Not bad, there's still a holiday for him. :-)
I just read from an online forum that Vivo City and West Mall are changing their free-motorcycle-parking policy.
West Mall flat out refused motorcycles from entering.
Vivo City is better: $1 for the first three hours, $1 per hour after that.
ERP rates in several areas will be cut by $1
THE Government has put the brakes on its ambitious ERP expansion plans.
Five out of six new electronic road-pricing gantries scheduled to be up in November will not be built.
The Land Transport Authority on Friday said that there is now no need to put up gantries in Commonwealth Avenue, Jalan Bukit Merah, Alexandra Road and Ayer Rajah Expressway (westbound).
'Based on LTA's traffic monitoring, traffic speeds at these four locations have risen to within the optimum range in recent months,'' an LTA spokesman said.
Observers have attributed this to high fuel prices, which have persuaded many motorists to cut down on driving. This is evident in public transport ridership figures, which are now at record levels.
A gantry planned for Serangoon Road (northbound) will not be erected either, despite below-optimal traffic speeds.
The LTA explained that it is 'working with other agencies to study improvements to the physical environment in the Little India area, which could affect the traffic situation along Serangoon Road' before deciding if ERP is necessary.
Ongoing major works to improve the Woodsville Junction has also slowed traffic flow in Serangoon Road.
The only gantry scheduled to go up in November will the one along the Pan-Island Expressway (westbound) near Eunos.
'Traffic conditions there remain below the optimal speed threshold during the morning peak hours,'' the LTA spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the LTA has completed its review of ERP rates in the city and Chinatown areas and will slash prices by $1 at several gantries.
It said traffic conditions in the city 'has shown marked improvements' since July, when gantries went up along the Singapore River and ERP city rates were raised sharply.
'In particular, traffic speeds in the Shenton Way-Chinatown cordon of the CBD are now significantly better than in the Bugis-Marina Centre cordon,'' the LTA spokesman said.
From Monday, gantries at New Bridge Road, South Bridge Road and Fullerton Road (westbound) will no longer be on between 7.30pm and 8pm.
They will only charge $1 for cars between 6pm and 7.30pm, from $2 now.
Gantries in Eu Tong Sen Street and Fullerton Road (eastbound) will charge $1 between 6pm and 7.30pm, from $2 now.
Ten gantries in the central business district will charge $1, from $2 now.
The Chinatown Business Association, which has been lobbying for a review of ERP in the Singapore River area, cheered the news.
Association general manager Victor Ong said: 'To business, definitely good news. Hopefully, this will translate to more movement in the area, and business done.
'I suppose to the general public it's good news too.''
This is the first time that the Government had pulled back on ERP implementation plans that it had announced. Even with the pause, the ERP network has grown significantly. By November, there will be 84 gantries, from fewer than 60 at the beginning of this year. However, 18 of them on the KPE are not operational. They will only be activated if traffic congestion arise.
In reply to a query from The Straits Times on earlier this month on whether the Government would rely more on COEs or ERP to manage congestion, Transport Minister Raymond Lim said: 'We cannot rely on any single measure as it will put excessive pressure on it. If we do, we will end up either with sky-high COE prices or exorbitant ERP charges. So we need to strike an appropriate balance between the vehicle population growth rate and usage charges.
'That balance will change with time, taking into account the total vehicle population and road growth then prevailing.
"As always, there is no silver bullet and a holistic approach to dealing with congestion is needed.'
I'm rather surprised at the turn of events. I believe the improvement in traffic is due to the high petrol prices and the poor economy.
This shows that there is a limit to what people are willing to pay for ERP. Apparently it's not very high.
Also, LTA likes to use the word holistic.
Most people have a fear of the narrow plank. No wonder, it seems to be the hardest class 2B course. (It's not. U-turn is the most difficult.)
Useful tips for the narrow plank course:
Narrow plank is only difficult for class 2B bikes, due to their light weight. Class 2A and class 2 bikes are very heavy, hence they are very stable at low speeds.
HDB carpark has free parking on Sundays and public holidays. Why should it be the case?
I can understand that in the past, the carpark wardens need a day off. But now, cashcard operated carparks can operate 24/7 by themselves.
I think I beat five yellow lights yesterday. I am getting more and more lax.
On my way home, I needed to go past a pedestrian crossing on the filter lane to PIE. I was very close to the crossing when I saw two bicycles wanting to pass through.
I quickly applied my brakes, but it was too short to stop in time. Luckily, the two cyclists stopped. I released my brakes and glided through the pedestrian crossing.
The car behind me stopped for the cyclists to cross.
Motorists abusing free carpark scheme face fines by NParks
YOU have probably heard of bus cheats and road bullies.
Now meet the carpark abusers.
These are people who deny genuine park visitors of parking lots.
Some of them exploit the free parking services by leaving their weekend cars at the parks over the course of the day.
Then there are those who use the carpark as a park-and-ride centre - they leave their cars at these places and walk or take a short bus ride to their work places - saving on parking charges.
The National Parks Board (NParks) revealed these findings to The New Paper when responding to reader Seah Weixiang's letter, 'Mystery fine by NParks', published on 13Sep.
The NParks is concerned about the increasing abuse of free parking in its carparks, especially by weekend car owners and workers in factories and offices near the carparks.
To encourage people to make use of parks for recreation, parking is free at most parks in Singapore.
However, this privilege is increasingly being abused by non-park users, thus depriving genuine park visitors of the lots.
Other than Admiralty Park, which was mentioned in Mr Seah's letter, similar cases have also been noted at other parks such as Pasir Ris Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park and West Coast Park.
NParks' officers have been monitoring the situation in the carparks for some time.
If a vehicle is found to be parked at the same lot over a certain period, NParks will first issue an advisory letter. It will continue monitoring the vehicle at different times of the day over a few days.
If the vehicle has not been moved, a fine of $30 is then imposed for failing to obey signs exhibited in the carpark.
This year alone, owners of about 300 vehicles have been fined for abusing the parking lots, with 12 fines issued at Admiralty Park.
Asked about repeat offenders, NParks said that it is monitoring the situation before taking further action.
In an e-mail to The New Paper, NParks' head of Parks Division, Mr Johnny Go, raised the possibility of charging parking fees to regulate usage.
As for Mr Seah's father, a frequent Admiralty Park user, NParks said his car was unfortunately mistaken as belonging to a non-park user and he was wrongly fined.
NParks said that the issue has since been clarified and the parking fine waived.
When contacted by The New Paper, Mr Seah said that although NParks made an effort to explain the rationale behind the fine, he described the way the fine was managed as 'contradicting'.
He wondered how NParks officers could differentiate between vehicles belonging to regular park users, such as his father, and vehicles belonging to non-park users.
He said he was not surprised that people are abusing the free parking, especially since the carpark is near an industrial area.
But NParks did have its supporters.
Madam Foo Wee Meng, who is in her 60s and a regular visitor of West Coast Park, said that while she could sympathise with people wanting to save money, she thought that their actions would cause inconvenience to genuine park users.
She said: 'I am okay with NParks imposing a fine to prevent non-park users abusing the free parking service.'
One less place to park for free.
There's a NPark carpark near my workplace. It is a pretty long walk — about 10 to 15 minutes — but apparently some people do use it!
A friend told me yesterday how his girlfriend whined to him that she took taxi but forgot to bring along her purse, so she had no money to pay the taxi driver. She then had to borrow money from a friend, and then return home to get her purse.
I thought it was improbable.
Then it happened to me. I went to the town centre for lunch and to run some errands. When I reached there, I realized I had forgotten to bring my wallet! I had to return home. In addition, I gave up a good parking lot for nothing. (My carpark is always full on Sunday.)
It is proven: an unpowered IU can be detected! When I exited from a cashcard operated carpark, the screen flashed my IU number even though my IU was disconnected!
I was stuck behind one for a short while — it was too dangerous to overtake. The speedometer registered 35 km/h.
My CB400F headlight worked after I fiddled with the wiring. I thought it was resolved. Unfortunately, the headlight continued to work erratically.
I stumbled on the root cause yesterday in an underground carpark. Before I start the bike, the headlight was off. When I switched it on, the headlight went off — this is normal. As the engine cranked to life, the headlight came back on. Just then, my thumb left the start button and the headlight went off.
I fiddled with the start button. The headlight went on and off. Ha, I have found the root cause!
|Off (w/ IU)||0.46mA||0.43mA||3.48mA|
|Off w/ cashcard||0.49mA||0.46mA||?|
The IU draws an extremely small current even when the vehicle is off. 0.46mA (note: not 0.46A) should be negligible, but the YBR125's battery still gets flat after 1 – 2 days. The CB400F has no issue even after one month of inactivity. The battery became very weak, though (12.3V to 12.1V).
Inserting a cashcard into the IU merely increases the current used by 0.03mA. The IU is pretty efficient! (When the IU's LED is lighted, it consumes about 30mA.)
I wonder why the MX-5 consumes 3.5mA. The radio and remote has been removed. Perhaps it's due to the current loss due to the longer wiring.
The CB400F consumes a staggering 5.6A when it's on due to the headlights. It's essential to switch off the bike when the engine is off.
I'm surprised the MX-5 draws 1.5A when it's on. It looks like just keeping the car on (without the engine running) will drain the battery over time too.
I was walking towards my carpark when I saw two Malay women strolling towards the carpark too. My suspicion was aroused because they seemed to be in no hurry.
The truth was finally revealed when they reached the carpark. They put on their carpark warden uniform and went around to check the cars!
It looks like they don't want people to know that they are starting their checks.
b class="keyw">The Online Citizen (TOC) is organizing a public transport hike protest today at Hong Lim Park. I wanted to go, but I felt too lazy to do so.
Moreover, I have to fix the IU for my motorcycle before I can go in (full day ERP for the Riverline gantries on Saturday).
WOODLANDS Town Centre resident Chung See Fook takes almost 30 minutes to get out of the carpark to the Bukit Timah Expressway 100m away.
Grassroots leader, Dr Maszenan Abdul Majit, needs 45 minutes to travel 200m from Admiralty onto Woodlands Centre Road.
At times, the tailback caused by bumper-to-bumper traffic heading to the Woodlands Checkpoint during peak hours, especially in the evening, reaches over four kilometres to Kranji.
Residents and merchants in the town centre say that the situation is so bad that buses are unable to get into the area because it would take hours for them to get out of the snarl.
To ease the congestion woes, the Land Transport Authority, the Traffic Police and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority will divert traffic away from the neighbourhood beginning next week.
From 4pm on Monday, only public and school buses will be allowed to turn right from Woodlands Centre Road into the Woodlands Checkpoint during peak hours.
This means that on weekdays, between 4pm and 10pm, and on weekends and public holidays, between 10am and 10pm, cars are forbidden from using the road to get into the checkpoint.
Lorries, trucks and motorcycles are not allowed to do so at all times.
Announcing the details of the plan yesterday (sep12), Deputy Superintendent Daniel Cheng, commanding officer of the Traffic Police's patrol unit, said the diversion will be placed on trial for three months to see if the situation improves.
'During the hours of restriction, motorists should proceed into Old Woodlands Road or to the BKE, which will serve as the alternative routes into the checkpoint,' he said.
Traffic signs will be put up to inform them of the changes, and police officers will be stationed along these roads to guide the motorists as well, he added.
The Woodlands town centre is a dead town anyway. Singaporeans don't go there due to the bad traffic. Malaysians will now not go there because they no longer pass by the place.
I do not think this will increase the congestion — the number of cars going into Malaysia is still the same.
I didn't ride my CB400F for over a month, hence it was no surprise that I forgot the number for the combination lock that I used to lock my helmet with.
The funny thing is, I used the lock twice (yesterday and today) on auto-pilot, but when I tried to recall the number before opening the lock this afternoon, I realized I had forgotten the combination!
It took me about half-an-hour of trial-and-error before I got the lock opened. It was a really easy to remember combination, but I had done it on auto-pilot for so long that I remembered the steps rather than the number! And I forgot the steps after one month of not using it.
I sent this feedback to HDB. Let's see what they say.
Motorcyclists need to pay $0.65 per entry for a cashcard-based carpark. I know the motorcyclist is then allowed unrestricted entries to the same carpark for half a day, but whoever returns to the same carpark?
This method of charging is very unfair for motorcyclists who just need to run an errand for 5 to 15 minutes. Previously, the coupon can be reused in other carparks.
I would like to propose that motorcycles be subjected to per-minute charging, to be capped at $0.65. This would lower the cost of short duration parking significantly.
HDB puts up signs at carpark entrances banning such services
THE two carpark valet services in Holland Village, there for years, were told yesterday that they have to cease operations from today.
Last night, workers contracted by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) put up signs at the carpark entrances in Lorong Liput and Lorong Mambong declaring that such parking services were banned.
An electronic parking system will go up there on Sept 22 to regulate the demand for parking lots, said the HDB.
Mr R.K. Vicnesh, 32, who runs the year-old Sakthya Services, said he heard about the ban only yesterday. Before him, the booth had been run by his brother-in-law from 2001.
Mr Vicnesh charges motorists $8 to park their car so they can avoid the hassle of circling the area for a lot.
His valet service has tie-ups with eight restaurants and service providers in the area, including Splendour Spa, Qi Mantra and Lebanese restaurant Al-Qas'r.
Sakthya charges these businesses a monthly fee for their customers to enjoy free valet parking. It also has a tie-up with DBS Bank to give customers free valet parking if they charge $60 or more to their DBS or POSB cards at the outlets in the area.
Mr Vicnesh has written to the HDB asking to be allowed to continue his services. He is also collecting signatures from business owners for a petition against the ban on valet services.
Both he and the other valet operator, Purple Valet Services, plan to continue operating until further notice from the HDB. Said Mr Ray K., a valet with Purple Valet Services: 'The outlets have paid us, so we will stay.'
Both operators said that in the time they have been there, nobody has told them that they needed a permit, or that they were not allowed there, except that Sakthya was once asked by the Land Transport Authority to move its valet booth away from the pavement. It has since operated its booth outside the Haagen Daz cafe without further incident.
Shop owners, whose customers are younger Singaporeans and expatriates, expressed disappointment at the ban on valet services.
Mrs Sabrinah Hussin, 23, who manages Splendour Spa, said eight in 10 of the spa's customers used the free valet service because 'it is hard to find parking lots here, and they want to be on time for their appointments'.
Mr Amos Liew, 27, a supervisor at Qi Mantra spa, is worried he may lose customers if the parking problem worsens.
Lebanese restaurant Al-Qas'r managing director Georges Khanashat said the restaurant might have to move if the situation does not improve.
Lawyer Leong Kwok Yan, 61, said valet services were needed because parking facilities were inadequate. 'People are always waiting around for a long time, and they jam up the carpark.'
Besides the Lorong Liput carpark - where half the lots are season parking ones for HDB residents in the area - visitors to Holland Village used to have another carpark across the road at Chip Bee Gardens, but that was closed down in 2004 for work to build Holland Village's MRT station.
THE Housing and Development Board will be implementing a series of measures to improve the parking situation at the Holland Avenue carpark.
An Electronic Parking System will be put in place in the Lorong Liput carpark from Sept 22.
Parking will no longer be free on Sundays and public holidays, as the demand for free lots has left season parking ticket holders without lots.
Lorong Liput will be turned into a one-way street to facilitate entry into the carpark.
Holland Village has faced a parking crunch since 2004 when several carpark lots were lost due to the construction of the Circle Line's Holland Village MRT station, which is expected to be completed in 2010.
In November 2005, an upper deck carpark just behind the Cold Storage Supermarket with 89 spaces opened, bringing the total available lots to 414.
Having an unauthorized valet parking service in a public carpark is so out of place for Singapore.
All good times come to an end.
The industrial park that my company is in used to be quite run-down. (It's pretty clean, though.) Ever since new tenants come in, the landlord has spiced up the place. However, it also means new restrictions.
Along with the new tenants are the many motorcycle couriers. They park at their own whims and fancy, leading the landlord to introduce very severe parking restrictions for the motorcycles.
Also, there are now pavement blockers disallowing motorcycles to go on the pavements.
Today, I noticed some mobile roadblock that disallow riders from exiting from the entrance.
This is pretty bad because the traffic just outside the exit in the evening is really bad. By exiting from the entrance, I can shave at least 5 minutes on my journey home.
A TOTAL of 538 motorists were taken by surprise on Tuesday when they went through an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantry at the new Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE).
The gantry is not meant to be operational yet, but the motorists were charged as they passed through it.
One of them wrote in to citizen- media website Stomp and said:
"I was driving through the KPE tunnel towards the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) exit at around 12pm and was surprised to be charged $2 at gantry 82."
Stomp contacted the Land Transport Authority (LTA), which said that it will refund motorists who were accidentally charged at the KPE gantry between 11am and noon that day.
A spokesman told my paper that the erroneous deductions amounted to about $800.
The spokesman explained the incident:
"Between 11am and noon on Tuesday, ERP contractors from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, while carrying out routine testing, accidentally activated one of the Phase 1 ERP gantries at the KPE slip road exit to PIE at Sims Avenue.
"LTA has made arrangements to refund the motorists for the amount that had been wrongly deducted with a $10 CashCard."
The amount covers the fee which was wrongly deducted and a bonus,
"A small token as our apology for the inconvenience caused" the LTA spokesman said.
The LTA reiterated in its reply to my paper that the 16 KPE gantries were installed together with the construction of the expressway as part of tunnel infrastructure to enhance safety.
"This will allow LTA to activate the ERP gantries to manage congestion expeditiously, should congestion build up inside the tunnel in the future," the spokesman said.
"Similarly, the ERP gantries will be activated only when the congestion threshold is breached."
The KPE is a 12km expressway with a 9km-long underground tunnel, and will be opened fully for use on Sept 20.
Last week, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Teo Ser Luck had said in Parliament that, for example, should there be a fire, vehicles may be trapped and the tragedy will 'multiply manifold' if the vehicles are lined up, bumper-to-bumper.
Hence, by having the gantries already built, there will be no time lag in dealing with congestion should it build up.
On the 'small token' offered by the LTA, Stomp forum contributor counterstrike commented: "Wow!Pay $2 to get a $10 CashCard."
However, fellow forum participant Growiser said: "What about those commuters who have paid taxi drivers the ERP charges and have no receipt as proof."
It's through news like this that you get an indication of the traffic at KPE. 538 motorists at one of the exits within a span of one hour. That's pretty high traffic.
FOR the past three months, he has been thinking about retiring in Malaysia.
But there is one big road hump - the issue of car-ownership.
Retiree Mr Tan Sin Wee, 60, wants to buy a Malaysian-registered car.
Not only because it's cheaper there, he explained, but also to reduce the risk of falling prey to criminals.
The problem is Mr Tan will have to pay the car's additional registration fee (ARF) - which will come up to tens of thousands - if he wants to drive the car to visit his son in Singapore.
Mr Tan, who wrote to us last month, said this fee is on top of the $20 permit fee imposed on foreign-registered cars entering here from 2 am to 5 pm on weekdays.
No fees are levied on weekends and public holidays.
Questioned Mr Tan: 'Why is there a need to pay the ARF? I think it's an overkill. Isn't it enough that I will be paying the $20 permit fee? Why the double-standards considering that foreigners don't have to pay the ARF?'
Mr Tan, who lives in a terrace house in the Aljunied area, thinks the ARF portion should be waived, especially for those who want to retire up north yet keep their ties with their relatives in Singapore.
He wants to retire in Malaysia because of the lower cost of living, the less hectic pace and proximity to Singapore.
Mr Tan is married with a 24-year-old son.
The former oil exploration engineer is thinking of selling his $1 million house here to retire in Johor Baru, that is, if he can work around the ARF issue.
What of the option of having two cars, one Malaysian-registered and the other Singapore-registered?
'If I am able to afford two cars,' he said, 'I won't have to think about retiring elsewhere.'
LTA said Singaporeans are only allowed to drive foreign-registered vehicles in Singapore if the ARF of the vehicle's open market value (OMV) is paid.
Said an LTA spokesman: 'This is to ensure that our car ownership measures, put in place to manage congestion within Singapore, will not be circumvented.'
But Singaporeans working and residing in Malaysia who need to make home visits to Singapore occasionally are allowed to drive their Malaysia-registered cars here on a case-by-case basis.
Transport economist Mr Michael Li of the Nanyang Business School said that if the policy is removed, it may create a loophole.
'This could create a situation where Singaporeans may just register a car there to take advantage of the cost savings, and then pay the nominal $20 to drive here. It could be a cheaper option,' he said.
Mr Li said this loophole would benefit those who purchase luxury cars with higher COE and OMV, where the savings would be in the tens of thousands.
For example, a Mercedes C200 would set you back about $151,000 (plus COE) here compared to about $100,000 in Malaysia.
Said Mr Li: 'Cars in Malaysia don't expire in 10 years like our COE system. So there's potential for abuse if this policy is removed.'
He said that in Mr Tan's case, he can park his Malaysian-registered car near the Causeway, and take a taxi around Singapore.
Said Mr Li: 'If a Government policy affects many people and creates hardship, then we've to review it. But in this case, it doesn't. And the small number of people who may be affected by this policy do have choices.'
This is seldom heard about: that Singaporeans can drive Malaysian cars if they pay the ARF.
MADAM Cheng Ah Tee has spent the past 37 years serving coffee from a drinks stall at the Labrador Villa Food Centre.
But that came to an end on Sunday when the run-down hawker centre near the corner of Alexandra and Pasir Panjang roads served its last meal.
The institution, popular for what patrons call its cheap food and old-world charm, has been closed to make way for 'future redevelopment', said a National Environment Agency spokesman.
Other sources say it is making way for the Labrador Park MRT Station, which is due to open in 2010 or later.
Speaking in Mandarin, Madam Cheng, 65, the longest-staying tenant, said: 'I definitely won't be able to sleep for at least a month or two.'
While watching movers cart away the refrigerator from her stall, she added: 'It is really very good here. For over 30 years, there has never been any quarrels.'
The 37-year-old food centre had just 10 stalls, but it was popular with local workers. On the haunt's last day, regulars turned up in droves for a last taste of their favourite dishes and to snap photos of the place and the stall owners.
Some said earlier they were drawn to it because of its rustic look.
'Where else would you see wooden planks being used to shutter up stalls at closing time, wire mesh used as ceilings and bamboo sheets as protection from the rain?' said one patron who only wanted to be known as Mr Meldi.
When The Straits Times visited Labrador Villa Food Centre at noon yesterday, five of the 10 stalls were boarded up and the tenants of the remaining stalls were busy packing their things. Pots, plates, bowls and cutlery covered the tabletops.
Old-timers at the food centre said they were reluctant to leave.
Madam Hajjah Sa'diah Abdul Rahman, 56, was dabbing her eyes with tissue before sitting down to sort through letters in front of her 16-year-old stall, which sold Malay dishes and snacks.
'Sayang, sayang,' she said about the loss of the food centre, repeating the Malay word for 'love'.
Another tenant, Mr K. Manokaran, 45, who runs the other drinks stall there, has fond memories of the place dating back more than 30 years.
'My school was very nearby, so I came by to help my mother,' he said.
Some tenants are unsure if they would continue with their business. Others are still hunting for a new location. It would, however, be difficult to find an equally good location at the same rent, tenants said.
I seldom visit this food centre despite being a stone's throw away from my office. Now it will make way for the new MRT station.
Once, I came to this place at 7am to buy my breakfast. However, it was too crowded and I left empty handed.
When the Circle line is up, I suspect some of the shuttle bus services to the MRT stations will be stopped, as there would be a MRT station at our door step.
However, it is likely that our company would have shifted out, due to rising rents. There is speculation that we are going to shift to Tuas! (The current industrial park is transforming into a backend banking hub.)
When I took the MRT a while back, I tried to find out why it wasn't possible to find a seat on the MRT.
The reason is simple. There are just 50 seats in a normal cabin, but there is space for at least 84 standing passengers. This should be around 80% of peak capacity. It starts to get uncomfortable beyond that.
In other words, you're only likely to find a seat when the train is below 33% capacity.
I was in the leftmost lane when I approached a junction with a filter lane. As I was pretty far, some of the vehicles moved out.
When I got closer, the vehicles stopped, but one of the drivers thought there was still time, so he moved out. I had to brake to a stop to avoid hitting him.
Moral of the story: look out even if it's your right of way.
Junctions that are blocked by vehicles before the junction are also very dangerous. The cars will continue to move out, and sometimes they move directly to the second lane. I try to make it a point to slow down when I approach these danger spots.
A forumer claimed that an ST article said there were 110 OPC cheats every month. This is just the caught figure. I'm surprised TP can catch so many offenders. That's 4 to 5 cases per day.
Like many other roads, Farrer road doesn't jam in the morning during the school holidays. However, it doesn't look like the parents use this road to send their children to school, so I don't understand why it is affected by the school holidays.
One main cause of the traffic jam is the sole traffic light at Empress road. During school days, many cars turn out of Empress road after the parents send their children to school. The traffic light is red for a longer time. During school holidays, the traffic light is green most of the time, hence the traffic doesn't build up.
It's as simple as that.
What a lousy day. I got drenched when I went to work, and I got drenched again when I went home.
When I went to work, I could already see dark clouds over my workplace. Midway, I could feel the cold water vapour in the air, but I didn't stop to put on my raincoat.
I entered the rain zone just 1 km away from my workplace. I decided to push on. Bad choice. It went from light rain to heavy rain, and in less than 10 seconds, I was thoroughly drenched.
I put on my raincoat before I went home as it was somewhat dark. However, I didn't wear the rainpants as I felt dorky wearing the full raincoat when it's not raining.
It rained midway. I decided not put on the rainpants as I was already a little drenched when I reached a safe place to stop. Bad choice. The rain went from light to pouring.
I lost my August entries when I overwrote the wrong files!
Luckily, I was able to retrieve an old copy from Yahoo's cache, but I still lost several entries.
My CB400F's headlight is now working, much thanks to two of my colleagues.
We took apart the headlight and the headlight low/high beam switch, measured connectivity, voltage and traced the wiring. I had checked a few days ago that the fuse and bulb were working fine.
In the end, it turned out to be loose wiring. We still don't know which wire (since there are many poorly wrapped ones), but at least we know the cause. The headlight worked after we fiddled with the wiring. I will rewrap all the wires when I find time.
My colleague had two comments. One, that the wirings seem to be all in the headlight. That is not too surprising — it's a convenient and waterproof place to put them. What was surprising was that the wirings had been cut and tampered with before. He wondered why.
I had not ridden my CB400F for three weeks due to this headlight problem!
I then looked at my YBR.
I recharged the battery and put it back. My colleague showed me how to measure current correctly. Interestingly, there was no drain, with or without the IU. If I put a cashcard into the IU, the IU's LED would light up and it drained 0.03A. It went back to 0 after the LED went off. I put the bike to 'on' and it drew 0.33A.
Anyway, I disconnected the IU to see if the battery would self-discharge over the next few days.
IT USED to be tough finding a parking lot at Maxwell Food Centre in the evening.
Yesterday, marketing communications officer Lilian Lo had her pick from 12 available lots.
And in the food centre yesterday evening, The Straits Times found more than enough seats available; only a handful of the more popular stalls had queues snaking out of them.
The 103 stalls at the centre have complained of a 20 to 40 per cent drop in their takings since the five Electronic Road Pricing gantries took effect.
These road toll gantries were installed to discourage motorists from using roads which run through Chinatown, like South Bridge Road, to head to other parts of the Central Business District.
While most of the stalls at Maxwell Food Centre generally rely on the lunch time crowd for business, reduced earnings from the evening crowd have made at least one stall owner think about leaving.
Mr Edmund Sim, 30, who has run the western food stall Edmund's Kitchen for the past two years, said it was difficult to survive, now that he was earning about $150 less every night.
'By 7pm, I would have finished all my fish, but nowadays I can't sell at least half of it,' he said.
Other stalls said they no longer served queues at their stalls during the 6pm to 8pm dinner period.
Some said they were closing earlier in the evening due to the lack of business.
Maxwell market used to be so crowded. Fortunes reverse very easily by external factors.
Some markets relocated due to renovation and never recovered their previous popularity. People can be very fickle-minded.
LTA to assess rates and timings a month sooner in response to feedback
CHINATOWN businesses hit by falling customer traffic will know by October if adjustments can be made to the timings or charges for the new road tolls in the area.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will bring its quarterly review forward by a month in response to feedback that takings by businesses in the area have dived by up to half since five gantries went live last month.
Under review will be the timings for Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) - now levied between 6pm and 8pm - and the charges of up to $2.
Motorists' driving patterns would have stabilised within three months, during which the LTA would have gathered enough data on the volume and speed of traffic, occupancy levels of carparks in the area and retail sales figures.
Where traffic speed is concerned, the LTA has noted 'significant improvements' since the new gantries went up. Average speeds are up by between 5 and 30 per cent along areas affected by the Singapore River Line cordon, it said yesterday.
The Senior Minister of State for Transport, Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, said after meeting Chinatown businessmen yesterday: 'If traffic conditions warrant it, LTA will announce the review results in the later part of September and adjust the ERP rates from early October.'
She had just spent about an hour with representatives of Chinatown business associations at the Kreta Ayer Community Club yesterday.
Mrs Lim told reporters after the closed- door meeting that the businesses accepted that the gantries, set up to reduce traffic cutting through the city, would help ease congestion in the area.
The ERP scheme does this by discouraging through traffic and ensuring vehicles which enter the area do so because they have destinations there. Mrs Lim said: 'I think the challenge is to try and find the right balance and the right trade-offs.'
She added, however, that the new gantries, collectively called the Singapore River Line, could not be solely blamed for a slowdown in business. A slowdown in the economy and higher fuel prices were among the other reasons for fewer customers and lower spending.
Mr Wong Chi Keong, the chairman of the Chinatown Business Association (CBA), agreed that the new gantries could take only so much of the blame, but said that the ERP was an added reason people were giving the area a miss.
CBA did a survey recently among more than 200 businesses and found that sales had fallen between 15 and 50 per cent.
He said: 'The main problem is because Chinatown is like a heartland town rather than a big retail area like Orchard Road.
'So every little cost for a customer will affect his decision to come here.'
CBA has called for a shortening of ERP hours in the area, so charging ends at 7pm instead of 8pm. It also suggested that the gantries be moved closer to the entries of the Central Expressway and the Ayer Rajah Expressway near Chinatown. These are the highways that traffic going through Chinatown is actually headed to, said Mr Wong.
Mrs Lim noted that the meeting also showed up some areas for better public education.
'A lot of people, including the operators themselves, thought that the ERP hours were operational on Saturdays as well, which is not the case,' she said.
She also noted that, though the Government had reduced road taxes to help offset the ERP increases, people did not link the two policy moves and often overlooked the objective of the tax cuts.
It looks like drivers are more sensitive to road pricing than I expected. I had expected drivers to go through the CBD as usual and the ERP rate to go up somemore in the next review (November).
The Prime Minister compared the car prices in 2000 and now to justify ERP. It is quite a serious issue to be brought up in the National Day Rally.
Yesterday, my brother and I went to look for a fish-n-chip store. It was supposed to open on this day, but to our disappointment, it was still closed.
My brother had already put a 50-cents parking coupon, so it was wasted as we decided to go elsewhere for dinner.
It's times like this when you prefer cashcard parking.
|Start at Bugis Junction||0 km|
|To NTU||30 km|
|To Toa Payoh||21.5 km|
I have heard the planes flying past Toa Payoh for the past 2 or 3 weekends. Apparently Toa Payoh is part of their flight path after flying past Marina South.
Today, watching the live telecast of the NDP, I realized just how fast the planes were moving. After the planes flew past Marina South (on TV), I could hear them fly over the roof just five seconds later.
CFTC data also reveals one trader controlled 10% of oil futures on exchange
A quiet data revision that has boosted by nearly 25% the number of oil futures contracts U.S. regulators think are held by speculators. And that revelation is raising eyebrows in the energy trading community.
The revision means that speculators controlled 48% of the open interest in NYMEX crude oil futures and options as of July 15 — compared with just over 38% under the previous classification.
"That's huge when you look at the numbers," said Phil Flynn of Alaron Trading in Chicago.
"It changes the whole way you look at the recent moves in this market."
The U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission announced on July 18 that it was reclassifying some trading positions that it had reported as commercial hedging positions as noncommercial speculative positions.
The data revision converted approximately 327,000 long and 330,000 short NYMEX crude oil futures and options positions into mostly spreading positions held by speculators.
The big shift is all the more surprising, oil traders and analysts said, since the CFTC reclassified only one unidentified oil trader at the same time as the data revision.
"There may have been multiple 'positions' which were reclassified ... but they all appear to have been held by just one trader, and this was a very special trader, with an enormous concentration of positions in crude oil amounting to perhaps 460 million barrels, and not much interest in anything else," noted John Kemp of RBS Sempra Commodities.
A CFTC spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the move or to identify the trader that had been reclassified as a speculator.
The reclassification comes amid the collapse of energy trader SemGroup LP, which filed for bankruptcy on July 22 after suffering $3.2 billion in losses on oil futures and derivatives.
SemGroup has blamed its collapse on unauthorized speculative oil trading by its co-founder and former chief executive, according to a court filing by a SemGroup lender.
The SemGroup collapse coincided with a sharp fall in oil futures from their peak over $147 a barrel in mid-July. However a person familiar with SemGroup's trading position said Monday the trader's position was not concentrated in any one month and was more focused on intermonth spread positions.
"This was no Amaranth or Motherrock," said the person familiar with SemGroup's futures trading book, referring to two energy hedge funds whose multibillion dollar failures roiled futures markets.
SemGroup began the process of transferring its NYMEX trading book to Barclays on July 11 after drawing down a $54 million line of credit to place a deposit with the British bank, according to bankruptcy court testimony.
SemGroup completed the transfer of its trading book to Barclays on July 16.
The transfer of SemGroup's NYMEX trading position was instigated by the exchange itself, according to a source familiar with the NYMEX's activities.
SemGroup's financial difficulties were first disclosed by its publicly traded subsidiary SemGroup Energy Partners LP on July 17, three days after its parent hired The Blackstone Groupto advise it on restructuring and two days after a conference call with its lenders where it told them it had run out of cash.
The Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Justice Department are investigating SemGroup Energy Partners' disclosure practices.
So oil prices were driven up by oil speculators.
Pump prices went down six times consecutively this month. RON98 went from a high of $2.36 in early July to $2.07 now.
An oil speculator went bankrupt in July. Prices have been dropping since. Don't tell me it's not a coincidence.
For the first time in the recent series of pump price cuts, local stations lowered prices twice in a day, sparking off what could be a price war and countering talk of collusion among oil companies.
Falling wholesale pump prices — and not crude oil futures, as is often thought — are behind the general reduction. But what appears to have upped the ante for pump operators yesterday, is the keen competition for drivers' dollars in the small local market.
It began, innocuously enough, at 10am.
Nine days after pump prices were lowered by10 cents a litre, ExxonMobil was first to drop prices by 3 cents for petrol and 5 cents for diesel. Caltex matched those cuts at 10.30am, and Singapore Petroleum Company (SPC) followed suit at 11am.
But then, at 2pm, Shell dropped the bombshell: Already unusual in that it was not the first to make the cuts, as it had been the previous five times, the company refused to toe the line that had been drawn. Instead, it slashed petrol and diesel pump prices by 4 and 6 cents respectively.
Its rivals reacted swiftly. Forty-five minutes later, SPC matched the cuts by dropping prices another 1 cent. At 4pm, ExxonMobil did the same and at 5pm, Caltex rounded up the day's cuts.
Asked why it threw down the gauntlet, as it were, a Shell spokesperson said: "Consumers are very price sensitive ... Usually, companies try to cut and match the prices but we want to be more competitive and give consumers the most competitive prices."
Petrol companies Today spoke to attributed the price war to the keenly-contested market here.
ExxonMobil's Asia Pacific Retail sales manager Loh Chee Seng said: "Pump prices move rapidly to reflect market conditions because Singapore's retail petrol market is extremely competitive."
"Our consumers are very price sensitive, our geography small, and petrol station networks significantly overlap on another. Under such circumstances, competition is so keen that Esso is compelled to close any price gap very quickly."
SPC said it "closely monitors market conditions" to "stay current in the retail marketplace".
The last time such a fast and furious price war took place was in June 2005, when oil companies were offering up to a 26-per-cent discount off pump prices in a single day.
A case of the jitters, for oil companies
If this is the beginning of a new price war, the question is how far companies are prepared to go. And would this change the perception, held by some consumers, of a "cartel-like" system here?
At least one analyst wondered if companies' reactions were a case of the "jitters", with crude oil futures dropping yesterday to below US$120 a barrel.
Professor Chou Siaw Kiang, executive director of the Energy Studies Institute, noted how the perceived "closely coordinated group" of oil companies were "discoordinated" in this round of price cuts.
"Perhaps they are not in unison this time round because the rapid drop in oil prices is sending a signal, and there is no time to react in a unified way," he said. This "signal" is that people are finding ways to adapt their lifestyle around soaring oil prices, such as buying smaller cars and choosing energy efficient equipment.
Or perhaps, there is no connivance at all — Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang told Parliament in April the government has no "evidence of collusion among retail petrol companies".
Forecast Singapore's economist Vishnu Varatha expects more price cuts from companies in the next three months. Ironically, while this might sound like a respite for drivers, the trend also points to generally weak consumer sentiments and a gloomier world economic outlook. "That is what's perverse about this," he said.
Meanwhile, consumers already struggling with inflation are glad for the falling petrol prices.
The Consumer Association of Singapore welcomed this drop, but noted prices are still high as compared to a year ago. "The reduction is not enough" for the average consumer, said its executive director Seah Seng Choon.
For motorist Isabel Chew, 31, however, any dip in pump prices is welcomed relief. "It's great that pump prices have been dropping quite consistently over these two weeks, given that they have been going up for a while," the lecturer told Today. Prior to last months' cuts, prices had risen for 18 months straight.
I don't see why pump prices should be different. Same pump price doesn't mean that the oil companies are not competing against one another.
What happens is that a major oil company will set a price and then others will follow. They usually do. However, if they don't, the major oil company will drop its price.
There are two questions, of course.
I went to the HDB Hub carpark today and was surprised to find the barrier extended all the way to the left. There is no more free entry for bikes.
I was charged $0.65 when I exited. As bikes are per-entry, this means it could be cheaper to drive if I were just ordering meals to-go.
It is possible to buy a meal within the 10-minutes grace period, but it requires extremely good timing.
This is definitely bad news. I have one less place to go for my meals.
I encountered a driver who drove on the road shoulder today and it made me realize most people do not use it. When entering the expressway, all the drivers will try to merge with the leftmost lane and people generally let them in.
The fine is not very severe, at $130 and 4 demerit points.
I have a bad habit when I encounter severe jams in PIE on my way home from office. I like to cut in from the 4th lane, which is an exit-only lane, to the 3rd lane at the very last minute. Most of the time, I need to cross the road divider. That carries the same fine of $130 and 4 demerit points.
My company provides a shuttle bus service to the nearest two MRT stations.
If you live near one of the MRT stations, you are able to save on transport costs entirely — if you conform to the shuttle bus timing.
This is harder than it seems because the schedule in the morning is from 8 am to 8:45 am.
I expect the service will be removed once the Circle line comes up, as my company is "just beside" one of the Circle line stations. (Or, the shuttle bus would just go to the Circle line MRT station.)
Taking the shuttle bus instead of the public bus will save you $31 to $37 per month. ($0.70 or 0.85 x 2 x 21.7)
I drove a colleague "home" after our first post-office hours gaming session in office. One of my colleagues had a pretty large games collection by this time, so he decided there was no point going to a board game cafe to try new games.
My colleague told me to drop her off at the MRT station, whereas it wouldn't make a difference if I dropped her closer to her flat — I'm quite familiar with the roads there and all are equally convenient for me.
But my colleague didn't know that, so she thought the MRT station was a good place for me. I estimate it's a 10-minutes walk for her.
Non-drivers tend to think in terms of bus stops and MRT stations. Personally, I prefer not to drop people off at these locations; there's usually a lot of traffic.
I crossed the same traffic light on a yellow twice this week. This traffic light has a red light camera. Beating red light carries a fine of $200 and 12 demerit points.
$200 is short term pain, but it'll take at least 2 years to erase the demerit points from your record.
I am getting complacent. I should slow down and be prepared to stop when approaching a green traffic light. And I must remember to check the rear mirror before actually attempting to stop.
My CB400F's COE expires on 10 August 2008.
I have a choice of renewing using the July's PQP at $1,125 or the August's PQP at $1,271.
I chose to renew it today, on the last day of July, so that I can choose July's PQP.
I lost 10 days of COE. However, if I renew using August's PQP, I would have to pay $14.60 for each of the ten days. Not worth it at all.
PQP for motorcycles has been uptrending for the past few months. In April, it was $996. In May, it was 1,071. I'm already paying $129 extra for three additional months.
Now both my bikes have problems.
My YBR is a battery killer. I have yet to find the cause, but I'm determined to find it in the next few weeks.
My CB400F's headlight died suddenly. It's not a clear case that the bulb burnt out.
Sequence of events:
A mechanically-inclined friend asked me to check the bulb and the fuse. I've yet to do so.
I created a poll in a local bike forum asking if I should get TP or TPFT for my 10-year old 400cc bike worth $3,000, excluding COE.
TPFT – $240+
TP – $140+
Savings – $95
Votes were about 50-50, although everyone who replied favoured TPFT.
To some people, skipping fire and theft insurance to save $95 for a $3,000 bike is being penny-wise and pound-foolish.
It's all about risk.
Why I think the risk is low for me:
I called up a few insurers and NTUC Income is the only one offering TPFT for bikes older than 10 years old.
I also confirmed that it is possible to revert to TPFT at a future date. (Just in case they allow people to downgrade, but not upgrade.)
SINGAPORE cars may be among the world's most expensive, but parking in prime areas here is far less taxing on the wallet.
Drivers here pay far less than their counterparts in cities such as London, Sydney or Tokyo, according to the first major survey of parking charges worldwide.
Property consultant Colliers International, which did the study, ranked Singapore 52 out of 138 cities for how much drivers paid to score a lot in the city centre for a day.
Drivers pay an average of $27.16 for eight hours, far less than the top price of $92.63 in London.
In the Asia-Pacific, it ranked seventh.
Also scoring well is Singapore's monthly season parking rate - at $247.60 a month. This falls far short of charges in many cities including Sydney ($1,054.02) and Hong Kong ($1,009.94).
Analysts spoken to said that prices here remain comparatively cheap - in tandem with a relatively cheaper cost of living.
This despite parking rates increasing by 10 to 20 per cent over the past two years.
Workers in the central business district (CBD) here also enjoy the luxury of more parking spaces: about 165 per 1,000 jobs, compared to space-short Hong Kong, which has only 23.
Carpark operators say they have no immediate plans to raise charges, much to the relief of motorists.
Said marketing executive Alvin Lam, 31, who drives to his workplace in Shenton Way every day: 'I have already paid so much to buy a car and on ERP charges, I cannot imagine having to spend even more on parking.'
The respite could be brief, warned Mr Nicholas Mak, property consultant Knight Frank's director of research and consultancy - a looming carpark crunch in the CBD could drive up parking charges.
Upcoming office buildings and shopping malls - especially those in Marina Bay - have to restrict the number of parking spaces they can have, under tightened regulations.
The Market Street Carpark, which has 704 parking lots in the CBD area, could soon come under the wrecking ball. It may be redeveloped into an office building, cutting the number of spaces available in the city.
Said Mr Mak: 'It will be a matter of time before carpark charges spiral upwards.'
ST always give hints before the actual event.
Low season parking doesn't prove anything. Season parking is often kept lower than what it's worth for many reasons. Just witness the long waiting list. If it's really at market value, there would be no waiting list.
It's really easy to commit these offences "unwittingly":
Cheating is much more serious:
Bus-mounted cameras an effective deterrent
THE number of motorists straying into bus lanes has dived since cameras were mounted on buses to catch errant drivers in the act.
A total of 1,619 bus-lane offences were recorded last month, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday.
This is a 40 per cent drop from May, when 2,677 summonses were handed out.
The cameras, mounted on 90 SBS Transit buses using full-day bus lanes since early June, are clearly having an effect, say bus drivers.
Said Mr Wong Seng Chow, who drives service 124, which plies Orchard Road: 'There is a very obvious difference and the overall bus journey is smoother.'
He said that since the cameras were mounted, he has caught just 10 vehicles straying into bus lanes.
This is half the usual number, said Mr Wong, 24.
SBS Transit chief bus captain Yap Kim San, 53, said he has not seen any violators since the cameras were installed.
Previously, he would encounter at least two to three cars every day.
'The situation has improved a lot now,' said Mr Yap, who drives through Shenton Way and Orchard Road on service 162.
Motorists interviewed by The Straits Times say they are aware of the cameras and are steering clear of bus lanes.
Taxi-driver Ang Eng Tat, 40, said he will not stray into a bus lane even if a passenger asks him to.
'In the past, I would have let them do this as long as they are quick in alighting. But if a bus is behind my taxi now, I will not stop,' he said.
The cameras allow bus drivers to catch violators by simply pressing a button. Whatever is recorded is then sent to the LTA, which will issue summonses to guilty motorists within two weeks.
The fine for driving in a bus lane is $130.
The cameras are aimed at stamping out Singapore's most common traffic violation: About 23,000 summonses for driving into bus lanes were handed out annually over the last three years.
Cracking down on the errant motorists helps to achieve another aim: getting more people to take public transport by making the ride smoother.
Having fewer motorists caught in bus lanes, the LTA said, means bus journeys are 'more pleasant for the larger number of people who choose to take buses during the peak hours'.
Commuter Nelson Wong, 33, who hops on a bus from his Suntec City office to Shenton Way regularly, agrees that journeys are now much smoother.
'In the past, I would see cars travelling in front of buses and getting in the way. They are a rare sight now,' said the systems engineer.
Also yesterday, the LTA announced that it would convert three existing bus lanes into full-day ones with effect from Monday.
These are along Orchard Road, Orchard Boulevard and Serangoon Road.
Currently, the bus lanes along these stretches operate from 7.30am to 9.30am and from 5pm to 8pm on weekdays.
But from Monday, they will operate from 7.30am to 8pm on weekdays and Saturdays.
The LTA says it consulted businesses and grassroots organisations in the affected areas before implementing full-day bus lanes along the three stretches.
The new additions bring the total length of full-day bus lanes here from 15.8km to 17km.
The LTA plans to increase this to 23km by the end of the year.
Use the bus lane at your own risk. And never drop anyone off while in a bus lane.
I now realize that full day bus lane can be an effective way to prevent illegal parking/stopping. $130 per stop. Not many people would risk it.
Illegal parking/stopping is one big reason why the roads are jammed, so more full day bus lanes, please!
An online poster was upset with the recent road tax rebate because he still needed to pay $50 for his OPC car when he should not need to pay anything. (Minimum OPC road tax is $50.)
In a way, he lost out. But that is only if you assume the OPC rebate is $17k + $800 * 10 = $25k.
However, the OPC rebate is $17k + up to $800/year * 10.
ONE telephone number is all you need to remember if you need to call a taxi from next week.
Call 6-3425-222 or tap out the alphabetical prompter 6-DIAL-CAB.
The initiative is part of a transport masterplan announced early this year to make commuting a lot easier.
It arose from feedback from cab customers - especially tourists - who cannot remember the numbers for the half a dozen taxi firms here.
It is, however, not a super dispatch system that can scour Singapore's taxi population of 24,000 to locate an empty one nearest to you.
By using the common number, commuters are channelled to all the taxi firms' call centres, one at a time.
If the first cab operator's call centre does not take your call in 10 seconds, the system diverts you to the second one, and then the third.
If the third call is unsuccessful, you will be asked to try again. If you do, the system will recognise it is your second attempt and connect you to the next three call centres.
Asked if the new common number system would be replaced by a 'smarter' system in future, the Land Transport Authority said no.
'The common taxi booking number system is a permanent facility to make it easier for taxi commuters to book a taxi,' a spokesman said.
The LTA roped in SingTel to develop the system, for $90,000.
Ms Tammy Tan, spokesman for ComfortDelGro, whose fleet makes up 60 per cent of the cab population, noted that Singaporeans were quite familiar with the firm's taxi booking number.
'There is, however, one group of commuters who may be confused with the different taxi booking numbers and they are the tourists. For them, the common booking number will be of help.'
Commuters who are familiar with the numbers of the various operators can continue calling them directly.
This is way overdue, but the implementation is pretty poor. We need a real unified call number.
A FIRE tore through a Woodlands carpark on Sunday night, damaging 11 motorcycles and three cars, said police.
No one was hurt in the blaze, which began around 11:30 pm on the third level of the Woodlands Drive 70 building.
It took officers from the Civil Defence Force 10 minutes to put out the fire.
Investigations are ongoing.
There are really bike haters in the north.
Let me iterate: never park your car beside motorcycles.
This news come at a time when I am considering whether to change my CB400F insurance from TPFT to TP to save $95.
Although the new ERP charges will help to lower the traffic in CBD, the roads just outside CBD remain just as congested. You may not save much time if you need to enter CBD.
I noticed this in the past at Orchard road. It took me 20+ minutes to enter Orchard road, then it was plain sailing.
From time to time, it's possible to have a pricing "anomaly" that allows you to change car without any additional expense, or so it seems. How do you take advantage of it?
For the old car:
The more conditions your old car meet, the higher its effective value.
For the new car:
The more conditions your new car meet, the lower its effective value.
Most people can do this once, especially if they change to a lower-end car, an EOL car, or an OPC car.
It usually seems like a good deal because you have "extended" your car's COE while paying the same installment amount.
The catch is, you have lost whatever you have put in for your old car. For cars 3 years and less, it usually works out to be around $10k per year.
This is a very significant loss.
I wanted to go Orchard road, but I didn't want to ride my motorcycle there, so I rode to Toa Payoh Central and took the MRT from there.
|11:00 am||Left home|
|11:13 am||At Toa Payoh MRT station|
|11:15 am||On the train|
|11:23 am||Reached Orchard MRT station|
|6:45 pm||At Somerset MRT station|
|6:50 pm||On the train|
|7:00 am||At Toa Payoh MRT station|
|7:13 am||Reached home|
This time I'm smart. I rode to the Central so that I could ride home. The last time I took the MRT, I took 30 minutes to walk home.
I brought a small pail of water to the MSCP to wash my bike. A small pail is enough because I am merely rinsing off the dirt, no soap involved.
I went to my car first to get the scoop. When I left the car, I saw two parking wardens at a distance. Oh no! I quickly went to my bike to tear off the day/night tab. It was 9:10 pm.
I contemplated leaving it untorn to see if I would be fined. Nay, better not.
Needless to say, I went back home without washing my bike. No point "challenging" the wardens to fine me.
One big limitation of the MRT system is that there is only one track per direction. There is limited room for expansion as SMRT is already claiming that it is running at maximum efficiency during peak hours.
We need a cheap way to add express trains.
One way is to allow express trains overtake the normal trains at the train station using the track in the other direction. This requires timing the trains very accurately.
One side benefit is that normal trains can be turned around more easily to serve the other direction.
I have lost two items using the fish net on my CB400F already.
A few months ago, I "secured" my specs box with the fish net. When I arrived at my destination, it was no longer present. I was not really surprised, but I was annoyed with myself.
Today, I secured a water bottle with the fish net and went to office. When I reached office, it was no longer present. I was surprised. How could a medium-sized water bottle slip through the fish net so easily?
It looks like I must not take it for granted that the fish net is secure.
Also, load falling off from a vehicle carries a fine of $150 and 6 demerit points.
Another round of public transport fare hikes is likely this year, but commuters can expect the rise to be cushioned by a new fare structure formula.
One group of commuters who stands to benefit are those who make multiple transfer journeys.
Currently, a commuter incurs what is called a transfer penalty every time he boards a new bus. To offset this, the commuter is given a 25-cent rebate each time he switches from bus to bus, or bus to train.
But this rebate does not fully offset the jump in fares. To address this, a distance-based through fare system will be introduced by 2009.
But for now, Singapore's Public Transport Council (PTC) will look into increasing the transfer rebate to close the gap.
Singapore's Transport Ministry says about four in ten commuters currently make transfer journeys on a weekday.
With the new through fare structure, commuters can take as many buses and trains to their destination without being penalised with a higher fare.
Changes will also be made to the fare adjustment formula, which will see the public transport operators share their productivity gains with commuters.
This means the maximum annual fare adjustment will be capped at 3 per cent instead of the higher 4.2 per cent under the old formula.
The formula is pegged to macroeconomic factors - namely changes in the Consumer Price Index and average monthly earnings. The formula has been in place since 2005 and valid for three years.
The revised formula will be applicable for five years, instead of three, to give commuters and operators more certainty in fares.
The PTC was quick to point out, though, that the maximum annual fare cap of 3 per cent does not determine the actual fare adjustment.
Whether a commuter's bus fare will go up by more than 3 per cent or less, or whether a commuter actually stands to save money, will depend on the distance travelled and the number of transfers made in a journey.
Simply put, if a commuter takes long bus and train journeys with many transfers, he will see a net reduction. But he will probably end up paying more for short trips.
Public transport operators are expected to submit their applications for a fare review in August.
The PTC will decide on the actual adjustment in September and new fares will kick in in October.
The current bus fare structure encourages the commuter to minimise the transfers. In other words, it's better to opt to take one bus that goes a longer route than two buses that go a shorter route.
The bus fare is capped at $1.58 (for ez-link on air-con bus; the most common bus and payment method today). This is insanely cheap if you travel more than 10 km. I believe it will increase to $2 at least.
The maximum fare for a journey (including transfers) is also capped at $1.90. I believe this will also be increased to $3 or $4.
COE prices for all categories of vehicles went up in the latest bidding exercise ended on Wednesday.
The COE premium for cars 1,600cc and below rose S$584 to S$14,685, while those for bigger cars of more than 1,600cc went up S$812 to S$15,501.
In the Open Category, where the certificates are usually used to buy cars, the COE price increased a mere S$202 to S$15,661.
The COE price for the Goods Vehicles and Bus Category saw the biggest jump - up S$957 - to S$12,959.
Motorcycle COE rose S$449 to S$1,551.
It looks like motorcycle COE has gone up. I must renew my COE this month. Otherwise, next month I am likely to pay $150 more.
Traffic down 30%, speeds up; LTA says it's an encouraging sign
DRIVING through the city was a lot smoother on Monday, the first day that new Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries went up in the Central Business District (CBD).
The volume of traffic dropped along roads that are normally heavily used by people cutting through the Singapore River area to get home, or elsewhere, and speeds rose as a result.
Many such motorists, who account for 38 per cent of the traffic through the area, chose to take a longer route home, or switch to public transport, to avoid the up to $2 ERP charge levied between 6pm and 8pm.
By the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) own admission, it is early days yet, but the results were 'encouraging', it said.
In a nutshell: Traffic through what is called the Singapore River Line - separating the Marina Bay area from the Shenton Way area - fell by 30 per cent.
Drivers could get from, say, Bugis to Chinatown at an average speed of 22 kmh to 26 kmh, an increase of between 9 and 35 per cent over the 16kmh to 24kmh before the new gantries came into operation.
The five new gantries which came into operation on Monday are primarily aimed at discouraging motorists from using city roads as a short cut.
One other aim of the new charges is to keep speeds on major roads within what the LTA considers an acceptable range - 20 to 30 kmh - so businesses can function smoothly and there is no negative impact on the overall economy.
More than that, however, the results signal an important new phase in Singapore's policy of managing traffic.
The moves are part of an initiative first announced in January as part of a new transport masterplan, and are aimed at getting people who normally drive to take public transport.
More train and bus services, including premium bus services, have been introduced to encourage them to switch.
The most recent was a new SBS Transit service mirroring the Yio Chu Kang MRT to Tanjong Pagar MRT train route, which started on Monday to ease peak hour traffic.
Such services were previously disallowed, because of concerns that they would duplicate resources.
Drivers can also get cash if they scrap their cars, unlike in the past, when they would just get credits which could be used only to offset taxes on a new car.
For many motorists, the change in their normal commuting habits came reluctantly.
A disgruntled Mr Teo Chee Beng, 52, shipping manager, who normally drives down Fullerton Road, Beach Road and the East Coast Parkway (ECP) to get to his home in Bedok, had to take an alternate route to reach the ECP.
'There is no jam at Fullerton Road in the first place, I'm wondering why they even put up the gantry,' he said.
Responding, the LTA said road pricing had a positive long-term effect on managing congestion on the northbound Central Expressway.
Since a new gantry went up there in November last year, traffic volume there has dropped by about 10 per cent and speeds have gone up by 50 per cent.
The chief executive of the LTA, Mr Yam Ah Mee, said that some Singaporeans have questioned whether it is the right time to raise road charges given the current economic situation.
'The fact is that congestion, if left unchecked, will have a negative impact on our economy and the quality of our environment,' he said.
To some motorists, however, the new moves mean little.
Mr Melvin Low, 28, who said his sales job requires him to drive, paid $2 at the new South Bridge Road gantry on his way to meet clients at Boat Quay.
'I have to run around a lot, and deliver things to my clients as well, so public transport is not an option for me.'
Business owners interviewed yesterday had mixed reactions to the ERP charges - some said as much as 70 per cent of their businesses would be hit, while others said there was no difference at all.
Happy days are here, if you can afford the $4 charges ($2 to enter CBD and $2 to cross the riverline ERP gantries).
I went to the Bishan library at around 8 pm and wanted to park on the pavement behind the library — my usual spot — to save on parking. However, there were no bikes there. This was somewhat unusual.
After pondering for a while, I decided not to be a hero and went to park at the MSCP instead. Well, better 65 cents than $70.
I AM confused and annoyed by policies affecting car ownership in Singapore. As a motorist, I am of the view that there are more and more cars on the roads nowadays, so the Government has to set up more Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries and raise ERP rates to control traffic.
My question is simple. What happened to the original purpose of the certificate of entitlement (COE)? Isn't it supposed to be the ultimate tool to limit the number of cars on the road? If the COE is doing its job well, why are the roads so choked that the authorities have 'no choice' but to set up ERP gantries everywhere to control traffic?
Let's see what went wrong. First, for the past few years, the number of COEs grew, and car prices tumbled to a low five-figure sum. Second, car loans stretched to 10 years, with banks and dealers offering cash-back deals and zero downpayments. Third, additional registration fee taxes were reduced. The road tax has also been lowered.
Simply put, the measures made cars cheaper and many people flocked to buy them - and many of those shouldn't own a car at all. I estimate at least half the car owners today earn less than $5,000 a month. Why are they buying a car? With ever-increasing oil prices and inflation, one will soon need to pay more than $1,500 a month for a small Japanese car, including loan instalments, petrol, maintenance and repair, parking, road tax, insurance and so on.
And now, the new scheme will allow cash rebates to scrap cars, in order to turn drivers back to public transport. This is not wrong, but we are not using the system correctly. In the first place, we should make it very difficult to own a car, but we are doing the exact opposite by making it easy for people to own a car and subsequently 'converting' them back to public transport. This is moving one step forward and two steps back. Asking a car owner who has been driving for a decade to convert back to taking buses is like asking someone who is used to getting water from the tap to fetch water from a well again.
A better solution is to limit car loans to five years, with a minimum 50 per cent downpayment. This will weed out thousands of people who can ill-afford a car. And yes, make the COE useful again by releasing fewer of them.
Tan Wee Liang
Mr Tan is the one confused here. It's clear to me the purpose of COE and ERP.
Unlike Mr Tan, I prefer cheaper cars because I use my car sparingly.
Anyway, times have changed. It's time to go with the flow. All of us who are caught in the transition to the full ERP system will be shortchanged somewhat. Nothing can change that.
New KPE will have 16, taking grand total from 60 to more than 80
EVEN as motorists cope with five fresh electronic road-pricing (ERP) gantries along the Singapore River and extended operating hours at others in the city from this week, more gantries are set to come onstream.
Besides the half dozen announced for spots along roads such as Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandra Road and Serangoon Road - to go up by November - 16 more are planned for the new Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE), which will run 12km from East Coast Parkway in the south to Tampines Expressway in the north. Three quarters of it will run underground.
When it opens fully on Sept 20, it will have the most ERP gantries among all roads here.
According to a Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesman, however, they will not all be switched on at the same time, unless the average speed dips below 45kmh in the tunnels.
The new gantries form part of a massive ERP project the LTA recently awarded to MHI Engine System Asia, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Worth $83 million, the contract includes 27 new gantries, all to be up by this year, the replacement of some older gantries and maintenance works.
The cost is higher than the $80 million spent on Singapore's 60 existing gantries, the first of which went up 10 years ago.
Asked about the huge expenditure, the LTA said construction and materials costs had risen over the years. Each three-lane gantry now costs $1.5 million, compared to $1 million before, said the spokesman.
The expansion of the ERP network will see almost 90 gantries here by the end of the year.
Five gantries went up in areas such as Toa Payoh Lorong 6 and Geylang Bahru in April. Like those for the future KPE, it was decided they would only be switched on if traffic speeds dipped below the 45kmh threshold for expressway speeds. All have since been switched on.
The 45kmh threshold will be adjusted over the next few months. To stave off ERP, 85 per cent of vehicles will have to attain the optimum speed, instead of half the vehicles now.
'For safety reasons, it is essential that we keep traffic in the tunnel smooth-flowing,' the LTA spokesman said of the KPE.
Asked if that meant ERP on the KPE may be operational over weekends as well, the spokesman said no decision on that had been made.
But retired traffic planner Joseph Yee expects the KPE gantries to be switched on before long. He explained that when the LTA conducted traffic forecasts using computer simulations, it found that without congestion pricing, 'the KPE would be jammed quite soon after it opened'.
Mr Yee expects the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) now being built to have ERP too. The $2.5 billion MCE is a 5km underground road connecting the KPE and ECP to the Ayer Rajah Expressway. It is due to be completed by the end of 2013.
Motorists are not looking forward to the fast-expanding gantry network.
Said housewife Beverly Wong, 38: 'That is terrible. Food and fuel prices are increasing. This isn't helping.'
To ease the pain, a 15 per cent cut in road tax will kick in this month; public transport services have also been beefed up to make buses and trains a more viable alternative.
Editor of Torque motoring magazine Lee Nian Tjoe, 30, expects some drivers to be priced out, but he says the majority will continue driving into ERP areas.
Aircraft sales engineer Ng Tzong Sheng, 30, says he does not need to drive into ERP zones, but he wonders whether 'average speeds' could be improved by better synchronising traffic lights and carrying out roadworks only during off-peak periods.
This is really unbelievable. 16 gantries over 12 km. That would be at least $32 if they are all turned on. (But I believe most of them are at entries and exits, so it's impossible to drive through all of them in one go.)
Within a week of camera going up, 137 motorists snapped crossing double white lines at Woodlands
MOTORISTS who cut the snaking queues at the Woodlands Checkpoint will now be caught on camera.
After repeated complaints from the public, the Traffic Police installed a surveillance camera on a lamp post along the viaduct towards the Woodlands Checkpoint from the Bukit Timah Expressway on June 17.
While queue-jumping per se is not a traffic offence, the roads where the cars line up to clear checks at the Causeway have double white lines and crossing them is banned.
Within a week, the camera nabbed 137 errant motorists who crossed the double white lines in order to jump the line of cars heading to Malaysia.
At this rate, the number of summonses issued to drivers who cross double white lines islandwide is set to double. Last year, 7,500 motorists were nabbed for this offence on all roads here.
Going by the one-week figure, another 7,100 offenders a year will be snapped by the camera at the Causeway. This offence carries a maximum fine of $160 and four demerit points.
Singaporeans who travel often to Malaysia using the Woodlands Checkpoint are just happy that something is being done to tackle the queue-cutting problem.
Businessman Richard Loh was late for a meeting in Johor one recent Friday morning and spent 45 minutes inching his way forward in the queue when he had an unpleasant encounter.
A red Honda drew up alongside him, cut into his path and got ahead of him in the queue. 'It's so frustrating when we dutifully queue up for hours, and inconsiderate drivers simply cut in.'
Mr Loh, 47, said this is a scenario he faces without fail every time he heads to Johor Baru for his thrice-a-week meetings.
Retiree Joseph Lim, 65, who drives to JB to play golf twice a week, said: 'One car cutting into my path won't delay me by very much, but it's a matter of principle. If most people can follow the rules, why can't everyone else?'
Mr Joseph Kunjiraman, who drives to JB every other day, said: 'If you don't inch forward in three seconds, a driver will cut into the gap and jump queue. There's nothing much the rest of us can do.'
The businessman wrote in to The Straits Times Forum in May, complaining about the increasing number of 'ungracious drivers' at the Causeway.
These errant vehicles travel on the left lane designated for motorcycles, then encroach onto the path of other vehicles by cutting across a set of double white lines to enter the lane meant for cars.
When The Straits Times visited the Woodlands Checkpoint, traffic was heavy - the queue was at least 600m long in the car lane on the viaduct.
In 10 minutes, at least eight cars were spotted travelling on the motorcycle lane, bypassing the snaking car queue before cutting back in when they were nearing the immigration counters.
Businessman Chan Weng Kei, 47, who drives up to Johor three times a week, said such tactics can save a driver up to 30 minutes in waiting time.
'These queue-cutters are opportunists and risk-takers,' he said.
Motorists interviewed added that those unhappy with the queue-cutters sometimes sound their car horns or quickly shoot forward, refusing to let errant drivers cut in. These incidents usually result in ugly spats.
Some motorists wanted the police to do more, like station officers along the double white lines. Others suggested building a divider between the motorcycle and car lanes.
The police said they will continue to monitor the traffic situation at both the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints and may install more cameras if needed.
No wonder I observed drivers cutting in before they reached the top of the bridge last Saturday.
I was stuck in the jam for 30 minutes despite reaching the causeway at 6:23 am.
What an unlucky day — I got cat shit on my tyres when I entered my car park! I basically ran over the freshly laid cat shit. I got the full brunt of it on the front right tyre and a little on the rear right tyre. The smell was overwhelming in the cabin.
What kind of cat defecate in the middle of the road?
Luckily, I had two small bottles of water in the car and I promptly washed the shit off. They weren't enough.
I went up to get a small pail and tried to rinse the shit off. Some still stuck in the grooves.
Then, I remembered I had a bottle with a sprayer. It was meant to water plants, but I got it for some other purposes. I brought it down and used it to spray the shit off. It took a while, but I think I managed to wash most of it off.
The stench was overwhelming.
A NEW formula for annual public transport fare adjustments is expected to be announced this week.
The Public Transport Council, which has been deliberating on the changes since early this year, said that based on the Report of the Committee on the Fare Review Mechanism in 2005, the fare adjustment formula is valid for three years from 2005 to 2007, after which the relative weightage of various components in the formula will be reviewed.
PTC chairman Gerard Ee told The Straits Times that the changes will be announced 'any time now.'
The previous fare formula was based on inflation, wages of commuters and the productivity of the transport operators, with weightage given to inflation.
If that formula was still in place, fares could rise by 3.85 per cent - or about five cents per ride - from October.
Between 2005 and 2007, fares went up were between one and three cents per ride, although those who paid in cash (instead of using the ezlink farecard) saw their fares rising by 10 cents in 2005. Train fares were frozen last year because the PTC deemed profits from the rail business was more than adequate.
Next year, the increase in public transport fares could be far higher as inflation is now hovering at a 26-year high of 7.5 per cent.
Observers reckon changes to the formula could place less weightage on the inflation component and more on the productivity component, as well as the wages of people who are reliant on public transport.
A July announcement of the new formula is timely. Transport firms traditionally have up to August to apply for a fare increase. Adjustments, if any, will take effect from October.
Looks like PTC is trying not to increase public transport costs. That's good.
Yesterday, I rode my CB400F home and was caught in the rain midway.
I could see mist ahead and feel some raindrops, but the giveaway was the riders stopping by the side of the road to change into their rain gear.
How do they tell so clearly? This is something I need to learn.
Riders are taught how to pillion because it changes the bike handling. There are three main differences:
The rider must ride much more conservatively than his usual riding style. The rider must also adjust the side mirrors. I always forget to do this.
Being a pillion rider is not as easy as being a car passenger. What a pillion rider must know:
It is essential to wait for permission to get on and off the bike because the rider needs to make sure the bike is properly balanced. The rider also needs to apply the brakes so that the wheels will not move.
I'm surprised that many people don't know how to get on and off the bike as a pillion rider. Interestingly, this is taught in the riding school — there are a few proper techniques. The rider has to tell the pillion rider how to do it properly.
The pillion rider must not make any sudden movement to avoid unbalancing the bike. While the bike will not fall, it will wobble and it distracts the rider from the road situation. (When the rider is attempting to re-balance the bike, he is not looking out for traffic.)
What most people don't realize is the importance of leaning with the rider when he corners. If the pillion rider attempts to counter lean, the rider has to go even lower to corner properly. If the pillion rider now sits up straight, the bike will go lower and may even fall.
A rider should not lean too much when cornering until the pillion rider is comfortable with leaning.
Car owners will now have the option to exchange their Preferential Additional Registration Fee (PARF) and the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) rebates for cash.
The change follows a government review of the rebates to make it easier for motorists to give up their cars and switch to public transport.
From September 1, registered owners of unused and valid PARF/COE rebates can apply to the Land Transport Authority for encashment.
Once their applications are processed, they will receive a refund equivalent to the rebate amount.
To facilitate the implementation of this change, PARF/COE rebates with expiry dates between July 1 and September 29 will be extended to the end of September.
Those affected will be informed of the revised expiry dates within the next two weeks.
Motorists who wish to use their PARF/COE rebates to offset the upfront taxes for a new vehicle can continue to do so.
The LTA says it will continue to issue rebates to car owners upon de-registration of their vehicles.
The rebates will remain transferable and valid for 12 months to provide flexibility to vehicle owners.
Transport Minister Raymond Lim had announced in March this year that the government would be reviewing the PARF and COE rebates.
This was to tie in with the overall effort to make public transport a choice mode for all commuters, including car owners.
I believe the price for second hand cars will rise slightly.
Does this change means an end to the secondary PARF market where dealers buy over the PARF at a discount?
I foresee that ARF will be done away in the future. Once you can get back PARF as real cash, it is like putting down a deposit of 50% of OMV and only paying for an ARF of 50% (of OMV).
The only reason for ARF is to make cars expensive to own upfront. With 10 years loan and 0% downpayment, cars can be cheap to own. ARF at 100% OMV does not work.
The difference is so striking. It was still pretty okay yesterday. But it jammed rather badly today — even at 7:15 am.