From Electric Vehicles to a Digitized Road Network:

How Technology Has Helped Singapore Become One of The World’s Leading Transport Hubs

We recently caught up with Tim Risbridger, Country Head of Singapore, to discuss the release of the Arcadis’ Sustainable Cites Mobility Index and how he felt the results reflected the ongoing initiatives on the ground in Singapore. Tim draws on three major areas which he sees as success and the future of mobility in Singapore, and explains their importance in driving Singapore’s position as one of the leading global cities for mobility. Tim has been involved in a number of major infrastructure projects and specializes in infrastructural and transportation development projects in Asia.

Singapore recently received a strong endorsement that its drive to become a Smart Nation is on track as it ranked 8th globally in the Arcadis 2017 Sustainable Cities Mobility Index.

The Index ranks 100 global cities across the three pillars of sustainability - social (People), environmental (Planet) and economic (Profit), and Singapore had the best balance of scores across the three pillars, not only in Asia but globally.

So what is driving this success despite a growing urban population and lack of available physical space? In total, 12% of Singapore’s land is occupied by its road network, and its continued expansion to address the growing transportation demands is being challenged as unsustainable.

As highlighted in the report, despite these challenges Singapore scored well, earning its ranking as the 8th best city worldwide. There are three particular areas in my view that Singapore has embraced - its focus on promoting Electric Vehicles, investment in the development of Autonomous Vehicle technologies, and maximizing the capacity of existing road networks through digitalization (commonly known as ‘intelligent transport’).

With roads already occupying 12% of Singapore’s relatively small land area, the focus on public transport and electric car sharing is accelerating. Over the next five years the Government is investing in rail infrastructure (SGD20 billion) and bus subsidies (SGD4 billion) to further boost the public transport infrastructure. In the Index, Singapore scored 100% for encouraging residents to switch to Electric Vehicles. With the first fleet of cars for an electric car-sharing scheme hitting the roads in December, Singapore has excelled in addressing the green aspects whilst balancing the needs of its residents and economy. For example, on the Planet sustainability sub-index, Singapore scored highly on green space (99%), air quality (83%), and greenhouse emissions (82%) despite this category being dominated by European cities. It is important to recognize the significance of how Singapore is pioneering the way for Asia, as one of only seven Asian cities ranking in the top 50 in the planet sub-indices.

The third aspect to Singapore success is its forward thinking in adopting technology to address the demands and capacity of its existing road infrastructure. Policy tools have been complemented by technologies to enable intelligent and data driven solutions improving mobility for the city. For example, Singapore scored 100% for transport applications and digital applications in the report, and government-led initiatives such as And it was also ranked highly affordable when measured against the average income, scoring 65%.

Singapore’s transport system achieved a perfect score in the Profit sub-index, because it generates enough revenue to sustain its upkeep and growth, and also creates economic opportunities for individuals and society at large. The MRT network is continuously being expanded, with new lines planned for opening over the next twelve years. However, MRT does have its headaches, such as the recent flooding that disrupted more than 230,000 travelers and shut the North-South line for more than 20 hours. Following an investigation, a Land Transport Authority (LTA) and water agency PUB committee was formed to assure future incidents will be avoided. Perhaps some lessons can be learned from Hong Kong’s MTR, which regularly copes with typhoons. Hong Kong ranked number 1 in the Sustainable Cities Mobility Index.

Overall, however, Singapore is clearly on the rise. In another recent global ranking, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability report, Singapore climbed eleven places since last year. There is every indication that the Lion City is performing strongly to meet its Smart Nation goals. The contribution of mobility systems to making cities ever-more livable and sustainable isn’t just about becoming less dependent on cars or investing in public transport, it’s about making bold moves and developing sustainable systems from both government and private sector leaders.

Singapore’s policymakers have responded to the pressures of rapid urbanization with initiatives that offer citizens real social and economic benefits and global cities that relies on its roads network have much to learn from the Smart Nation example.

To find out more about the Sustainable Cities Mobility Index, download the full report below and see how Singapore ranked against the rest of the major cities in the World.