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FINDING NATIONAL PRIDE IN SINGAPORE'S TRANSPORTATION


Text | Desmond Chan
Photos | Low Fai Ming & Newslink

7th August 2018
We examine the various modes of transportation available in Singapore and wonder if there's one in particular we take greatest pride in.

If you've ever headed up to Malaysia (who hasn't?), you would have seen tons of Proton and Perodua cars everywhere you turn. You see, our neighbour up north had a national car project that started in the 1980s, which created the Proton brand of cars known for their affordability and exceptional reliability that we are all so familiar with. These cars make up for the majority of traffic in the country and hold a significant place in the locals' hearts
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In Japan, about 70% of its railway network is owned and operated by Japan Railways Group. It's a group of private companies that took over the running of the nations railway from the state. This ruthlessly efficient rail network is something Japanese are deeply proud of.

With Singapore's National Day right around the corner, we wonder what forms of transport do us as Singaporeans take greatest pride in? Let's consider the various ways we get around our little red dot.
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1.   Bus/MRT

Public transportation in Singapore consists of public buses and our MRT network, which is no doubt extremely pervasive, convenient, and actually quite affordable compared to many other countries. It's also the most common way Singaporeans get around.

It's something we should really take great pride in. That's of course assuming the MRT isn't breaking down when you need to get to your N Level exam, getting struck by lightning, or colliding into one another. The ongoing saga with MRT services isn't exactly putting it high on any Singaporeans list of things to be proud of. If anything, it's certainly high on most people's list of complaints.
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2.   Taxis

Before the advent of car-sharing, taxis were the go-to means of getting around if you needed to get somewhere fast. Blue ComfortDelGro Hyundais and red TransCab Chevrolets could be seen everywhere on our roads, possibly even mistaken for our national car.

When Uber hit our shores in 2013 (and subsequently Grab in 2015), it saw a boom in private-hire services, which directly impacted the taxi industry. In 2017, the population of private-hire vehicles exceeded 40,000, far out-pacing the taxi population (around 26,000), which has left the taxi industry reeling even till today.
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3.   Private-hire

Did we mention private-hire cars? Back in the day (not that long ago) when Uber and Grab were duking it out for customers, Singaporeans benefitted from promo codes and competitive pricing. Now, with Grab having bought over Uber's South East Asia business and becoming the dominant player in the private-hire market, we've already started to hear the complaints streaming in about price hikes and reduced ride availability. Ironic, considering that Grab is a Singapore-based company - you would think there'd be a little more national pride there.

The growth of the private-hire industry has also impacted the car industry - many have attributed the rise in COE prices in recent years to the aggressive expansion of these companies, not to mention the increase in the number of such cars on the road causing frustration to other drivers.
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4.   Bike-sharing

Convenient? Sure. Cheap? Definitely. Messy? Hell yeah. Hot? Don't even get us started. You know, bike-sharing in a compact metropolitan island like Singapore makes a lot of sense. However, the suddenly boom or bike-sharing services, together with the general lack of civility among users, has led to problems as well.

Yes, bike-sharing is no doubt convenient, but it has recently become something of a national nuisance as well, what with the Government beginning to clamp down on bike-sharing companies. And who knows where this is headed, with the Government still in the midst of reviewing and implementing regulatory frameworks. The exit of oBike, and the subsequent logistical headache that came with it, isn't exactly helping the cause either.
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5.   Personal Car

Yes, we've all heard all the gripes and complaints before. Cars are stupidly expensive, COE prices are out of this world, there's traffic jams everywhere and everyday. Singaporeans will complain to the end of the days about, well, anything really.

But truth be told, there's still nothing quite like owning your own car. For some, it's a status symbol. For others, it's just a practical and logical means of getting around. But having your own car is different - it's something uniquely yours, something you take care of and treasure.

And of course, cars offer a degree of personalisation you cannot otherwise have. While car manufacturers produce thousands of identical cars, you can make your car one-of-a-kind, whether with zany paintwork or fancy rims.
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Even with the multitude of transportation options in Singapore, there's no denying that having our own car is still something that Singaporeans still take great pride and value in. Otherwise, how else do you explain the constant demand for new cars even with burgeoning car prices and increased taxes?
So while we may not have a Singaporean car manufacturer to call our own, by our estimation, owning our own car is still the closest we come to a means of transport we take greatest pride in. Oh, unless you want to count Singapore Airlines into the equation. That's a source of national pride if we've ever seen one.