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The COE system works wonders to deter us from buying cars, but why not explore other less expensive alternatives? Here's what other countries are doing.

22 Oct 2018

Admittedly, traffic on our roads is significantly smoother compared to some of our neighbours, thanks in no small part to our Certificate of Entitlement (COE) system. And not to mention Electronic Road Pricing, an extensive public transport network, Car-free Sunday, car and bike-sharing, as well as autonomous driving trials (which are great ideas for managing congestion), but that doesn't mean we should disregard other alternatives.

Here's what other countries are doing to curb their traffic congestion issues, without having to send their vehicle owners to the brink of bankruptcy.

Hong Kong has smaller buses known as the Public Light Bus that operate more frequently
Hong Kong

Hong Kong's solution to tackling traffic is the Public Light Bus - 16-seater mini-buses that are faster, more efficient and operate at higher frequencies than conventional buses.

Yes, we do have GrabShuttle, but that's still in its infancy and we could benefit from more direct, less-crowded public transport alternatives.

It also wouldn't hurt to have more service providers (read: competitive pricing). Just saying.

Mongolia and the Philippines implemented a system where only certain vehicles are allowed into the city centre each day
Mongolia and the Philippines

Similar to our Off-Peak Scheme, Mongolia and the Philippines have implemented a mandatory ban for vehicles with car plates ending with certain numbers on certain days of the week.

In Mongolia, for example, cars with licence plates ending in '1' and '6' are prohibited from entering the city centre on Mondays. In the Philippines, car plates ending with '1' and '2' are not allowed on city roads on Mondays between 7:00am and 7:00pm.

Personally, we'd much rather take a one-day-a-week driving ban over a 10-year pink slip any day of the week.   

Students in South Africa board a 'walking' school bus, where they walk behind an adult 'driver'
South Africa

Students in South Africa board a 'walking' school bus, where they walk in pairs behind an adult 'driver' - namely grown-ups in neon safety jackets and a whistle around their necks - who leads the way between home and school.

To be honest, this isn't quite the solution we were hoping for, but it does get the students physically active.

At the same time, it teaches them the importance of road safety.

Some of Bangkok's one-way streets will have their directions reversed in order to cope with heavy traffic

Though confusing, and potentially dangerous, some of Bangkok's one-way streets will have their directions reversed in order to help cope with heavy traffic during certain hours of the day. 

On top of that, vehicles fitted with trade plates (red background, black text) are only allowed to be driven on the road during certain hours of the day.

Drivers with these trade plates must seek permission from the relevant authorities if they wish to use their vehicles at night.

Red-plate cars are also not permitted to be driven out of the province in which they were registered in, and are not allowed on expressways.

Denmark has steadily reduced the number of parking spaces in its capital city every year

Copenhagen, amongst other cities around the world, has adopted the 'less is more' mentality when it comes to vehicles on the road.

By doing this, Denmark has steadily reduced the number of parking spaces year on year in its capital.

The idea behind it is simple. Less parking equals fewer cars on the road and, subsequently, more commuters opting for public transport.

The U.K. has started implementing smart motorways, that allow the speed and use of each lane to be adjusted through digital signs

In a bid to reduce journey times and minimise road accidents, the U.K. has started implementing smart motorways into its infrastructure. The Active Traffic Management approach consists of a fully-flexible motorway fitted with Variable Message Signs, which are displayed over each lane.

These signs allow for the speed and use of each lane to be adjusted according to traffic demands. It also allows for road shoulders to be temporarily opened up as new lanes to cope with heavier traffic.

We're not saying these are sure-fire ways of tackling traffic congestion (we'll leave that to the 'experts'), but they're definitely more preferable to selling one of your kidneys just to own a car for 10 years.

Other non-road solutions

Other countries have also created non-road solutions that might ease congestions on the road some more feasible than others. Ideas that you could say is more 'up in the sky'.

China came up with a elevated bus concept that glides over traffic while transporting up to 1,200 passengers in elevated compartments

China came up with the Transit Elevated Bus concept - an electric-powered bus, which glides over traffic and can transport up to 1,200 passengers in elevated compartments - a while back.

A 22m-long, 5m-high prototype was to be tested on a 302m-long test site in the city of Qinghuangdao, one of five cities that had signed contracts with TEB Technology - the company in charge of the project. 

And even though multiple news reports have found it to be a scam, the idea of gliding over cars while everyone else is stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic does have a nice ring to it.

Bolivia has an extensive cable car system that isn't just for leisurely views, it serves as part of the country's transport system

Bolivia has an extensive cable car system similar to our own MRT network, with colour-coded lines such as Red, Yellow, Green and Sky Blue (its newest line). Now, if you're thinking that cable cars aren't a feasible transport alternative, try this on for size.

Operating at over 4,000m high and spanning 16km, Mi Teleferico is the world's longest and highest urban gondola system.

Since its inauguration in 2014, La Paz's cable car system has transported over 106 million passengers, with an average of 159,000 passengers a day.

It connects La Paz to El Alto and cuts down commuting time from one hour to a mere 10 minutes. Cable cars leave the stations every 12 seconds and run for 17 hours per day. And thanks to its newest line, the network can now transport 4,000 people per hour, up from a previous 3,000.

Mi Teleferico not only cuts down travel time for Bolivian commuters, it's also not crazy expensive and offers great views of the city minus the stresses of peak-hour traffic, unlike our own cable car system, which is purely for sightseeing purposes. Say, "bye-bye road rage".

While our Government is trying to improve the road situation in Singapore, it looks like COE is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

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