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The Way to Go.
We've done half of it: making driving expensive
Now's the much harder other half: making public transport better

Across Europe, Irking Drivers Is Urban Policy

ZURICH — While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

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Europe’s Fight Against Traffic

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A view of Zurich's Limmatquai, a riverside pedestrian zone that used to be two lanes of gridlock. More Photos »
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Cities including Vienna to Munich and Copenhagen have closed vast swaths of streets to car traffic. Barcelona and Paris have had car lanes eroded by popular bike-sharing programs. Drivers in London and Stockholm pay hefty congestion charges just for entering the heart of the city. And over the past two years, dozens of German cities have joined a national network of “environmental zones” where only cars with low carbon dioxide emissions may enter.

Likeminded cities welcome new shopping malls and apartment buildings but severely restrict the allowable number of parking spaces. On-street parking is vanishing. In recent years, even former car capitals like Munich have evolved into “walkers’ paradises,” said Lee Schipper, a senior research engineer at Stanford University who specializes in sustainable transportation.

“In the United States, there has been much more of a tendency to adapt cities to accommodate driving,” said Peder Jensen, head of the Energy and Transport Group at the European Environment Agency. “Here there has been more movement to make cities more livable for people, to get cities relatively free of cars.”

To that end, the municipal Traffic Planning Department here in Zurich has been working overtime in recent years to torment drivers. Closely spaced red lights have been added on roads into town, causing delays and angst for commuters. Pedestrian underpasses that once allowed traffic to flow freely across major intersections have been removed. Operators in the city’s ever expanding tram system can turn traffic lights in their favor as they approach, forcing cars to halt.

Around Löwenplatz, one of Zurich’s busiest squares, cars are now banned on many blocks. Where permitted, their speed is limited to a snail’s pace so that crosswalks and crossing signs can be removed entirely, giving people on foot the right to cross anywhere they like at any time.

As he stood watching a few cars inch through a mass of bicycles and pedestrians, the city’s chief traffic planner, Andy Fellmann, smiled. “Driving is a stop-and-go experience,” he said. “That’s what we like! Our goal is to reconquer public space for pedestrians, not to make it easy for drivers.”

While some American cities — notably San Francisco, which has “pedestrianized” parts of Market Street — have made similar efforts, they are still the exception in the United States, where it has been difficult to get people to imagine a life where cars are not entrenched, Dr. Schipper said.

Europe’s cities generally have stronger incentives to act. Built for the most part before the advent of cars, their narrow roads are poor at handling heavy traffic. Public transportation is generally better in Europe than in the United States, and gas often costs over $8 a gallon, contributing to driving costs that are two to three times greater per mile than in the United States, Dr. Schipper said.

What is more, European Union countries probably cannot meet a commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions unless they curb driving. The United States never ratified that pact.

Globally, emissions from transportation continue a relentless rise, with half of them coming from personal cars. Yet an important impulse behind Europe’s traffic reforms will be familiar to mayors in Los Angeles and Vienna alike: to make cities more inviting, with cleaner air and less traffic.

Michael Kodransky, global research manager at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in New York, which works with cities to reduce transport emissions, said that Europe was previously “on the same trajectory as the United States, with more people wanting to own more cars.” But in the past decade, there had been “a conscious shift in thinking, and firm policy,” he said. And it is having an effect.

After two decades of car ownership, Hans Von Matt, 52, who works in the insurance industry, sold his vehicle and now gets around Zurich by tram or bicycle, using a car-sharing service for trips out of the city. Carless households have increased from 40 to 45 percent in the last decade, and car owners use their vehicles less, city statistics show.

“There were big fights over whether to close this road or not — but now it is closed, and people got used to it,” he said, alighting from his bicycle on Limmatquai, a riverside pedestrian zone lined with cafes that used to be two lanes of gridlock. Each major road closing has to be approved in a referendum.

Today 91 percent of the delegates to the Swiss Parliament take the tram to work.

Still, there is grumbling. “There are all these zones where you can only drive 20 or 30 kilometers per hour [about 12 to 18 miles an hour], which is rather stressful,” Thomas Rickli, a consultant, said as he parked his Jaguar in a lot at the edge of town. “It’s useless.”

Urban planners generally agree that a rise in car commuting is not desirable for cities anywhere.

Mr. Fellmann calculated that a person using a car took up 115 cubic meters (roughly 4,000 cubic feet) of urban space in Zurich while a pedestrian took three. “So it’s not really fair to everyone else if you take the car,” he said.

European cities also realized they could not meet increasingly strict World Health Organization guidelines for fine-particulate air pollution if cars continued to reign. Many American cities are likewise in “nonattainment” of their Clean Air Act requirements, but that fact “is just accepted here,” said Mr. Kodransky of the New York-based transportation institute.

It often takes extreme measures to get people out of their cars, and providing good public transportation is a crucial first step. One novel strategy in Europe is intentionally making it harder and more costly to park. “Parking is everywhere in the United States, but it’s disappearing from the urban space in Europe,” said Mr. Kodransky, whose recent report “Europe’s Parking U-Turn” surveys the shift.

Sihl City, a new Zurich mall, is three times the size of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Mall but has only half the number of parking spaces, and as a result, 70 percent of visitors get there by public transport, Mr. Kodransky said.

In Copenhagen, Mr. Jensen, at the European Environment Agency, said that his office building had more than 150 spaces for bicycles and only one for a car, to accommodate a disabled person.

While many building codes in Europe cap the number of parking spaces in new buildings to discourage car ownership, American codes conversely tend to stipulate a minimum number. New apartment complexes built along the light rail line in Denver devote their bottom eight floors to parking, making it “too easy” to get in the car rather than take advantage of rail transit, Mr. Kodransky said.

While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has generated controversy in New York by “pedestrianizing” a few areas like Times Square, many European cities have already closed vast areas to car traffic. Store owners in Zurich had worried that the closings would mean a drop in business, but that fear has proved unfounded, Mr. Fellmann said, because pedestrian traffic increased 30 to 40 percent where cars were banned.

With politicians and most citizens still largely behind them, Zurich’s planners continue their traffic-taming quest, shortening the green-light periods and lengthening the red with the goal that pedestrians wait no more than 20 seconds to cross.

“We would never synchronize green lights for cars with our philosophy,” said Pio Marzolini, a city official. “When I’m in other cities, I feel like I’m always waiting to cross a street. I can’t get used to the idea that I am worth less than a car.”
I guess improving public transport will take time, effort and $$. I wait for the bus to/from work daily and the waiting times can be erratic, though I do acknowledge that peak hour waiting time has been reduced somewhat compared to say 5 years back. Or this could be only applicable for the service(s) I am taking! Tongue
Jun 29, 2011
Finally, COE breather ahead?

Flood of old cars being scrapped means increase in COE supply, which may help bring down premiums
By Christopher Tan, Senior Correspondent

A WIDELY anticipated cut in certificate of entitlement (COE) supply for the next six-monthly period starting in August may not materialise after all, according to latest data.

This is because a cohort of cars hitting 10 and 20 years of age is being scrapped, given how it is not economical to extend the cars' lifespans with COE premiums at near record highs.

As the supply of COEs hinges on the number of cars being taken off the road in the immediate preceding six months, this should bolster the next half-yearly supply starting from August.

'There should be a small increase in COE for cars,' said Mr Vincent Ng, product manager at Honda agent Kah Motor, who foresaw the trend a few months ago.

The likely result? Car prices should stabilise, particularly those of smaller cars, many of which have touched $100,000 in recent weeks.

COEs, which are meant to limit car ownership and hence the number of vehicles on the road, are put up for bidding twice a month. They allow holders to own a car for 10 years, after which the car must be scrapped or exported.

A car's COE can be renewed for a further five to 10 years. To do so, owners must pay a prevailing quota premium (PQP), which is a three-month moving average of COE rates.

Since April last year, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has based the number of COEs it releases on the number of vehicle deregistrations in the preceding six-month period.

Motorists with old cars tend to deregister their vehicles if PQPs are high, which has been the case in recent months.

The first signs that more people are scrapping their cars surfaced last month. According to LTA data, about 2,000 cars - mostly models up to 1,600cc - were scrapped in May, which was nearly 40 per cent more than the January-April monthly average.

While this month's deregistration figures will not be released until mid-July, the surge is expected to continue.

There are an estimated 10,000 cars approaching either 10 or 20 years old this year. Relatively, it is not a big cohort. But because of sky-high COE premiums, their owners are unlikely to pay the required PQP to keep them on the road.

The premium for cars up to 1,600cc is now hovering above $50,000, while the COE for bigger cars is nearing $70,000. Their latest PQPs are $47,105 and $59,136 respectively.

Still, the motor industry, which has been bracing itself for yet another contraction in COE supply based on the number of cars taken off the road before May's surge, is not celebrating just yet.

Mr Ron Lim, general manager of Nissan agent Tan Chong Motor, said: 'Things are a bit fluid. We need to look at June deregistration figures.'

In any case, he said the supply will differ from category to category. Category B - cars above 1,600cc - and the commercial vehicle category will still see a fall in supply, he said.

Concerns about future COE supplies continue to simmer, especially when the current 1.5 per cent allowable annual vehicle growth rate - halved from 3 per cent in 2009 - expires at the end of this year.

A further cut, which cannot be ruled out, will have a devastating impact on car buyers and sellers, motor dealers said.

Volkswagen Group Singapore managing director Zeno Kerschbaumer said: 'In a small supply, the 1.5 per cent becomes a significant factor. If it is cut, we could see a 25 per cent drop in COE quota next year, which is huge.'

Dr Kerschbaumer, who spoke to The Straits Times on the sidelines of the launch of the new VW Jetta sedan yesterday, said Volkswagen is doing well compared to many other brands.

Despite that, he said sales in the first half are likely to be lower than what it achieved in the first half of last year.

Even without a lowering of the 1.5 per cent growth cap, the forecast for COE supply remains bleak in the near term.

'There is no silver lining for the next two years,' Mr Ng of Kah Motor said. He said COEs will probably total 30,000 this year, 22,000 next year and 20,000 in 2013 - down from an average of 100,000 during the 2004-2008 boom years.

He said the contraction will start to reverse in 2014, when the first of the boom year cars reach 10 years of age.

Meanwhile, COE premiums - and consequently car prices - will be on the uptrend for the next two years, as long as the economy stays robust.

The relentless march continues.
As the economy goes, so does consumer discretionary.

COE prices rise across the board
Posted: 06 July 2011 1624 hrs

SINGAPORE: Certificate of Entitlement (COE) premiums rose across the board in the latest bidding exercise which ended on Wednesday.

The premium for small cars rose S$5,745 to S$55,989.

The COE price in the open category increased S$3,321 to S$68,811.

Meanwhile, the premium for big cars rose S$801 to S$68,501.

For goods vehicles and buses, the COE price was S$1,501 higher at S$32,590.

The COE price for motorcycles climbed S$70 to S$2,360.
Jul 7, 2011
COE prices keep going up

Category A premium close to record high on back of new car launches, bids by taxi firm
By Royston Sim

THE premium for the Category A certificate of entitlement (COE) is now just $611 shy of the all-time high of $56,600 reached in October 1994.

At the close of tender yesterday, the prices of Category A COEs (for cars up to 1,600cc and taxis) had accelerated by 11.5 per cent to $55,989.

Prices in three other categories are at their second-highest levels for this year.

Open Category COEs posted a 5.1 per cent increase to reach $68,811. They can be used for any vehicle type but are mainly used for bigger cars.

The premium for Category B COEs (for cars above 1,600cc) climbed by 1.2 per cent to $68,501, while that for commercial vehicles rose by 4.6 per cent to $32,590.

Motorcycle COE prices revved up by 3 per cent to $2,360.

COEs, which give one the right to buy a car, are central to Singapore's vehicle quota system, which enables the Government to control the growth of the vehicle population and road congestion.

Motor industry players said the increase in Category A premiums was due to strong buying sentiment and the launch of new cars such as the Volkswagen Jetta sedan last week.

Mr Leon Gumpert, general manager of sales at Volkswagen Singapore, did not want to disclose sales figures but said the company is pleased with buyers' response to the Jetta's launch.

He also attributed the premium hikes to more people buying cars because of an increase in the number of cars scrapped in May.

According to Land Transport Authority data, about 2,000 cars - mostly models up to 1,600cc - were scrapped in May, nearly 40 per cent more than the January to April monthly average.

Demand for Category A COEs was also propped up by aggressive bids from Premier Taxis.

It had 40 unsuccessful bids before submitting 20 bids at $55,999 and another 20 at $56,001 in the closing minutes of the tender.

Its managing director Lim Chong Boo said he needed the COEs for an initial fleet of 1.6-litre turbo-diesel cabs - the Hyundai i30 Wagon.

Mr Ron Lim, general manager of Nissan agent Tan Chong Motor, expects COE premiums to continue rising ahead of an anticipated cut in COE supply next month for the next six-monthly period.
Business Times - 16 Jul 2011

COE quota down by just 44 cars


THE Certificate of Entitlement (COE) quota for the next six months has been set at 22,324, down by 44 from 22,368 for the February-July 2011 period. Announced yesterday by the Land Transport Authority, a monthly average of 3,721 COEs - just seven certificates short of the current 3,728 - will be made available for the August 2011-January 2012 period.

This marginal reduction reflects the 36-month adjustment for the over-projections of vehicle deregistrations in 2008-2009.

Beginning next month, 1,096 COEs will be available monthly for Category A vehicles (taxis as well as cars of 1600cc and below). This 7.5 per cent increase is due to more Category A vehicle deregistrations in the first half of the year compared to the preceding six months (up 11.6 per cent from 5,348 to 5,969).

However, for cars above 1,600cc, 16.6 per cent less COE quota will be available. Supply for Category B dropped to 706 pieces from 847 because there was a 24 per cent drop in the number of deregistrations. Category C (goods vehicles and buses) will also see a decline from 551 to 483 per month, down 12.3 per cent.

At the same time, motorcycles (Category D) and the open Category E will both have more COE quota available.

Motorcycle deregistrations, up 19 per cent from 651 to 775 COEs a month, accounted for nearly 30 per cent of all vehicle deregistrations in the first half of 2011. The quota for motorcycles will be 775.

The quota for Category E vehicles has been raised by two, bringing the monthly number to 661.

Bidding for this quota will start with the August 2011 first open bidding exercise.

COE quota is currently being determined by a formula that takes into account the actual number of vehicles deregistered in the previous quota period, with a provision of 1.5 per cent vehicle growth based on vehicle population as at Dec 31, 2010.

In total, 16,786 vehicles were deregistered between January and June this year.

The 1.5 per cent vehicle growth rate, which is valid for three years from 2009 to 2011, is currently under review, and an announcement for 2012 growth rate will be made upon completion of the review.

think new COEs should be limited to 5 yrs duration only, Big Grin

gov make more $!
Business Times - 21 Jul 2011

Big-car COE premium at 16-year high

Reflects 17% cut in this category's quota from Aug


(SINGAPORE) The premium for a big-car COE jumped yesterday in response to the impending 17 per cent cut in the number available for this category from next month onwards.

A certificate of entitlement for Category B (cars above 1,600 cc) surged $4,000 to $72,501. The last time a similar category was higher was exactly 16 years ago.

Motor distributors attribute yesterday's tender result to last Friday's announcement of the new COE quota for the next six months, from August 2011 to January 2012. The new quota will be largely unchanged at 22,324 COEs from the 22,368 in the preceding six months.

But in particular, the number of Cat B COEs per month will be cut 16.6 per cent to 706 pieces. Cat E or open COEs will be 0.3 per cent higher at 661, while there will be slightly more Cat A or small-car COEs - up 7.5 per cent to 1,096.

'The Cat B result was expected because it was a knee-jerk reaction to the 17 per cent cut for the next bidding next month,' said a senior executive for a multi- brand dealership. 'The Cat E COE is the same because it follows Cat B.'

Cat E, which is usually used to register big cars these days, soared $5,679 to $74,490.

But Cat A (for cars below 1,600cc) was flat. It inched up $13 to $56,002.

Elsewhere, Cat C (for goods vehicles) rose $1,912 to $34,502, while Cat D (for motorcycles) slipped $348 to $2,012.

'The high Cat A COE premium has filtered out the marginal buyers and the Cat A car market should be relatively stable from here on, especially with the 7.5 per cent increase in COEs,' said the senior executive.

'The only thing we can't predict is the future entry of taxi companies.'

Cab operators who wish to add new vehicles have to bid for Cat A COEs.

In yesterday's tender, only one relatively small operator participated in the bidding and secured a couple of dozen COEs.

As for the Cat B car market, the senior executive predicts premiums at around the $75,000 level for the next few tenders.

'There is healthy demand for luxury cars and the buyers of these cars have no problem accepting this level of COE prices,' he said.

When COE inflates, your ride deflates?
By Yahoo! Singapore

By Yahoo! Singapore | Fit to Post Autos – 23 hours ago

By David Pang

The rise of prices of the Certificates of Entitlement (COE) defies logic. The results are astonishing, considering that the COE price of a single Category A could have bought you a second car three years ago. But are Singaporeans making blind purchases during these unpredictable times?

I have often encountered people breaking the ice with me with the question: "How's the car market now?" Of course, there are questions to be answered, but the issue is not about when the COE market will dip. It's about what this situation is going to bring us in the next five years.

The manufacturing cost of an average Japanese sedan is an average S$20,000, and the COE that you have just paid for ($72,501 for cars above 1,600cc) is about three bags "fool" of it. It is an enormously inflated figure, which some have justified by saying that hacking away at the Quota allocation tree is fundamental in slowing down the rise in the vehicle population in Singapore. Naturally, not one of us likes this arrangement at all. Or do we?

It seems that, over time, we are getting used to this inflation. We are gradually accepting the practice of paying more for the entitlement to own a car locally, rather than paying for the symbolic value of the car itself. Sales of brand new cars are slackening, while the pre-owned market is booming. Vehicle financing institutions are showing more support than ever in raising their valuation of the market prices of vehicles and granting higher loan facilities to the consumers. How then does this judgment help in administrating a healthy control on the vehicle population in Singapore?

Buy a Japanese hatchback now and finance it on a 10-year loan tenure, and you will possibly find yourself embroiled in a $60,000 debt five years later. The glitch is, would your ride be worth $60,000 on the open market five years down the road?

My answer is likely to be "No", because one of my personal friends bought a five-year-old unit at a reasonable price of $36,000 only recently. So you see, there is little logic to the market right now.

David Pang is a car salesman and a freelance writer with

WHO benefit from high COE? Not the car dealers.
It is better for us to donate to Charities than to donate to somebody else who don't deserve this easy money.