Petro Gustavo, the Mayor of Bogota made this observation – “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”
While these words may rouse some debate depending on how you define rich and poor and whether a country is considered as developed, they are certainly something to think about.
It is true that most people in New York, London and Tokyo do not drive in the cities because of congestion, limited car parks and expensive parking. Public transport is the way to go in these places and is also becoming the way of life in Singapore.
What is this thing about the CAR that associates a person to his/her wealth and status in social circles?
For one, you can really show off when you drive a nice car. (Rolls Royce and other limos not included unless you are being driven by a chauffeur or end up being mistaken for one.)
Another reason is that you can pass most security posts in condos, country clubs and other places where a luxury car is almost as good as any entrance pass.
The third reason is probably the one closest to our hearts.
Especially for boomers, the CAR is one of the first things we saved up to buy when we started working. Not many of us had family cars to start with, let alone given one by parents. So when we did own one, it was really our dream car. Never mind if that’s a 800 cc ‘bread box on wheels’. It brought us places and that was good enough.
Fast forward 30 years to today, we’ve already changed, upgraded or downgraded our cars depending on the COE, which to me, is a devious way of forcing middle-income family cars off the road unless you can afford rubber burning guzzlers.
For the sake of readers who may not be familiar with Singapore, COE stands for Certificate of Entitlement. It is a system to control car ownership on this island and has worked to some extend if you compare our traffic conditions to neighbouring countries. Every car must have a valid COE which is about S$90,000 at the moment. By the way, the COE does not include the car and is valid for 10 years only. I won’t go into the details here but going at this rate, many of us will never be able to own a car and will have to depend entirely on public transportation.
Fast forward another 30 years in the future, not owing a car and relying entirely on public transportation can be a good thing. The world will be greener and the workforce will be more productive because people won’t be stuck in traffic jams expelling pollutants into the environment.
So will the family car become a thing of the past for us, a dream too far to reach? What else can we dream of?
For me, the dream would be living in a place where the public transport is perfect and there is a fully integrated network of cycling tracks; where fast cars are restricted to abandoned airfields and the nearest deserts; and people commutes mostly for leisure rather than for work.
I know this may be far fetched but every dream starts with something worth doing. Here’s what Denmark has done for its capital by developing a healthy bike culture while saving energy, saving costs and saving earth at the same time.