Building a more sustainable city with a car-lite future: Here is why the car is no longer king 

11/05/2023

When Henry Ford and his Model-T disrupted the automobile industry and replaced the horse and carriage for good, it ushered in a new era in transportation history. Through motor vehicles, mobility improved for millions of people. With the manure and stench on the streets gone, cities become much more liveable. 

But now that cars have dominated the roads for over a century, it is time for another revolution. That is because the future of cities is a car-lite one, and with (very) good reasons. 

Cars, the bane of our lives 

Nowadays, cities worldwide are suffocating under the pressure of noise and air pollution. Meanwhile, building more highways and car parks to support a burgeoning number of vehicles would mean less space for other purposes. For land-scarce Singapore without a hinterland, this dilemma is even more acute. 

Finally, driving is not all it’s cracked up to be. Incidents of road rage are often the result of drivers fraying at the seams, spending an increasing amount of time on the roads and dealing with the unnecessary stresses of traffic. Adding to this nightmare is the financial burden of chasing after a four-wheeled dream and the environmental degradation as a result of it.  

The social and environmental costs associated with cars have far exceeded the individual benefits of convenience and prestige. And right now, Singapore is at a tipping point. Do we continue to fill our city with cars and accept honks, fumes and congestion as part of life? Or is there a better way into the future to create a better living environment for all? 

Building a car-lite future 

A car-lite future should not be confused with a car-free one. That is because the aim of a car-lite strategy is not to eliminate cars completely, but to reduce our dependence on them and promote other modes of transport to minimise our environmental impact.  

Today, Singapore is taking great strides to turn the 45-minute city, 20-minute town vision into reality. Our transport network of trains is getting progressively intricate, branching into all areas in Singapore. Plans are underway to treble the network of cycling paths by 2030 to make cycling a safe and feasible transport option. Ride and car-sharing services have mushroomed, further negating the need for private car ownership. Compounded with a more flexible work structure and decentralised commercial activities away from the CBD, it is getting easier to ditch the car for good.  

Of course, the recent debates surrounding the high Certificate of Entitlement (COE) prices during Parliament have shown that, for now, our love affair with cars is not going away anytime soon.  

But there is hope that the car will slowly lose its lustre. As public and shared transport options get increasingly sophisticated and new towns get designed with pedestrians and cyclists in mind, it is likely that we will discover how much more liveable our city can be.  

A car-lite future is one that is kind to our planet and pockets, and it is something we should embrace wholeheartedly. Because here’s the thing about a car-lite city, people tend to hate the idea, until they actually experience one.  

Photo Source: LTA/MOT