Transportation – Infrastructure or Service?
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete (The Freeman) - February 12, 2019 - 12:00am

(Part 3 – The case of Singapore)

Last week, we said that the answer to this question may best be seen in a country’s (or a city’s) transport policy. Aside from parroting “plan for people, not cars” which is simply waved as a slogan but seldom executed, there is a need to follow through on policies and goals that prioritize people, and this translates to shifting transport modes to public transportation and decreasing dependency on cars.

Before following through down to targets and the metrics used in monitoring them, let’s look at an example in one of our neighbors, the city-state of Singapore. How they look at transport is best seen in the website of their Land Transportation Authority, or LTA ( This is crucial because the traditional view of transportation is building all those roads and bridges, flyovers, expressways, railways, subways, and all sorts of “infrastructure,” measured in terms of kilometers and capacities. “At LTA, we don’t just build trains and roads – we build connections, as we transform the way people travel,” the website declared. The main goal is for people. LTA promised “to bring about a greener and more inclusive public transport system, complemented by convenient options to walk and cycle from their homes or to their destinations.” The main key descriptors I see here are “greener,” “more inclusive,” and “convenient.” And the focus is on public transportation, walking, and cycling. Goals and policies, truthfully laid out, always define how one looks at development – that’s how important they are!

Next, let’s look at LTA’s Service Vision – “A People-Centered Land Transport System.” Singapore focuses on people, not cars, and lives what they preach. LTA promised “more connections, better service and a transport system that supports a livable and inclusive community.” See, the goal is not transportation per se, but it is a livable and inclusive community. We need to internalize this because most of major transportation systems, if not planned properly from the start, make cities much less livable and much less inclusive.

Lastly, we start looking at targets. In Singapore’ Land Transport Master Plan 2013, the 2030 targets are as follows: (1) Eight in 10 households living within 10 minutes’ walk from a train station; (2) Eighty-five percent of public transport journeys under 20km completed within 60 minutes; and (3) Seventy-five percent of all peak hour journeys made using public transport. Do we see number of MRTs or subways here, or kilometers of roads, flyovers, or expressways? Sure, they’re there, all right, buried within the plan, lined up in support and to attain the goals and policies, not the principal goal of policy themselves. And since they are crafted based on overarching goals and policies, they’re sure to achieve the latter, and to make their city livable and inclusive, not worse.

In Japan, a railway line decided to stop their service to a few end stations. But a high school student used their train in going to school. So, they continued running the train until the girl graduated from high school two years later. Now, that’s service! (To be continued)

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