Singapore’s transport future could be in the multimodal system

The availability of multimodal travel can be a catalyst for shifting mobility behaviour towards a stronger acceptance of public transport, leading to lower emissions per passenger distance travelled.

Markus Zachmeier

By Markus Zachmeier

Singapore is a relatively convenient and hassle-free city to drive in. It has a well-connected road network, good road quality, and an efficient public transportation system. However, the travel time and traffic conditions in Singapore are becoming rather unpredictable. On-road congestion shows little signs of waning even with new regulations pushing up the cost of car ownership. There’s also a dilemma balancing the increasing driving aspirations of Singaporeans and the limited space available in the country. Public transport is likewise taking a hit with the staggering rise of commuters leading to overcrowding and delays of trains and buses. 

The government is placing emphasis on providing solutions and devising policies to address both private and public transport concerns. Apart from governmental efforts though, it is important to note that the point of change lies in the commuter mind-set.

Besides, with the world’s urban population growing by two people every second, transportation infrastructures can seldom be dimensioned as generously as would be necessary to keep up with such growth. To meet the demand for greater transportation capacities and address mobility issues, new and attractive concepts are needed to simplify intermodal travel and make it easier for travellers to optimise the usage of various transport modes to reach their destination safe and conveniently.

Identifying the challenges of Singapore

In Singapore, the government has the public’s best interest in increasing costs of vehicle ownership. Limiting cars on the road and improving traffic flow, however, have not been the end results. Instead, drivers tend to drive more frequently to get the most out of their hefty investment – increasing total mileage and adding to the frequency of vehicle occurrence on roads. A better solution is needed to enable Singaporeans to enjoy the convenience of driving a car without the burden of car ownership.

In contrast, Singapore has the advantage of a widespread MRT or rail network across the island. Majority of locations can be accessed via the MRT. This pushes the MRT as the primary means of transportation for public commuters.

Meanwhile, individuals who cannot afford a car but still want the convenience of individual transport opt for taxis. Taxi bookings, though, are often difficult during peak periods. Individuals tend to stick to their set route to work and the mode of transport that gets them there.

It is hard to convince a modal shift for car owners to take public transport especially with congestion sprawling from the roads onto public transport networks. And public transport commuters are used to their direct singular mode of transport instead of the notion of efficient travelling via multiple modes of transport alternatives. Commuters don’t take full advantage of the modes of transport (e.g., cycling, buses, trains, taxis, car sharing, etc.) that are available for them.

Moving forward sustainably with an integrated platform

In order for Singapore to maintain an efficient transport network with sustainable levels of road traffic, we need to think of ways to incorporate the benefits of both public and private transport.

Multimodal transport is an easy and efficient way for all commuters to travel. There are applications or apps available to advise drivers on the best possible routes to reach their destination. There are also separate apps available for public transport. What is needed is an integrated platform or application that takes into account all the modes of transport and suggests the most feasible and economic option for commuters.

Siemens has developed an Integrated Mobility Platform (IMP) that does just that. Operators can easily combine complementary mobility services with their own portfolio. With this pool, the single platform facilitates the planning, booking and billing of multimodal travel. Travellers are then presented with the modes of transportation and best available fares, provided by the real-time information and mobile payment systems of the platform. Options also enable the traveller to switch to alternative modes of travel in the event of delays. With the IMP, commuters can travel via bus to the nearest car rental shop, continue the journey via a rented car, which they can leave after at a designated station, and take the MRT home when roads are filled with after-office hour drivers.

As for taxis during peak hours, waiting time is reduced with multiple options such as picking up a car from a neighbouring car park. Priority booking for taxis can also be included under the individual multimodal mobility service. 

Germany is already taking a step forward in the use of multimodal transport. As part of the Berlin-Brandenburg Electromobility Showcase, it was announced that a central IT platform is being developed for the integration of the various mobility services across different operators and thus enabling the offering of seamless end-to-end connections for commuters.

Part of the convenience of a multimodal transportation scheme is how customers only need to pay a flat rate based on usage. The IMP has a central billing process for all the mobility services used. A mobile ticketing application or card-based solutions, such as the Siemens e-Ticketing solution with check-in/check-out and be-in/be-out functions, records the various transportation services, distances travelled, and changes of class. Only the most economical fare option for the route actually taken will be charged and a single invoice will be issued to the passenger.

The availability of multimodal travel can be a catalyst for shifting mobility behaviour towards a stronger acceptance of public transport. Making public transport the mode of choice will lead to lowering the emissions per passenger distance travelled. Car sharing companies under the multimodal system can opt to offer fuel-efficient and eco-friendly vehicles to reduce the amount of emissions per vehicle.

Cities benefit from the Integrated Mobility Platform as well. All-inclusive, environmentally benign traffic management using the platform gives cities an effective tool with which to reduce congestion, offer attractive route planning to people, improve utilisation of infrastructure, obtain information about transportation needs and help with controlling emissions.

Green lights ahead

There already is a noticeable shift in the mind-set with groups of commuters seeking out alternative solutions such as carpools and car sharing. It is a positive sign that there is a growing acceptance towards the notion of shared car ownership. With this, there is a possibility that new riders will prioritise the convenience and economical option of multimodal mobility to meet both their travel needs and aspiration to driving, over the hefty investment of car ownership.

If we are more receptive on the possibility of multimodal transport, a green and efficient commuting is on the way.

Markus Zachmeier is the senior vice president of Siemens Mobility and Logistics and the division cluster lead for the ASEAN-Pacific region. An expert in the rail industry, he also promotes urban mobility solutions in ASEAN cities.

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