Look East

Yanying Li, Michele Tozzi and Umberto Guida focus on what Europe can learn from Singapore

In 2015, Singapore celebrates its 50 years anniversary since it became an independent state. In half a century, the former British colony has transferred itself into one of the world wealthiest countries. The affluent city state has the reputation of being innovative and sustainable.

As reported by The Straits Times on 20 April 2015, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore, said at the kick-off of the Smart Nation Innovations week that Singapore can serve as a testing ground for computer scientists and engineers from all over the world. Singapore’s compact size and proven ability to scale new projects makes it suitable for prototyping and test-bedding innovations.

In a transport professional’s eyes, Singapore is the dreamland of sustainable urban mobility. Ever since 1998, when Singapore implemented the world’s first road pricing system, it has been in the spotlight of innovation in urban mobility.

Singapore is a small island with a high population density. The number of private cars has been restricted in order to reduce congestion and air pollution. Moreover, since the 1960s, Singapore has been slowly transforming itself into a Garden City. This would not have been possible without its excellent urban mobility network.

Singapore has an extensive metro network, Mass Transit Rail (MTR) and high-quality bus services. The city’s efficient public transport network provides a convenient alternative to the private car for city dwellers. Public transport covers more than 50 per cent of daily commuters’ journeys and the government aims this number to rise up to 75 per cent in the coming years.

Contactless smart cards replaced magnetic tickets completely on 1 December 2002, making Singapore one of the first cities to implement this innovative system on all the main modes of public transportation.

To Learn from Singapore

Singapore has provided many good solutions in the field of sustainable urban mobility that can become a source of inspiration for city authorities that want their transport network to become greener and more efficient. The most famous examples may be those of London and Stockholm. Both cities introduced Road Charging Schemes in 2003 and 2007 respectively, developing their own technologies based on a successful example deployed first in Singapore.

Due to its outstanding achievements in sustainable urban mobility, the European transport community has become more and more interested in learning about Singapore’s good practices. To address this demand, the European project Viajeo Plus has studied a number of good practices in urban mobility that have been implemented in the city.

Viajeo PLUS (http://viajeoplus.eu/) is a three-year EC-funded project under the 7th Framework Programme, running from May 2013 until April 2016. The aim of the project is to benchmark outstanding solutions for innovative and greener urban mobility in Europe, Latin America, China and Singapore and subsequently facilitate the uptake of these solutions across these regions.

Beeline and The Travel Smart Programme are two examples of projects carried out in Singapore which can spark European transport professionals’ interest.

Singapore Case Study 1: Beeline – Innovative Public Transport Based on Crowd sourcing

Beeline is a cutting-edge application based on smartphone and represents a shining example of Singapore’s innovation power. Beeline allows commuters to pre-book rides on express private bus routes. It was launched in Singapore in August 2015 by Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).

Both agencies launched the Beeline website in April this year, as part of an experiment to explore how transport networks can be made more adaptive to changing commuter demand. The experimental private bus routes are computer-generated by analysing historical travel patterns and crowd-sourced suggestions on the Beeline website.

It may worth mentioning that Singapore has the highest penetration rate of smartphone with 85 per cent in 2014.

Singapore Case Study 2: The Travel Smart Programme

Other example of Singapore’s innovative transport network is the Travel Smart Programme. It is addressed at commuters and companies and its main goal is to shift commuters to off-peak periods, to encourage a switch to more sustainable modes of transport (eg public transport, car-pooling, car sharing, walking and cycling) or to reduce travel demand altogether.

Travel Smart is based on the concept of travel planning, which is widely implemented by companies worldwide. Essentially, travel planning is a means of evaluating how the employees of an organisation currently travel to work, and during the day as part of their work.

Based on the analysis of existing patterns and attitudes with regard to travel, LTA is launching a new Travel Smart Network to  encourage more companies to implement measures such as flexi travel arrangements to support employees who may want to travel during off-peak periods.

For a start, LTA will partner companies with more than 200 employees, located in major employment centres near MRT stations and which are willing to trial travel demand initiatives.

Viajeo Plus city Showcase: “Sharing innovation in transport between Singapore and Europe”

In order to facilitate knowledge and experience exchange between Singapore and Europe on innovative urban mobility solutions, Viajeo Plus organises a city showcase in Singapore on 16 – 17 November 2015. Led by the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), the event is conceived as an open platform for dialogue and cross-fertilization by gathering key actors of the transport community worldwide.

City representatives, policy makers, industries, technology providers and researchers are invited to share their latest technical achievements or policies on five main topics: automation in Public Transport, electro-mobility, intermodality, mobility management and ITS.

Over two days, European and Singaporean transport professionals will discuss on the lessons learnt – from the technical, financial and social point of view – by the implementation of selected innovative mobility solutions in their own city networks, with the aim to facilitate the take-up of such solutions in other cities, thus enabling more efficient and greener urban transport worldwide. Interactive site visits will be organised as well to allow the participants gaining first-hand experience of the most advanced mobility solutions already implemented or under test in Singapore.

What’s Next?

Singapore has been selected to host ITS World Congress in 2019. Mr Chew Men Leong, Chief Executive Officer of LTA said, “We are honoured to be chosen to host the ITS World Congress in 2019. With Singapore moving towards being a Smart Nation, we are well placed to host this prestigious event. We will take this opportunity to showcase how we have been able to use smart technology and other innovative ways to transform our land transport systems and, in turn, improve the travelling experience of all users.”

The Congress will be a perfect place for European stakeholders to share their achievements with colleagues in Singapore. Due to significant achievements in autonomous vehicle technologies in Singapore (eg the SMART Alliance), European researchers and industry would be keen to learn more. ‘Mobility as a Service (Maas)’ is a mobility distribution model in which customers’ major transportation needs are met over one interface and are offered by a service provider. After the Prime Minister’s remark on using Singapore as a testbed for new technology, many European stakeholders are willing to bring Maas to Singapore and to demonstrate the potential benefits of Maas in the city state. Since Singapore is excellent in providing public transport services, European city authorities and transport operators can learn so much from Singapore on its achievements in innovative public transport operation, particularly the recent trends of using social media and crowdsourcing.

Yanying Li is senior manager of smart urban mobility at ERTICO – ITS Europe (y.li@mail.ertico.com)
Michele Tozzi is a EU project manager at UITP (Michele.tozzi@uitp.org)
Umberto Guida is deputy director of EU projects at UITP (Umberto.guida@uitp.org)