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Old 8th May 2011, 11:43   #151
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Default Re: Should a few of us stop owning cars?!

Dear archtect, I thought I will quote a few paragraphs from your 8th May post to appreciate as well said. I found it very difficult because the entire posting is very well said and thought provoking. If only our powers that be are able to read this and think beyond partisan lines and interests..Regds
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Old 8th May 2011, 12:40   #152
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If I were to think beyond the level of personal preferences and bye-laws and look at the larger picture, here's what I would surmise it as:

a. A small percentage of the world's population owns cars. This number is rising fast, really fast, as of now and is likely to accelerate even further. The problem of finding enough space for driving and parking cars will get far worse than today.

b. As an architect, I can safely say that no amount of planning and future projection can ensure that cars are always accounted for. To accommodate cars, you need low density cities. By having low density cities, you create enormous pressure on land, on services and distribution, on energy consumption and create a huge "commute mess".

c. To counter the problems in 'b' above, you need to 'densify' cities. A 'densified' city works only without cars and on public transport.

We, as Indians, are still stuck with the British hangover of "low density" and aspire for a "Bungalow" lifestyle. As long as we keep aspiring for the same, the Builders will keep building these things. We get what we deserve.

No public transport system in the world can support low density cities. This is why public transport works quite well in a dense city like London or New York but is a failure in a typical American low-density city like Washington DC.

We need to a drastic shift in our thinking where we move towards:

a. High density cities where walking or taking a small bus ride takes you wherever you want to. These cities need to restricted in size. We can't have monsters like NCR and Mumbai in such a set-up.

b. If 'a' above was implemented, we would save huge amounts of energy on transport, fuel, services distribution etc.

c. Cars can be bought and sold, but their usage can be restricted, and dis-incentivised with higher taxes / parking charges. Of course, having simpler choices, people will not prefer to use them.

d. A neighbourhood of the density of, say, Lajpat Nagar is actually very liveable *provided* you remove the cars from it. The cars have taken over the roads, the footpaths, the parks and even the space under the flyovers. It has to stop. We cannot have cars usurping the space of pedestrians, children and plants.

I love cars and I enjoy driving them. But I would sacrifice owning one if they would make a mess of my city, my environment. A car is, after all, a car. It's a means, not an end. There are other things in life more important than this.

Before everyone here points out that all this that I have written is a pipe dream, that the Government will never do this, that the public transport infrastructure will never provide decent, efficient systems for the public, I would like to say that the change begins with us. We love staying in low density and badly planned neighbourhoods (commute-wise) and pay lakhs and crores to buy such property. We try and make a mad rush for the big, uncontrollable cities. I am guilty of each and everyone of these unsustainable practices as well. I am not any better.

We cannot continue to live in this unsustainable manner for more than 2-3 decades at most. We need a paradigm shift.

Should a few of us stop owning cars?: Absolutely, ideally all of us. Or atleast we should stop using them on a regular basis.

Since you are an architect you have analysed and put things together beautifully. there is something I would like to add:
  1. Britain is actually a pretty "high density" nation compared to most of the developed world (France, Germany, Canace and worst of all US). the Bungalow lifestyle you are referring to is from 7 decades ago - and at that time that was high density (americans were living on ranches)
  2. The British cities have moved on to a model similar to what you have mentioned. Heavy restrictions on private vehicles in city centers - huge parkings outside city to park and bus service from there to any point within the city. Most of the parkings are free to park (subsidised by bus fares). In outer areas of the city people do keep their cars.
the restrictions on ownership for people living in central areas, high taxes in congested areas, high parking charges and outright bans on certain streets keep the vehicles out of central areas. Since the public transport is pretty good (though it is not cheap, and bus drivers are paid well) it doesn't hurt to be in the city center.
For true emergencies there in 999 anyway (not 911 - that is US) and a very good taxi service in most cities (again, not cheap).
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Old 8th May 2011, 12:53   #153
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Default Re: Should a few of us stop owning cars?!

As a lot of others said, we have been bought up mostly on the western culture of lifestyle which mandates enough private space (big houses) for us and cars to commute.. Public transport is for people those who cannot afford a private vehicle, starting from a 2 wheeler (it is heartening though to see that this belief is slowly being eradicated from our minds). Cars were a symbol of prestige and luxury at one point of time .. especially pre-90s that our sub conscious minds just wants to own one..

As mentioned above in countries like singapore and even in congested american cities like new york, traffic planning is done cleverly so that traffic "evolves" in a right way. So while, owning a car in new york may prove a very expensive and harrowing experience, not owning a car in Minnesota may give you the same experience..

If a "free" country like USA can set double standards depending on the place you live in and real estate available, it is high time we start managing traffic density in some of the most congested cities.. delhi/mumbai/hyd/kolkata/chennai/blore .

Awareness/advantages of public transport needs to increase.. So does awareness about carpooling..

Parking your car IMHO is a smaller part of the bigger picture of controlling traffic in your city.
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Old 8th May 2011, 13:39   #154
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I have been living this dilema for the past 3 years. I stay in Mumbai and travel out for work nearly 15-20 days a month. Office is in Mumbai and work is all outside.
I had a surgery late 2008 and had to stop driving during rehab. Then in 2009, I sold my car. The recession in 2008, then the inability to make up my mind about what to buy has stopped me from buying a car as yet. Prior to this, I used to drive nearly 2000+kms every month and I love to drive.
I've been an "ECO" traveler (atleast in Mumbai) these past few years.

A few Points from both sides:
  1. In a well connected city like Mumbai, a car is not a necessity. It is in fact a pain when you spend upwards of 30 minutes to find a place to park your car.
  2. Train generally gets you from Churchgate to Borivali (about 40 odd kms) in 45 minutes. By road, during peak hours, look at nothing less than 120 minutes + High B.P.
  3. Trains are cheap, fast, less polluting. Buses here connect you to even the farthest points within the city and are cheap.
All the above is well and good PROVIDED: you have time on your hands, travel is restricted to twice a day (to work and back home and therefore PLANNED) one is willing to travel in, to say the least, pathetic conditions, not fit for humans.

The OTHER Side:
  1. It is impossible to board a Mumbai local in the rush hours with a laptop bag hanging from your shoulder. If you do succeed in boarding the train, you may find that a few fellow commuters have also managed to climb in with you by latching onto your laptop bag and tie (if you have the misfortune of having to wear one at work).
  2. Unless bus and train are the only modes used, public transport is expensive, very very expensive. Typical auto fare here for 21 kms is about Rs. 170.
  3. Public transport so far is efficient as long as we move North-South-North. God forbid, you have to travel East West: you may as well spend upwards of 5 hours on a to&fro journey.
  4. The FUN part is when you have to travel from your house to the station and station to final destination. Including waiting time for a bus, it has taken me a record 75 minutes to get to office from the railway station - a whole 3 kms!
    Have time, use bus, get crushed.
    Short on time, pay steep and use auto and also go deaf with the racket that the engine makes.
And this is where the whole PRO public transport argument falls apart.
It is another hellish experience by itself to simply get to the train station.
And then one wishes for your own vehicle - "parking dekh lenge, ghar to pahauch jaenge ek piece mein"

I also travel frequently to Chennai, Pune, Nashik and Bangalore.
Public Transport - accessibility and connectivity is the best in Mumbai.
It is next to impossible to manage in a place like Pune without at least a bike.
With cities spreading out the way they are, mass transportation seems to be the only way out. We seem to be growing skywards, linearly and radially, at the same time!
These systems, however have to been really reliable, efficient and comfortable for people to stop using private vehicles en masse.

Should we stop using private vehicles within cities like Bombay, Bangalore etc.: most assuredly YES!
The question is Can We?
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Old 8th May 2011, 14:42   #155
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Default Re: Should a few of us stop owning cars?!

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...
Should we stop using private vehicles within cities like Bombay, Bangalore etc.: most assuredly YES!
The question is Can We?
...
The question you are raising is can the public transport system be good enough for most of us to not care about using the cars (even if we own them).

I don't know, but may be.

There are a few things that corporates can do (and many are doing) and employees can suggest:
  1. Move to less congested areas and make those areas more congested
    1. but seriously overall it will only improve several things
  2. Try out different office timings in different zones
    1. My previous employer in Bangalore tried moving office hours to earlier hours - we had company buses coming to work at 8:45am, almost completely bypassing the 8:30-11:00 morning rush.
    2. Biggest problem was to people with school going children. So earlier than 8:45 was chucked (people travelling 1hour would have to wake start at 7:45, with school going children it was hard)
  3. Provide more company transport
    1. This is a cross between public and private - it is still shared, and you don't get the Mumbai train feeling.
    2. Most Bangalore companies already do this, not very common in NCR (though many do this), and uncommon in Hyderabad.
    3. Also, while providing Indica/Qualis vehicles is better than one-employee one-car model, buses are the best for this one.
  4. Encourage employees to move nearer to work
    1. Some companies to this, my previous two employers paid for all relocation if an employee moved with 10km of the office.
  5. Flexi timings, Flexi days (some can work weekends) and work from home
    1. The Flexi days part is the hardest to do, and this is one area where not many companies are doing a lot.
    2. So far all of these have been used just to get the employee to do some free overtime, rather than actually helping employees or traffic (or anything else)
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Old 8th May 2011, 19:28   #156
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Even though I agree with your initial point, I would love to know the 10 cities in India this is possible where people can travel with proper public transport from one end to the other end of the city (assuming you won't mention call taxi and 2-300/- auto fare)
New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad may be and...perhaps others can add a few more cities! No, I don't mean call taxis, but they can also reduce congestion despite burning a hole in our pocket.

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In Chennai the bus service is very good. However the autos are rouges. Imagine you need to go in a hurry to a place and you cannot wait for the bus, or there is no bus service. What do you do? Take an auto. but they will not use the meter. So pay double or triple the fare.
I use autos only for last mile connectivity. For longer distances, if you don't want the suburban rail or bus, take a call taxi. For a 20 - 25 KM distance it will cost around Rs 300.00 and is a lot more comfortable/safe than an auto.

Restricting car sales is not an option. We can't entice auto makers to set up shop here with one hand, and stymy their sales growth with the other! Singapore can put a cap on car sales, but I don't think any cars are made there? Regulating the use of cars is what is required.
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Old 8th May 2011, 22:22   #157
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A very important point I'd like to add. As odyssey045 mentioned, you have to "evolve" a public transport, it can't be created overnight. And the "form" of the city helps evolve it.

The British were very smart when they created Mumbai. They put in the railway lines first. That was the "grand chord". All other "feeders" fell in to place and created a truly amazing "linear" city. The success of Mumbai's public transport is because of its linear nature. the bulk movement is handled on the 2-3 parallel MRTS lines (railways here) and the feeders chip in. You are never too far away from a local.

Now, look at the stupidity of our own planning, namely Delhi. India's first development authority, DDA, took the most short-sighted approach and created Delhi like a ring, a "radiating" pattern. Result: Thousands of bus routes, no uniformity of demand leading to erratic bus timings and profitability. Lonely roads and heavily-clogged centre. Not to mention the maximum road area per capita required. This created a car-centric, car-loving city which is also practical to negotiate and survive in only if you have a car.

Dense, linear cities with feeders are perfect for public transport. Circular / Radiating cities are a mess.

Last edited by architect : 8th May 2011 at 22:34.
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Old 9th May 2011, 00:28   #158
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A very important point I'd like to add. As odyssey045 mentioned, you have to "evolve" a public transport, it can't be created overnight. And the "form" of the city helps evolve it.

The British were very smart when they created Mumbai. They put in the railway lines first. That was the "grand chord". All other "feeders" fell in to place and created a truly amazing "linear" city. The success of Mumbai's public transport is because of its linear nature. the bulk movement is handled on the 2-3 parallel MRTS lines (railways here) and the feeders chip in. You are never too far away from a local.

Now, look at the stupidity of our own planning, namely Delhi. India's first development authority, DDA, took the most short-sighted approach and created Delhi like a ring, a "radiating" pattern. Result: Thousands of bus routes, no uniformity of demand leading to erratic bus timings and profitability. Lonely roads and heavily-clogged centre. Not to mention the maximum road area per capita required. This created a car-centric, car-loving city which is also practical to negotiate and survive in only if you have a car.

Dense, linear cities with feeders are perfect for public transport. Circular / Radiating cities are a mess.

Well, most cities in the world are not linear, and they do very well. Also while I wouldn't comment about Mumbai, Delhi (except the manicured Lutyen's Delhi) was most certainly not designed by the Brits before or after independence, and most of the settlement mess is not DDA's creation it is the result of the annual regularisation of illegal colonies that became a feature.

Moreover linearity of Mumbai is a myth to a good extent, the city is more of a triangle (and inverted one, if you may) and there is a lot of east-west movement too in the northern suburbs - that part is a royal mess. An then there is Navi Mumbai.

Having lived in both places I would say that today Delhi actually may have a better public transport infrastructure though in early 90s it was Bombay which trumped Delhi.
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Old 9th May 2011, 00:49   #159
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Default Re: Should a few of us stop owning cars?!

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Well, most cities in the world are not linear, and they do very well. Also while I wouldn't comment about Mumbai, Delhi (except the manicured Lutyen's Delhi) was most certainly not designed by the Brits before or after independence, and most of the settlement mess is not DDA's creation it is the result of the annual regularisation of illegal colonies that became a feature.

Moreover linearity of Mumbai is a myth to a good extent, the city is more of a triangle (and inverted one, if you may) and there is a lot of east-west movement too in the northern suburbs - that part is a royal mess. An then there is Navi Mumbai.

Having lived in both places I would say that today Delhi actually may have a better public transport infrastructure though in early 90s it was Bombay which trumped Delhi.
Linear cities are best for public transport. Non-linear cities like New York also do well, but they need proper planning.

The part of Delhi that existed before the British was Shahjahanabad actually functioned perfectly well as a single unit until the British took over the Red Fort in 1857 and converted into a protected British cantonment, disrupting the fabric of that settlement.

I am sorry to disagree with you, but the sole purpose of DDA was to plan Delhi and create masterplans and account for and create systems where urban villages and unauthorised colonies did not become quasi-slums. It has failed.

Delhi's current mess is the result of DDA's inability to channelise developments in the right pattern. Regarding unauthorised colonies, they are the biggest proofs of bad, non-inclusive planning. What do urban villages and unauthorised colonies do in Delhi? They provide affordable space for living for those who can't afford to work and carry out business in the "planned" portions of the city. If the people staying here could afford to stay in "DDA-planned Delhi", they would do it.

Where do the fabricators, the atta-chakkis, the shoemakers go for business? the urban villages or regularised colonies. Where do the drivers / maids stay when they come from other states? The same urban villages or regularised or unauthorised colonies. Why? Because of a real-estate pattern that escalates spaces for both residence and business beyond affordability of the poor.

If the Masterplan and the authority cannot create spaces for these people or create mechanisms where these people are pushed into islands called urban villages and unauthorised colonies due to affordability, then it is a failure of planning. What is the difference between DDA and DLF if neither can provide more than the token amount of "EWS" flats for every acre they colonise?

We love to blame unauthorised colonies and urban villages for the mess in Delhi. It would be interesting to see the city survive without them even for a single day.

As an abstraction, Mumbai's planning is much better. It is a triangle now with three parallel (or somewhat radiating lines) but it was provided a structure for the city to grow. In Delhi, growth happens because all around, making it a most complex city to set up bus routes or metro routes.

I think we are going off-topic with this one now.
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Old 9th May 2011, 01:12   #160
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Linear cities are best for public transport. Non-linear cities like New York also do well, but they need proper planning.

The part of Delhi that existed before the British was Shahjahanabad actually functioned perfectly well as a single unit until the British took over the Red Fort in 1857 and converted into a protected British cantonment, disrupting the fabric of that settlement.

I am sorry to disagree with you, but the sole purpose of DDA was to plan Delhi and create masterplans and account for and create systems where urban villages and unauthorised colonies did not become quasi-slums. It has failed.

Actually we agree fully on this one. See below.

Delhi's current mess is the result of DDA's inability to channelise developments in the right pattern. Regarding unauthorised colonies, they are the biggest proofs of bad, non-inclusive planning. What do urban villages and unauthorised colonies do in Delhi? They provide affordable space for living for those who can't afford to work and carry out business in the "planned" portions of the city. If the people staying here could afford to stay in "DDA-planned Delhi", they would do it.

Where do the fabricators, the atta-chakkis, the shoemakers go for business? the urban villages or regularised colonies. Where do the drivers / maids stay when they come from other states? The same urban villages or regularised or unauthorised colonies. Why? Because of a real-estate pattern that escalates spaces for both residence and business beyond affordability of the poor.

If the Masterplan and the authority cannot create spaces for these people or create mechanisms where these people are pushed into islands called urban villages and unauthorised colonies due to affordability, then it is a failure of planning. What is the difference between DDA and DLF if neither can provide more than the token amount of "EWS" flats for every acre they colonise?

We love to blame unauthorised colonies and urban villages for the mess in Delhi. It would be interesting to see the city survive without them even for a single day.

As an abstraction, Mumbai's planning is much better. It is a triangle now with three parallel (or somewhat radiating lines) but it was provided a structure for the city to grow. In Delhi, growth happens because all around, making it a most complex city to set up bus routes or metro routes.

I think we are going off-topic with this one now.

When you claim that it was DDA's failure to build a masterplan that led to the growth of unauthorised colonies - I fully agree. All I meant to say in my previous post was the DDA did not fail in planning for infrastructure - it failed in a much broader sense of urban planning.

Digressing a little, DDA may have failed its mission but I wouldn't call it a failure if you see it from the perspective of its real masters - the land mafia - who benefited from a failure in DDA's mission.


In case of Mumbai also there is no planning. In fact the situation is worse. In the 90s there was a municipal law that if a slum had been demolished three times and the same people settled again each time, then they had a right on the land and could not be removed.

It is an accident of history, not town planning, that the railway was laid the way it was (Harbour line connects the harbours, western line connect Bombay to Gujarat, the cotton land, via the only place the bridge could be made over the sea and tracks laid, and central line connects South Bombay - the only Bombay that existed at the time - to the rest of Maharashtra and central India where the coal would come from). The coolies followed from all over India and before longed settled right next to the tracks - it wasn't the planning that did that but shear economics of their lot.

Before the 90s the "linear" part of the city was already fully saturated, and for the last two and half decades it has been a growing mess - any Mumbaikar will tell you that.

I'll stop right here - just saw your note on going off topic. Let me just conclude by saying that I lived on the fringes of both cities and both had their histories that shaped the development more than planning itself. Me the history buff can learn quite a bit from you the architect. So drop me an email if you are in Hyderabad any time soon and I'll pay for the coffee and snacks .
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Old 9th May 2011, 01:12   #161
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My friends in Singapore say the same thing "car buying is only for rich guys" - I can begin to understand why. Its not about the cost of the car, its not the fuel cost. Its the parking.
It is a very different situation in Singapore or New York. There they have a very efficient public transport system. Also in Singapore, owning a car is as much discouraged as smoking a cigarette, there are umpteen number of rules and taxes that only the ardent fan who can really afford to spend the big bucks will actually buy it. For e.g, a car that costs 10,000 Singapore Dollars consists of 7,000 in taxes, which has to be paid up again if the car has to extend it's life for more than 10 years (Who will pay 7k for an old car when they can buy a new one for 10k ?). Also the parking charges in your apartment complex will set you back by 200 to 1000 every month apart from the parking charges in your office or in malls which are also very very high. There is NO FREE PARKING anywhere unlike here where we feel it is our right to occupy any free space.

In India, the system is very different, we demand everything and sometimes even refuse or fight to pay the nominal parking charges levied by the govt.
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Old 9th May 2011, 01:58   #162
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It is a very different situation in Singapore or New York. There they have a very efficient public transport system. Also in Singapore, owning a car is as much discouraged as smoking a cigarette, there are umpteen number of rules and taxes that only the ardent fan who can really afford to spend the big bucks will actually buy it. For e.g, a car that costs 10,000 Singapore Dollars consists of 7,000 in taxes, which has to be paid up again if the car has to extend it's life for more than 10 years (Who will pay 7k for an old car when they can buy a new one for 10k ?). Also the parking charges in your apartment complex will set you back by 200 to 1000 every month apart from the parking charges in your office or in malls which are also very very high. There is NO FREE PARKING anywhere unlike here where we feel it is our right to occupy any free space.

In India, the system is very different, we demand everything and sometimes even refuse or fight to pay the nominal parking charges levied by the govt.

You forgot to mention this - in Manhattan, not only do you have to pay for parking, getting parking even then is a great hassle.

Somebody mentioned something about development of automobile industry - in Shanghai and Beijing you have to pay the equivalent of about Rs. 4L to get a city number plate - without that the car is not allowed in the city. Two wheeler rules are more relaxed, but there are none in the inner cities - I think they might be banned - will find out in the next trip.

Public transport system is good, but extremely crowded (just like Bangalore, but not like Mumbai or Delhi).
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Old 9th May 2011, 02:03   #163
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Somebody mentioned something about development of automobile industry - in Shanghai and Beijing you have to pay the equivalent of about Rs. 4L to get a city number plate - without that the car is not allowed in the city.
Which means that everything comes at a price especially what we expect. Only thing is here we expect everything for free.
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Old 9th May 2011, 07:40   #164
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My friends in Singapore say the same thing "car buying is only for rich guys" - I can begin to understand why. Its not about the cost of the car, its not the fuel cost. Its the parking.
Not fully true. More than anything, in Singapore it is the cost of the car. For e.g.; a Suzuki Swift is close to Rs. 30 lakhs, a 1.8 TSI Passat is close to 60 lakhs. As esteem_lover mentioned, 70% of this cost is attributed to CoE (certificate of entitlement), which is valid for 10 years. If you need to run a car which is more than 10 years old, you need to pay again. And if you are a foreigner, you will have this resistance because you know how much the same model cost in other markets.

Now all of these really make sense because it’s a wise move from the government to restrict private car ownership. And from their side they provide excellent public transport infrastructure (read Bus and Train, the Taxi system is quite inadequate), and in the 11 years of living in Singapore, I never felt that I am handicapped by not owning a car.

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Also the parking charges in your apartment complex will set you back by 200 to 1000 every month apart from the parking charges in your office or in malls which are also very very high. There is NO FREE PARKING anywhere unlike here where we feel it is our right to occupy any free space.
Sorry to disagree, from what I have seen in Singapore, all private apartments here has excellent parking setup, and each apartment is entitled for a parking space for one car.


And it’s not about just having a good public transport system. It’s about having a safe and effective public transport system. And I guess that’s a huge challenge we are having. In Singapore, it’s easy because it is smaller than some of the small cities in India. On the contrary, safe public transport is a huge challenge in NY.
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Old 9th May 2011, 09:13   #165
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3. Don't own a car! This is what this thread is about. If I sit down and calculate, if I use a bike for the regular commute (which I anyway end up doing because of traffic) and use an autorickshaw or a call taxi on all other days a vehicle is needed for non-work-commute purposes, then I will actually end up saving quite a bunch.
We should also consider the time and convenience that a car helps us save and convert that into money as well. For instance when I travel between my parent's place and my place of work on weekends, I usually takes me around 2.5 hours for about 120 kms. Now if I decide to go by train or bus it would take me around 4 - 5 hours to do the same trip.

The rant however is very pertinent. A few things that can be done to improve the situation
- If you live in the city limit the size of your car to the size of the parking space and traffic not to the size of your wallet.
- Want a powerful car in the city? Get a powerful hatch.
- While going for shopping in the city, park your car in some available space a little away from the city center and tramp through the city on foot, autos of buses. Return to your car when you are all done.

My two cents.

Drive on,
Shibu
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