Sunday 6 March 2016

Car-Free Sunday, distance-charging ERP & Cross Island Line: Green, not green

Last Sunday was Car-Free Sunday.

So I went to the Lamborghini showroom and demanded my free car.

The Lambo staff member patiently explained to me that I had confused Car-Free Sunday with Free Car Sunday, which was the previous Sunday.

I was a week late.

As usual.

So Car-Free Sunday is not the day when the Government gives every Singaporean a free car.

Alas, it’s the day when 4.7km of roads in the Central Business District are closed and thus “free of cars” so that the area can be “transformed into a walkable, cyclist-friendly and activity-filled precinct for all”.

Starting from Feb 28, every last Sunday of the month will be Car-Free Sunday for a six-month trial period.

Describing the turnout as “encouraging”, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said:
“If the response gets even better and we get more people participating, I think we would certainly want to continue beyond the six months and see how we can expand our Car-Free Sunday to a bigger area, potentially even make some of it permanent.”

I bet they would get even more people participating if they were giving away free cars.

But that would go against the whole point of Car-Free Sunday, which is “part of the larger movement towards a car-lite Singapore, envisioning our city with fewer cars”.

I’m already car-lite. You know why? Because I’m money-lite.

But apparently, raising the cost of owning a car in Singapore so high that it even shocked Vin Diesel hasn’t been enough to discourage car-ownership.

Last month, the Land Transport Authority announced plans to build a $556 million satellite-based island-wide electronic road-pricing (ERP) system with the ability to charge for distance travelled.

Meaning the farther you travel, the more you have to pay.

It’s like taking a taxi — except you’re driving your own car!

Aren’t you already paying road tax?

When I read news like this, I’m relieved I don’t own a car anymore.

I’m even more relieved my mother no longer calls me at random hours to drive her home from her karaoke sessions.

You know what the Government should do if it really wants to deter car-ownership?

Forget Car-Free Sunday, ERP, road tax and COEs. Just make it a law that everyone who buys a car must have a mother who will continually harp on that one time you forgot to pick her up at the airport.

How many times do I have to say I’m sorry, ma?

Since I sold the car, I see my mother only on her birthday and during Chinese New Year, which is as it should be.

I now rely on public transport to go to work, taking the train from Yew Tee to Braddell station. But with MRT breakdowns becoming the new normal, I realised I needed to find an alternative.

Since I don’t like cycling, I decided to try running to work.

Yes, all the way from Yew Tee to Braddell.

Using Google Maps, I found a route that’s about 19km long. I convinced myself that if I could finish the oddly-distanced 18.45km Straits Times Run last year, I could do this. What’s a few hundred metres more?

It helps that I work the night shift and start work at 5pm. Giving myself ample time, I set out after lunch at 2pm, probably the hottest time of the day.

With the sexy Google Maps voice giving me directions on my iPhone, I jogged (and occasionally walked) from Choa Chu Kang to Woodlands Road to Petir Road to Dairy Farm Nature Park to Rifle Range Road to MacRitchie Reservoir Park to Braddell Road.

It took me about 2 hours and 40 minutes and 2.4 litres of sweat, but I did it.

I found a way to commute to work that’s not only car-free, but also public transport-free and cycling-free.


Then, would’t you know it, I read that the planned Cross Island MRT Line may go through MacRitchie Reservoir Park.

Alamak. Will I still be able to run to work then?

Once again, as with the Lamborghini and my mummy, my transport plans have been stymied.

I find it ironic that on the one hand, the Government is introducing Car-Free Sunday to promote a greener future. On the other hand, if the Government builds the Cross Island Line across MacRitchie, our future could be a little less green.

Talk about mixed messages.

Or is it another case of one step forward, two steps back?

Speaking of which, I wonder if Free Car Sunday is coming back. I got my eye on the Roadster. Don’t tell my mum.

- Published in The New Paper, 6 March 2016