Tesla electric car penalised with $15000 carbon surcharge

From ‘Electric car Tesla slapped with $15000 tax surcharge’, 5 March 2016, article by Christopher Tan, ST

An electric car which attracts tax breaks in several countries has been slapped with a tax surcharge in Singapore. The Model S – a sedan made by California-based Tesla Motors – is the first tailpipe emission-free car to be penalised this way here.

Mr Joe Nguyen, 44, registered a used Model S he sourced from Hong Kong just before Chinese New Year. He was shocked that the car – for which he paid close to $400,000 – was liable for a $15,000 carbon surcharge.

“Honestly, it’s stupid,” said the senior vice-president with an Internet research firm. “I went back to them (Land Transport Authority), and they cited a UN emission test regulation. They also factored in carbon emissions at the power station. We don’t apply a carbon penalty to people charging their iPhones, do we?”

According to LTA, the Tesla uses 444 watt/hr per km, equivalent to 222g/km of carbon. You will only get rebates if your carbon emission is below 136g/km. In comparison, if you use the ICAO carbon footprint calculator to determine the amount spewed from a round trip between Singapore and Bangkok, you get a figure that is roughly a 1000 fold increase – 240kg of carbon per passenger. That’s excluding the taxi ride to and fro the airport. In other words, you need to drive a Tesla for 1000km before you can clock the same amount chugged out over a short holiday. How much carbon did we emit over the SG50 long weekend last year, I wonder. Alas, policy decisions made on the basis of CO2 emissions are never simple. You could avoid taking the car out on the weekend but end up guzzling electricity at home Netflixing on your giant 48 inch Smart TV, snacking on smoked salmon flown all the way from Norway to your coffee table. Your very mundane existence is itself a strain on the carbon budget.

Before we saw carbon in a different light, beyond its presence in fizzy drinks and the fact that we excrete it out and trees suck it back in, electric cars were seen as the panacea to our oil dependence problem. If we’re not able to witness solar-powered flying cars in this lifetime, then electric seemed to be the way to go. We imagined these vehicles as sleek, Zen-quiet machines which naturally smell of fresh pine, guided along by a GPS equipped with the voice of Sir David Attenborough. It was the future of transportation, not MRT lines underneath Macritchie reservoir, not car-free days, not bicycles or hoverboards. Instead, our government bans electric scooters in parks, slaps penalties on supposedly ‘green’ cars that happen to be gluttons for electricity, and the public asks for zero emission bicycles to be regulated. No, we’re still not going to emulate the Jetsons in another 50 years.

But this isn’t the first time that anyone who tried to promote clean tech got into a tangle with the authorities. James Diebley couldn’t register his battery-operated three-wheeled Corbin Sparrow as a motorcycle as the LTA deemed it to be more ‘car-like’. Although the LTA explained that it would have granted the rebate , Diebley eventually gave up the EV, but only because being a solo vehicle, he couldn’t use it to send his kids to school. On one hand, we want to encourage families and pledge to cut emissions, on the other it seems that the prerequisites of driving a cool electric car around Singapore include being 1) bloody rich and 2) single. Yes, try picking up girls with a gadget that looks like a character out of Pixar’s Cars.

Somehow, people have this perception that being small and compact, Singapore would be ideal for an electric revolution. Yet at the same time we have one of the highest ownership of modified supercars in the region, despite the roads being notoriously race-unfriendly. Bureaucracy is often blamed as the final nail in the coffin of any hopes of us becoming a car-lite, low-carbon nation, but without the right mindset and behaviorial changes in all of us to ‘heal the world, make it a better place’, or we continue to have billionaires who can afford to be penalised even if their EV is a grid vampire, our future generations will still inherit the scum we leave behind, with or without electric cars and their rebates and charges.


LTA enforcement officer arrested for affray

From ‘Suspended LTA enforcement officer arrested by police after scuffle with Uber driver’, 28 Nov 2015, article in CNA

A Land Transport Authority (LTA) enforcement officer who was suspended from all duties after being caught on video in a scuffle with another man – said to be an Uber driver – has been arrested by the police for affray.

…In the video, a man in an LTA enforcement officer’s uniform is seen throwing a punch at another man clad in a blue polo tee, and both end up scuffling until a bystander intervenes.

A netizen identified as Amber Pek said the incident happened after an Uber car came to pick her up at the taxi stand along Victoria Street, near Bugis Junction. She had posted the video of the incident on Facebook on Friday (Nov 27), saying that the man involved was the driver of the Uber car she hired.

…In response to media queries, police have confirmed that reports were lodged and a 50-year-old man has been arrested. A 59-year-old old man is also currently assisting with investigations, they added.

…Certis CISCO also released a statement saying its contractual agreement with LTA ended in October 2015 and that the officer involved in the incident is not its employee.

An affray is legally defined as 2 or more people fighting in a public place and disturbing the peace, yet only the LTA officer is arrested while the Uber uncle is ‘assisting with investigations’. By his own admission, the latter retaliated to the first punch, but given the brutality suffered, teeth lost and all, is likely to be given a warning instead of being thrown in the same cell as his nemesis.

CISCO were quick to distance themselves from the culprit. A Sunday Times article (29 Nov 15) later revealed that the LTA officer was in fact from a company known as ‘Ramky Cleantech Services’. An unusual name for an organisation that provides enforcement ‘solutions’, sounding more like a provider of sanitation services.

Indeed, according to their website, Ramky caters to office needs by supplying cleaning aunties, among other things like pest control and washing windows and walls. On the enforcement services side, they supply vehicles, wheel clamping and ‘foot patrolling officers’. Which makes the average motorist wonder: If the ‘matas’ who issue summons and catch you when you park illegally are not from the actual TP, who the heck are they and where do they come from?

It started in 2010 when LTA announced that they would relieve the TP of some functions, including the administration of illegal parking and closing roads for repairs. The work was then outsourced to private companies. In response to letters, LTA assured the public that CERTIS CISCO had a comprehensive training programme to ensure that officers carry out their duties professionally. In fact, before LTA came into the scene, parking offence duties were already outsourced by the TP themselves to CISCO since 1999.

In 2013, Ramky won the tender for providing traffic wardens. You can view the details of the successful bid yourself on the LTA website.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 7.20.40 AM

Following the rulebooks is one thing, the manner in which one stamps authority, however, is another. Some drivers have complained that the real cops can be in fact more LENIENT than outsourced wardens when it comes to parking violations, the latter deemed to be inflexible and very ‘rigid’. One warden actually BOOKED A DAMN POLICE CAR in what was referred to as the ‘summons of the year’.

One possible reason for this overzealousness, as a ST forum writer suggested in 2006, was that ‘external companies are driven by profits which are invariably tied to the amount of fines collected’. In order to prove to LTA that you’re well worth the money, you probably need to set a certain summons quota as an indicator of your performance. As an individual employee, that translates to incentives and promotions. CISCO claimed that salaries are not linked to fines collected. I don’t know about the rest.

Sticklers to the rules aside, a more worrying concern is whether our wardens, without the necessary police combat training, would be able to handle aggressive drivers who would gladly engage you in an ‘affray’ if they don’t like your face, knowing you’re just a hired goon without a pistol or taser. One poor soul got noodles thrown in his face, to the rapturous applause of bystanders. If it had been a TP, the offender could land himself a few weeks in jail for assaulting a public officer.

It’s a thankless job, and I’m sure there are wardens who do exercise discretion and don’t kick fallen uncles in the ribcage. But one does wonder if scrappy fights can be avoided if the duty was carried out by the TP rather than employees of companies that also specialise in toilet cleaning. In the case of this LTA vs Uber scuffle, the shit just hit the fan.

LTA mobilising SAF soldiers during MRT breakdowns

From ‘Talk of SAF helping out in rail incidents sparks debate’, 22 Aug 15, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

News that soldiers could be roped in to help out during massive train breakdowns has sparked a debate about whether the military should pitch in during such incidents. Many questioned if rail disruptions are a “matter of national security” and whether the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), “a national resource”, should be called upon to help the public transport operators, which are commercial entities. Others, though, felt it was worthwhile tapping the military, which can be mobilised quickly and is “quite dependable”.

The Straits Times reported that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has approached the SAF to explore deploying the men in green to give directions and manage crowds. They will be tapped only during large-scale disruptions.

Currently, personnel from the police, Public Transport Security Command and Singapore Civil Defence Force already help the LTA and public transport operators to manage such incidents.

On the issue of getting soldiers to lend a hand in the case of major disruptions, commuters had a variety of views. Accountant Lee Boon Chye, 29, who takes the train from Ang Mo Kio to work in Raffles Place, said: “While the army has the manpower and resources to get things done, it should not be helping to solve problems of companies that are profit- driven... It is also not a national crisis that requires soldiers. “These companies can hire auxiliary police officers or private security firms.”

…Defence analyst Ho Shu Huang said it is “not a bad thing” to involve the SAF for contingency planning, especially for worst-case scenarios. The associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University said: “Train breakdowns have so far resulted in delays for a few hours.

“But a train breakdown could become a crisis if there are other untoward consequences, such as a stampede, civil unrest or if the train breakdown continues for days or weeks… it will then be justifiable for the military to support efforts to manage the crisis.”

The last time the SAF was activated for a major event that had nothing to do with shooting and killing people was LKY’s state funeral, where 10,000 men and women were roped in to make sure the procession went smoothly (No job too big for Ah Boys, 16 May 15, ST). Other festivities which involved the army include the Youth Olympic Games in 2010, the recent SEA games, and of course the annual staple that is the NDP. The military supposedly has the most experience in organising massive groups of people quickly, and besides defending the nation or going overseas for humanitarian relief efforts, it sidelines as the country’s largest logistics organisation. It’s also a dependable source of cheap labour.

Event planning aside, SAF soldiers have been also tasked to patrol airports to beef up security against terrorists, which led some to question whether our boys in green are even qualified to handle hostage situations or urban warfare. There’s an unlikely long-standing relationship between SAF and public transport operators. In 1976, SBS ‘borrowed’ SAF mechanics to repair their buses in the midst of labour shortage. More bizarrely, soldiers were ‘volunteered’ to become guinea pigs in an 1987 experiment where they were subject to a mock breakdown exercise in the middle of a tunnel, squeezed into two cars to mimic peak hour conditions without air-conditioning. What is this, the Third Reich?

So not only does the SAF supply us with human bodies to do ‘sai-kang’, they also provide trial participants for ethically questionable experiments that test the limits of human endurance. Presumably because they’ve been adequately hard-drilled by the war machine to swallow unspeakable torture. Incidentally, both the LTA and SMRT chiefs are former military stalwarts, so no surprise that they probably agreed on this brilliant idea with a top brass handshake. Ah Boys to MRT Ushers, really. Furthermore, shouldn’t stampede control be managed by the riot police? Or we’re all reserving those guys for Little India scuffles?

So if we’re all fine with sacrificing our army pawns to tackle ‘national crises’ in peacetime, why stop at MRT breakdowns where there’s a remote chance of stampedes and ‘civil unrest’? We could apply their operational finesse in other matters that may affect ‘national security’, so that our police officers can focus on other areas like arresting bloggers. Here’s a list for consideration:

  1. McDonald’s Hello Kitty Queues
  2. Primary One Registration
  3. Securing JEM in event of fire/ceiling collapse/flood
  4. Security at K-pop concerts
  5. Crowd control when Kong Hee goes to court
  6. Sentry duty at SMRT depots in case of trespassing vandals
  7. Collection lines for SG50 Commemorative notes
  8. Picking up dead fish hit by mysterious seaborne disease
  9. N95 mask distribution during bad haze conditions
  10. Road marshalling at marathons. Wait, they’re probably already doing that for that Army one.


Uber and Grabtaxi drivers requiring a vocational licence

From ‘Uber, Grabtaxi drivers may need vocational licence’, 10 June 15, article by Zachary Soh, My Paper

DRIVERS who run chauffeur services under ride-booking apps such as Uber could be required to obtain a vocational licence in the future.  While they are currently free from this requirement, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday that it is looking into removing this exemption, as a way to ensure the safety of passengers taking private-hire rides.

In a forum letter published in The Straits Times, LTA noted that chauffeured vehicle services have become more accessible to the public with technology and given the industry’s recent growth, it is studying possible measures to safeguard commuter interest. The cab community has cried foul recently, following news of ride-matching apps and rental companies working together to run their own fleet of “taxis”.

The rental firms lease out cars to drivers at a rate cheaper than taxis. The drivers then use the vehicles to fulfil bookings from apps like Uber and GrabTaxi. These companies and drivers, however, do not have to meet the stringent requirements imposed on the taxi industry, such as vocational training.

…Meanwhile, Uber drivers have told The Straits Times that the time and money required to take a vocational course will be an extra burden for them. One driver, Yu Kim Reed, 30, asked why vocational licences have to be implemented now, given that chauffeur services have been around for so long. “The only difference is that a (car hire) call centre has been replaced by the Internet,” Mr Yu said.

According to the Sunday Times (Are ride-matching apps an UBER problem, 14 June 2015, ST), some Uber drivers do in fact ply their trade like ‘chauffeurs’. One subscriber known as ‘Marcus’ supplies mints, newspapers, water, even a socket for phone charging for his customers. Uber also has a strict rating system whereby any score below an average of 4.3 (out of 5) warrants a suspension or total ban, so drivers are forced to go the extra mile, sometimes literally.

Other requirements before becoming a full-fledged Uber driver include a 2 hour training session, online lessons, up to $5000 commercial insurance, and setting up your own company and registering your car for commercial use should you choose to drive your own vehicle. All that, however, doesn’t ensure passenger ‘safety’ as what LTA is hung up about. Then again, your safety isn’t guaranteed even if you’re in the backseat of a ‘proper’ taxi anyway, especially if you’re drunk and vulnerable.

One ride-sharing/matching app supporter explained in a letter to the ST that the business model satisfies a genuine need among frustrated passengers who have tried calling call centres and forced to ‘listen to their holding music’ (Ensure licensing doesn’t stifle progress, 12 June 2015, ST Forum). He also hinted at an element of ‘protectionism’ given that main players like Comfort Delgro, having tremendous ‘economies of scale’, still reap profits despite their high rental costs. As the occasional app-user myself, I tend to agree that there is a market for such services, more so if my Uber ride includes complementary perks like an iPhone charger or a bottle of champagne.  It is also a wake up call for regular cabbies not to disappear just before midnight charges kick in, not to rely on the customer for directions, or drive like demented road warriors in Mad Max.

Financial factors like app companies taking a cut from your earnings aside, 3rd party booking apps have their share of problems too. Grab Taxi requires you to exchange handphone numbers with cabbies, for instance. Passengers could screw you over by cancelling last minute or not appearing at the designated pick-up spot. You still risk having someone puke all over your backseat, or rob you with a box-cutter. Someone got duped into paying $97 to a fake Uber driver. But that is how ‘market forces’ work. If you want your privacy, or if you don’t trust private cars, take the train, but bear with the crowd and breakdowns, or fight with other flag-down passengers.

Ride-sharing/matching is still, at the very least, more reassuring than the ‘pirate taxis’ that once roamed the streets.  These flourished as early as the mid fifties, when entrepreneurial drivers capitalised on the bus strikes to perform a public service when people could no longer rely on the main form of public transport. Business was so competitive in fact, pirates were willing to charge 5 CENTS per mile and provide ‘doorstep’ escorting services.  It’s a misuse of the traditional use of the word ‘pirate’, though. These drivers aren’t plundering from anyone. They’re pirates like how people operate ‘pirate radio’ before the Internet. Comfort DelGro is your ‘Top Hits’ station, with the same old songs played to death, while Uber/Grab Taxi is where you get to hear the ‘cool stuff’ without ‘royalties’.

Of course, the Government had to clamp down on these guys and declare all out war, not so much that passengers were harmed by it, but because they had to protect the interests of our taxi-drivers, who were partly the reason why pirates had their supporters in the first place. Taxi drivers then tend to ‘choose’ tourists over locals, and people complained about their ‘attitude’ after an evening at the cinema. Today, taxis choose to wait in queue outside our casinos rather than pick you up when you’re stranded in some godforsaken ulu place past midnight. By the time you get an actual human voice on the Comfort Cab booking line, you would have been assaulted and left to die pants-down by the road.

In 1970, the Government coerced drivers into ‘job conversion’ in a bid to phase out pirate operations, and anyone who continued to go pirate would be fined and have their ride confiscated. In 1971, a man who depended on pirating as his livelihood was driven to suicide by traffic offences slapped by the police, among other debt woes. By 1975, the pirates returned to the new towns, because the waiting time for the only bus on the road was probably longer than that needed to set up your one-man taxi business.  Even if bus frequencies have since improved, we sometimes still watch helplessly as bus after bus zooms by, the captain ignoring your flailing arms, oblivious that there’s a gaping hole in the middle because nobody wants to move in.

Today, the authorities are considering a softer approach in contrast to the ‘Operation Pirate Taxi’ blitz of the past, but the fact that we’re even discussing frameworks and legislation now despite our ‘world class’ transport system, in view of the high demand for these apps (6 companies and counting, the LTA one not included), suggests that not enough is being done to move people around an increasingly crowded city efficiently. Well yes, there are good and bad Comfort drivers, just like there are good and bad Uber/Grab Taxi drivers, but there isn’t enough evidence to say that the one without an official licence is more likely to drive you off a pier and plunge into the river. For the record, regular taxis have driven into condo pools before. At least I know which of the two is more likely to carry a float just in case the unimaginable happens.

Instead of a knee-jerk reaction of mandatory licensing, the first thing LTA should work on is figuring out what’s wrong with the current system, and consider the benefits of these apps not just in terms of moving the public, but as a form of employment, without having their judgement fudged by taxi giants with vested interest in seeing the demise of their hi-tech rivals.  In the meantime, if I want an ‘uber’ chauffeur service at a fraction of the price of an actual limousine, I know who to call.


Authorities not claiming responsibility over a fishball stick

From ‘New Municipal Services Office announced’, 17 Aug 2014, article by Monica Kotwani and Eileen Poh, CNA

There will be a new authority set up to coordinate the work of various Government agencies in order to better serve the public when it comes to municipal issues. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced this on Sunday (Aug 17) during his National Day Rally. The Municipal Services Office (MSO) will coordinate the work of agencies such as the Land Transport Authority (LTA), NParks, the Housing and Development Board and Police. The aim is to improve service delivery to residents.

PM Lee highlighted an example cited by Mayor for South West District, Low Yen Ling. “Yen Ling’s residents had complained that the walkway to the Bukit Gombak MRT Station was often dirty,” Mr Lee related. “One resident told her he saw a fishball stick there on the walkway. The next day he came back and looked, the same fishball stick was still in the same place. Her residents have very sharp eyes. So Yen Ling called up the agencies to find out why the area was not being cleared regularly. And she had to make multiple calls to several agencies, held several meetings. She finally managed to establish what happened. “

Ms Low found that a slope on the left of the walkway is overseen by the National Environment Agency (NEA). In the middle, which is a park connector under NParks, while the pavement close to the road is under LTA. Mr Lee said the cleaners of these areas had different cleaning schedules, and the area on the right where the fishball stick lay was cleaned every two days.

Stick it to the Man

Stick it to the Man

Ironically, in the same article, PM was waxing lyrical about Singapore becoming a SMART NATION, and here you have a mayor having to arrange MEETINGS with agencies to decide what to do with a dumped fishball stick. I wonder who would take responsibility if the fishball stick happens to lie exactly midway between NPARKS and NEA’s turf. Maybe the cleaners under the respective payrolls would have to play scissors-paper-stone in order to come to a decision.

Like an unexpected pregnancy after a drunken mass orgy, the Bukit Gombak fishball stick anecdote has become an awkward metaphor of our neurotic, self-serving, ‘not my problem’ bureaucracy. Creating another liaison office to coordinate a response isn’t going to solve the actual problem here which PM Lee did not address in his rally: LITTERING. In full parental mode, our government have spawned yet another nanny to pick up after us because we don’t know how to make people responsible for their own environment. It’s like how setting up child welfare isn’t going to stop people from having irresponsible sex. In fact it takes some of the guilt and regret off your shoulders because you know someone ‘s taking care of your damn baby, rather than leaving him abandoned and straddling the imaginary boundary between two agencies who want nothing to do with him.

The formation of an MSO is a typical approach to how we deal with such issues: Create another layer of bureaucracy to address it, confuse everyone with yet another acronym, and hope for the best. This is just sweeping the littering scourge under the carpet. And then putting another carpet on top of the first one for good measure.

‘Municipal’ is a word that is as old as there have been only gas lamps on the streets, as seen in this 1849 article below.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 10.24.50 PM

It’s also an old-timey word you wouldn’t expect Singaporeans to even pronounce properly, with the MSO appearing to be an organisation whose responsibilities we’ll inevitably mix up with those of the ‘Town councils’.  MSO also stands for ‘Medisave-cum Subsidised Outpatient‘ scheme, or the fancy rank of some random customer service officer in the civil service. Maybe we need another agency to regulate how agencies are named, one that could launch an ‘Acronym Streamlining Scheme’. Or ASS.

There are other ‘grey areas’ around which our ‘relevant authorities’ don’t want to touch with a ten foot fishball stick. Nobody wants to claim responsibility over pesky mynahs, for example.  Then there’s killer treesleaves in drains, or even stray pythons, which depending on where the creatures are found may have to involve ACRES, PUB or even the Police Force. Some of these, like venomous reptiles, obviously need more urgent attention than something out of an Old Chang Kee deep fryer, and I’m not sure if the MSO can get the agencies’ act together in double-quick time before someone gets killed. We need an Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force equivalent to deal with such things. A ‘task force’ implies active hands-on, while an ‘office’ brings to mind meeting minutes, roundabout e-mails and endless hole-punching. If I need someone to get rid of a snake in the toilet bowl and I don’t know who to call, I instinctively would choose the people who call themselves a task force rather than an office, though there jolly well could be no difference between them at all.

Good luck to us if we were ever invaded by a swarm of radioactive, mutant, giant mosquitoes aggregating and breeding over a drain by the road in a HDB estate. By the time you get around calling NEA, AVA, HDB, PUB, LTA, the Town Council, or the whole damn ARMY, we’d all get hemorrhagic, radioactive dengue and die a horrific death before the first minutes of meeting have even been tabled.


$4.3 billion MCE congested on second day of opening

From ‘Motorists fume over slow traffic along newly-opened Marina Coastal Expressway’, 30 Dec 2013, article by Kenny Chee, ST

Traffic on the newly-opened Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) might have been fairly smooth on Sunday when it opened to the public, but it was a different story on Monday.

Travel was slow on several segments of the MCE and surrounding roads. Some motorists said they were stuck on the $4.3 billion expressway for nearly an hour, while some commuters were fuming over having to pay higher than usual taxi fares because they were stuck in jams linked to the expressway.

LTA boasts that the MCE is their ‘most ambitious‘ project to date, flashing earth-shattering statistics like how 1200 Olympic pools’ worth of soil were dug up to create the first of its kind undersea tunnel in Singapore. We all know how expensive this project is (you could build 4 Project Jewels), but here are some other fun facts that LTA might not be so willing to brag about following a nightmarish start to what has been lauded as a marvel of civil engineering. Clearly, in the case of undersea roads, ‘bigger’ and ‘deeper’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘better’, or ‘faster’.

  • Singapore’s second most expensive expressway is the KPE, costing $1.8 billion.
  • When construction started in 2009, LTA’s Chief Executive declared the work a major engineering challenge, that they had successfully ‘moved a river’ for the KPE and have ‘dammed’ the sea for this Kraken of a road. His name? Yam Ah Mee. Dammed if he do, dammed if he don’t.
  • Early the same year, it was reported that the project busted its budget by almost 2 billion (from its original 2.5 billion) because of higher prices of materials and unexpectedly weak soil. Minister Raymond Lim was questioned if his team had looked to other possibilities before building ‘underground and underwater’, but he said none of these were suitable and that the government takes a ‘stringent financial approach’ to evaluate the cost vs benefit of such massive jobs. Money can’t buy you imagination, I suppose.
  • In 2008, the government appointed global engineering firm Mott MacDonald as design consultant for 3 of the 6 contracts. These are the same people behind the first MRT line in Singapore, and worryingly, the Downtown line as well. Incidentally, the Marina Coastal Expressway has a Mc in its acronym. I doubt an Upsize will do any good.
  • Lastly, we make our transport systems ‘safe and smooth flowing through a suite of advanced traffic systems’ called ITS. Or Intelligent Transport Systems. It’s an acronym as ingenious as our expressways themselves.

We’ve been hit by a series of sloppy planning rearing ugly heads in dramatic fashion. First the Downtown line, then the DNC registry reversal and to cap the year off, a disappointing sluggish scrum through the MCE. We’re so used to agencies employing quick recovery action and offering Band-Aid solutions that we confuse their responsiveness and nervous engagement with social media for competency. Anyone can patch a leak, but you need some form of higher intelligence to prevent one. LTA fines SMRT or SMS for crappy work. Who fines the LTA then?

The LTA may have believed they built the tunnel equivalent of the Colossus, but what we have seen so far from opening day jitters is a choking Goliath, with so much emphasis on making the expressway wide and sturdy that we ignore its relationships with surrounding infrastructure and forget how to direct traffic. LTA was quick to publish a help guide to drivers confused about the MCE exits, which to a non-driver like me looks like a trigonometry problem sum confusing enough to quit driving altogether. AYE to ECP or CBD? WTF MCE.


‘Look’ signs with eyes painted on zebra crossings

From ‘Look signs get pedestrians to keep an eye out for traffic’, 2 June 2013, article by Charissa Yong, 2 June 2013, Sunday Times

If you see a pair of eyes on the road, do not be alarmed. The new road markings, which spell out the word “look”, come courtesy of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to remind pedestrians at zebra crossings to look out for oncoming vehicles.

Yesterday, the LTA said it will be progressively adding more of the signs at pedestrian crossings, starting with five at Ang Mo Kio Street 43, Jurong West Street 52, Sin Ming Road and Bukit Merah Central – estates with many elderly residents.

The move follows positive public feedback from an initial trial last year.

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The Zebra Crossing has eyes.

Who says our stat boards don’t have a sense of humour? LTA might as well stick googly eyes on the road if they want to make a cartoon out of the serious business of safe road-crossing. This idea looks like it was inspired by Samantha Lo’s ‘My Grandfather Road‘, and with the resignation of Singa, it seems that we’ve given up on road courtesy altogether and thought it would be better to give specific commands to pedestrians otherwise they’d take oncoming traffic for granted and waltz along a zebra crossing as if they were protected by a force field, as if it were, well, their Grandfather’s Road.

Our authorities have come up with countless measures to alert motorists about not horsing around when it comes to zebra crossings. In 1984, the Public Works Department painted the word ‘ZEBRA’ in Bukit Purmei, while today we use ‘X-ing’ and zigzag markings to denote zebra crossings. We’ve built flashing beacons, speed humps, strips and drawn inverted triangles to bombard drivers with visual reminders to slow down before zebras, yet people still get knocked down. In a shocking video shot in Jan this year, a schoolboy dashing across a zebra crossing near NUH was sent FLYING after a car drove smack into him. Thankfully he didn’t appear to be seriously hurt, though such an event could have been avoided if both parties just ‘looked’ out for each other.

Cue cartoon eyes.

The fact is people shouldn’t just be ‘looking left and right’ only at zebra crossings, whether they’re strollers, drivers or cyclists. Shouldn’t one be attentive ALL THE TIME? Even if you’re crossing a green light wearing body armour?  Hesitant jaywalkers and motorcyclists mowing up and down pavements can strike anytime, really. Even as you educate pedestrians about ‘looking’ etiquette, some may take it too literally and start snapping photos around a zebra crossing instead.

Look. And Snap

Or you could take the instructions too seriously and ‘look’ longer than required, possibly resulting in you dithering about the curb and confusing motorists about your true intentions. Kids may get so attracted to the cute Disney eyes on the road that they pay more attention to the ground than what’s coming at them from the sides. Or you could also spend too much looking left and right that you may get run down from the FRONT by an uncle on a bicycle, which is almost as dangerous as a drunkard on a Segway with a battering ram in front of it.

Look out for dog in basket

Of course, there are nuisance pedestrians who ignore zebra crossings entirely, rendering all the LTA’s efforts decorating our roads with warning symbols as void. Or perhaps they just didn’t notice, what with their eyes glued to their phones and all.

Look. At your phone.

The zebra crossing has infuriated both pedestrians and motorists alike for decades, with each party blaming the other when something nasty happens, like a power/class struggle over a disputed minefield between someone abusing the right to cross vs another abusing the right to drive. When all else fails though, one can always blame mishaps on malign forces. In 2009, Clementi residents blamed a ‘tomb’ for laying an evil curse on a zebra crossing that led right into its path after a boy was tragically run over by a tipper truck. The other favourite for finger-pointing is of course the traffic authority itself, for not installing enough road humps, not deploying more patrol units or not summoning motorists for zipping through zebra crossings like nothing was there. In fact, some drivers may actually take their chances and SPEED UP near a zebra crossing if they see someone slowly walking towards it.

So much for eyes – literally – on the road, when what really matters is that people are properly using those eyes on their HEADS. Sam Lo must be itching to get back to work on the streets. Imagine what you can do with those goofy eyes. Like adding a smiley face to make someone’s day perhaps, at least during their final moments on earth before a mad driver runs them over.

This is a photoshopped picture. Please don't arrest me, Police

This is a photoshopped picture. Please don’t arrest me, Police