Singapore Adventure

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Maybe You Should Drive
by venitha

We are forever surprising new acquaintances here with the fact that we don't have a car. And we move straight from raised eyebrows to dropped jaws when we confess that we don't even want a car. I'll never convince a single status-obsessed, materialistic, shopping-crazed Singaporean, but there are some truly wonderful benefits to not owning a car in Singapore:

  • I never have to drive. Maniac drivers, bumper to bumper traffic, traffic circles, flyovers, driving on the left, one-way streets, streets that change name every block, roads that in no way resemble an orderly grid... I don't have to deal with any of it from behind the wheel. Excellent!
  • I never have to park. Parking can't be easy or cheap in this crowded city, and skipping it altogether has the added bonus of saving me from having to figure out Singapore's mysterious and complicated parking punchcard system.
  • I never have to go back for the car. I take the MRT here. I walk over there. I grab a bus to that other place. And then flag a cab home. This entirely changes how I run errands. Now if only I had a boy to follow me and carry my packages. Oh, Jim!
  • It's cheap! No car payments, no gas, no washes, no oil changes, no tires, no maintenance, no insurance. The MRT and the buses are amazingly inexpensive, with most rides costing under US$1. Even cabs are a steal compared to any US city; a typical 15-minute ride costs US$5 to $10.
  • It's nearly impossible to get lost. Just flag down a cab!
  • Taximen make entertaining conversation. Maniac drivers and the gahmen are ever-popular topics, but Michael Fay - more than ten years later, Singaporeans are still talking about this guy - and Harley Davidson are next on the list once they determine I'm from the US.
  • I have more time to read. Reading's an excellent way to pass the time on the MRT and on the bus. Now if I could just get the cabbie to shut up about Michael Faye and leave me in peace.
  • I don't have to give a rip about the changing ERP amounts and times. Singapore has a brilliant scheme in place for reducing traffic flow in frequently congested areas at peak times: charge a fee. And none of this ridiculous stopping at tolls, either; a sensor automatically deducts the fee from a permit card in your car. Changes in the amounts and the times they're imposed always draw hot debate in the local papers, but I've been able to ignore it all and to spend my newspaper time reading depressing articles about natural disasters, bird flu, and dengue fever. Hmmm... How about those Packers? Oh, wait. Hmmm... About that proposed ERP change...
  • I have a built-in designated driver. Now if only alcohol were affordable. Good thing I'm saving so much money by not owning a car, eh?