What Mumbai Can Learn From Singapore – Strategy With RS

In the last few days I have been using Mumbai public transport system.The congestion, that I have encountered, in every mode of transport – bus, local train, taxi has left me enervated & frazzled.

This got me thinking. Has any place, the size of Mumbai, faced this issue & overcome it?

My mind leaped to city-state of Singapore. It is approximately the size of Mumbai – only smaller.

During my frequent visit to Singapore I have noticed the following strategic initiatives taken by them:

1. Encouraging people to use Pubic transport:
A. Dedicated Bus lanes during peak hours. This ensures bus travels faster & reaches almost as per schedule – referenced below.
B. Dedicated Cycle Lane – referenced below.
C. Free / subsidised travel on MRT – Mass Rapid Transport – The equivalent of Metro in India. To get people to shift time of travel to off peak hours, the authorities decided to make people exiting 18 main MRT station till 0745 am free; from 0746 to 0800 am – offered 50% discount. This saw many people shift their travel time to avail of this reward, leading to marginal reduction in congestion during peak travel time.
D. Off Peak Pass: This pass entitles people to have unlimited travel on public transportation during non- peak hours.

2. Taxation rate to discourage people from owning & driving vehicles & that too during peak hours:
A. Congestion Tax: If a vehicle enters a designated area – which is congested, then a tax is levied upon enter into this area.
B. Certification of Entitlement (COE) : Potential buyers & users of car in Singapore have to win a bid, which grants them license to own & use cars in Singapore. Many a time the COE exceeds the value of the car. This prevents people from owning cars.
C. Weekend Cars: COE denies many people the privilege of owning a car; to make it easier for them to own it the authorities have introduced Weekend Car – these cars attract lower taxation rate but come with a caveat. They can be out on the roads only on weekends – Saturday & Sunday; national holidays & on weekdays during non-peak hours – 7pm to 7 am. What happens if there is emergency & a weekend car owner has to drive during weekdays peak time – pay $20. These cars have distinctive Red color number plate – referenced below.

Has this strategy borne fruits?

It seems that almost 60% Singaporeans use public transport leading to reduction in traffic congestion; significant reduction in air pollution.

BTW the only obvious initiative that I did not notice in Singapore is ‘Car Pooling’. Or is it that I have missed it?

Disclosure: Indeed there is no comparisons between population of Mumbai & Singapore. But at least the authorities can use their imagination to come up with solutions, which can bring relief to people using public transportation.

It would be wonderful if you can share your experience of how other cities / countries are attempting to decongest there roads & public transportations system … it will be extremely valuable.



Raghavendra Pokuri

Hi Professor..thanks for sharing with us the Singaporean transport model. I am currently staffing with a software company and I live in Hyderabad. Hyderabad’s population is over a crore and dedicated ‘Bus only’ lanes will never be feasible. While dedicated cycle lanes are a dying breed, it is only left to one’s imagination if the concept of ‘Weekend cars’ finds its feet in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi. What’s disturbing me terribly is the time the authorities ‘concerned’ (if they are really concerned) are taking to complete -Metro Rail project. It was supposed to be completed by 2014. The govt went to extend the deadline by 5 more years which isn’t commendable. As you rightly said, authorities can use their imagination to come up with solutions. Leave apart the very notion of a ‘solution’, authorities seem busy enough in exacerbating commuters’ pain points. Talking about tolls and taxes, unless and until automation comes into picture, half of the amount (even more than that) goes into the pockets of corrupt traffic police men. But as I draw the curtain close on my comment, I wish to take a cue from Shawshank redemption movie’s quote- “Hope lies eternal.” I sincerely hope that, authorities take the suggestions of intellectuals like you into consideration and bring smiles on a common man’s face (on my face) for all the right reasons.

Rajesh Srivastava

Raghavendra thanks for sharing your thoughts so candidly. I have infinite faith in young people & technology. Together they will attempt to solve every issue faced by human kind. And they will succeed – not partially but wholly & completely. Why am I so optimist – previous generations have created the problems & they are attempting to solve it. Therefore the solutions eludes them … because as Albert Einstein has so aptly said – We cannot solve the problem with the same level of thinking that caused it. New generation armed with new tools & learning will be best poised to solve issues. This is my hope & belief.