Sustainable transport options

As our community grows, and our personal needs grow in a society that is still dominated by material goods and getting more out of every hour of every day, we are learning even more about our effects on the environment, and it is disturbing to all of us.

When thinking about alternative modes of transportation, various options need to be taken into consideration. Do we really need a personal car?

In a small island state like Singapore, the answer is no.

Yet most people who own a car would claim that their main motive is for convenience. This raises a different question: What can be done to improve convenience and encourage the population to rely more on public and alternative modes of transportation?

There are several improvements which could be made in Singapore to have people adopt more sustainable modes of transportation.

First of all, the public transport system is fast reaching saturation point. As the population increases, the public transport network must keep up at the same rate. A lot of effort can be put into improving the network by expanding the number of routes and increasing the frequency of buses and MRT trains. Many people own a car for the simple reason that the area they live in or want to access is not serviced or easily accessible by public transport.

The bicycle and pedestrian tracks remain undeveloped in Singapore. It remains difficult to go from point A to B without having to ride along the busy roads. A lot of effort could therefore be invested into developing a proper network of safe tracks for bicycles and pedestrians.

The cost of buying a hybrid vehicle remains much higher than that of a normal car. In order to have people purchase this type of vehicle which have lesser emissions, the government would need to provide a range of incentives.

Electric vehicles have recently been introduced to Singapore, and they have the advantage of having zero emissions during their usage. However, we must keep in mind that almost all of the energy in Singapore is derived from the burning of fossil fuel from natural gas. Therefore, in order for such cars to have a positive impact on reducing emissions, the energy grid powering these cars would need to be from a sustainable source (for example, solar or wind).

From the angle of transport for our daily activities, we could look at the necessity of most people needing to move twice a day in order to get to and from work. As society is changing, so should our daily behaviours. An increasing number of companies in Europe and North America adopt a work from home concept. Employees are no longer required to physically be at the office for work but are assessed on work output and deliverables which can all be done from home. Such a model applied on a large scale can have very significant impacts on reducing unnecessary transportation.

The end message is this: In order to make significant changes in mitigating emissions from the transportation sector, we would need to rethink our daily behaviour and activities. Last but not least, a lot of effort can be done to raise awareness on the need to shift to sustainable modes of transportation and highlight the issue of global warming.

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) believes in education and outreach to the public on such issues and is organising the Singapore G1 for this reason. The Singapore G1 is an event featuring races like the Soap Box Derby, Eco Car Race, Buggy Race, Trishaw Race and other activities like walking and cycling.

SEC aims to raise awareness and encourage the development and use of green technologies in transportation, and more cost-effective modes of transportation like public transport. At the same time, Singapore G1 promotes simple lifestyle changes like walking and cycling.

The writer is the executive director of the Singapore Environment Council (SEC).

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