Without the recent spike in COE prices, the cost of car ownership and usage in Singapore was already the highest in the world. Given the sharp reduction in number of COEs and recent stock market surge (which I discussed here) , the recent hike in COE is probably just the beginning of further increases. The temporary solution for those who need a car is to go to the 2nd hand market to get one - this market will tighten up and prices here will also rise as more people hang on to their cars for longer periods instead of switching to new cars. As the COE rises, it will start pricing out more and more people who really need cars. The COE creates unhappiness by allocating car ownship to those who are wealthy enough to pay for it instead of the people who need it most. The problem is further compounded by Singapore having the most unequal distribution of wealth among developed countries and a for-profit 'public' transport system. The primary goal of the public transport is to generate profits to pay dividends for its shareholders while meeting 'standards' laid out by the PTC. There is no incentive for public transport operators to make quantum leaps in service quality because they have shareholders to please and shareholders want higher profits which translate to more dividends.
In a recent report, the PTC says it sees greater improvements in QoS (Quality of Service) in its latest report for June to November last year[Link]. This is measured by the number of non-compliance to a set of service standards laid out by the PTC. I think very few people who have to endure the sardine packed buses and armpit smelling experience will agree with the findings. Besides, real personal experience, it is hard for commuters like myself to dispute the PTC - but note that the PTC only looks for compliance to standards not measurement of comfort i.e crowding on the buses and MRT. Few or none on the PTC depend on public transport system to get to work. In June 2008, I switched from taxis to buses/MRT when the last taxi fare hike resulted in my taxi fares to work (and back) to surge to roughly $55 per day [my blogpost on the taxi hike here]. Before the switch, I took taxis to work everyday for 7 years so my 1st experience taking the bus/MRT after I switched in 2008, I could see the accumulated changes in service quality over a 7 year period. The first time I got back onto the bus/MRT, I was simply overwhelmed by how crowded they had become. Many people taking public transport may not be aware because the squeeze on our buses and MRT occurred incrementally over months and years....many Singaporeans also experienced greater stresses at the workplace, and rising cost of living may have switch their minds off to the other deteriorating aspects of our quality of life. Goh Meng Seng showed a few months ago that the service capacity fell far short of the expansion in population[Link]. You can go through is numbers to see the problem.
For those with longer memories, I would like to show you something else.
Remember these? These are bus tickets from the 1980s. In those days, you don't have to bring your EZLink or exact change when you board the buses. Besides the driver, there was another person working on the bus - the bus conductor. After you got on the bus and sat down, the bus conductor would come to you to collect the bus fare - if you had a $5 note, no problem, you would get change. He would then punch a hole in the ticket to indicate which stop you got on and hand it to you. What has these tickets to do with our public transport system today? If you're old enough, dig hard for some old memories. See the truth is the bus conductor could never do his job if the buses were packed like sardines - he had to issue a ticket to everyone before the next 1 or 2 bus stops otherwise the passenger would get a free ride. While the buses in those days did not have air-cons like the modern ones, they were rarely as packed as today's buses during rush hour. It was only possible to pack buses like sardine cans only after automatic ticketing was introduced in the 90s and bus conductors were relieved of their jobs. These bus tickets remind me how much the pace and quality of life has worsened in Singapore over the past few decades.