as another exemplary city and this has confirmed our million dollar ministers have been way overpaid.
Kishore says we can dream of having fewer cars and fewer roads. But just look at buildings suddenly sprouting out of nowhere WITHOUT first resolving current traffic bottlenecks. What about the completion of 200,000 residential units within 5 years? Can we really have fewer roads when the population keeps growing at 100,000 every year, possibly at a higher rate in future?
With this kind of nightmarish and just-in-time city planning, this is likely to a pipe dream.