For many years, the question “Car or public transport” has been asked many times.
We cannot seem to come to l conclusion on which is the superior mode of transport.
Cars have benefit on travel time (around 2.5x faster) and personal space, while public transport have benefits on cost (can be 28x cheaper) and having time for your own activity during transit instead of focusing on the road.
|Upfront Costs||Price of car and various taxes||Transport card (if any)|
|Running Costs||Can be up to 28x more due to insurance, car maintenance, toll/gantry fees, parking fees, and fuel costs.||Fare based on usage cost|
|Travel Time||Can be up to 2.5x faster during non-peak hours. During peak hours, depends on congestion.||Slower, and with multiple transfers needed but no congestion during peak hours|
|During Transit||Need to focus on throughout the trip to prevent an accident||Can focus on own activities|
|Personal Space||Personal space at all time, useful when got family who want own space||No space during peak hours|
Upfront and Running Costs of Cars vs Public Transport
The cost of owning and using a car is often cited as the main reason why people choose to drive rather than take public transport.
We will be focusing on Singapore as our case study. Recent studies show that owning a car in Singapore is the most exorbitant but many still own a car.
- There are a total of 6 main causes that contribute to why owning a car is so expensive in Singapore, namely Open market value (OMV), additional registration fee (ARF), excise duty and GST, certificate of entitlement (COE), vehicular emission scheme (VES), and the local dealer’s margin.
- On the other hand, there is no upfront cost to public transport, except the prepaid transport card required in some countries.
Owning a car can be seen as either a luxury or simply just a necessity. Many Singaporeans struggle to even own even a ‘cheap’ car here as the six causes that we have just stated amount to higher prices. So, we then think of an alternative to getting around the city besides using a car.
Cycling? Motorcycles? E-scooters? Walking? Yes, these are plausible alternatives, but Singapore is well known for its efficient public transport. Taking the bus or train to places can be seen as a much cheaper way to get around. A private car can take around $2,850/month compared to less than $100/month (e.g. car is 28x more expensive)
- For example, the average card fare per ride for traveling 5.3km to 6.2km is $1.25 (e.g. from Dhoby Ghaut MRT station to Orchard MRT station) and takes only $75 for 30 round trips.
Adding on, owning a car means extra costs in many aspects.
- Car insurance – assuming you are asked to pay $30,000 over 15 years, that will be an average of $2000 a month.
- Maintenance fees such as weekly car washes, fixing of broken headlights, and buying certain car parts to meet your specific needs - let’s say that’s about $150 a month.
- Toll/Gantry fees like ERP – Electronic Road Pricing that cost money per entrance/exit. When you drive during peak hours, the total ERP fare will be $8 a day which amounts to $240 a month.
- Fuel. The most important. The average Singapore car is driven at 17,500km annually. Standard 95-octane petrol costs $2.25 per liter. That is $200 a month for fuel.
- Lastly, parking fees. Oh yes, they can be expensive or cheap depending on which areas you park in and for how long. Office parking, HDB parking, and shopping mall parking. Let us assume that that will all amount to a total of $260 a month.
Therefore, in a month, the total costs are $2850. That is a hefty amount as compared to taking public transport, right? Your savings would be large enough for you to buy other things that you enjoy!
Travel time for Cars Vs Public Transport
The most common opinion is that cars save you lots of traveling time and you can get from one place to another in a blink of an eye.
Google showed that the time to get from Pasir Ris to Queenstown
- by car is 30 minutes; and
- by bus and train are 1 hour and 15 minutes (2.5x of the private car)
Even in Oslo, Norway, there was research on public transport taking more than 3x longer than private cars, reducing the market share of public transport.
This result proves that lots of traveling time can be saved and be used to spend more time at your designated location and waking up later to get ready!
Although cars may seem like the best mode of transport for traveling to places efficiently and in a shorter amount of time, we must take a look at travel time during peak hours as well. Results from TomTom Traffic Index showed that in 2021, road congestion in Singapore was 29% which means that travel times were 29% longer than off-peak hours.
Now let us analyze trains during the peak and non-peak hours. During peak hours, the frequency of trains is about 2 to 3 minutes. During non-peak hours, the frequency will be about 5 to 7 minutes. So, let’s say that you take the train home during peak hours, the average waiting time you have to wait for the train is 2 to 3 minutes.
Once boarded, you will not have to worry about traffic congestion or the slowing down of the trains. The trains will operate at their normal speed, and you will get to your destination in no time!
During Transit for Cars Vs Public Transport
Trains are less prone to accidents and human error as well as compared to cars on the highway/road. You can also focus on your activities, compared to focusing on the road during the entire driving trip. Traveling during peak hours has never been so efficient if you take public transport.
Personal Space for Cars Vs Public Transport
Many people value personal space and absolutely cannot stand the thought of coming into such close body contact with strangers.
- During peak hours, trains and buses will be packed by sardines and you will not be able to feel your hands, legs, and face. Sounds like absolute terror doesn’t it.
- People will be jammed packed together with their bags crushing you to the back of the train/bus door and they will be standing so close to you that you can smell what kind of perfume they are wearing, or their sweat. No one likes the thought of being in such a confined space with many people around you.
- Air-conditioned public transport will suddenly feel like a Sauna in Japan, and you will feel yourself sweating and soaking up the moist warm air around you. Heavy breathing, anxiety, and extreme discomfort can be felt by some people.
On the contrary to that, if you were to drive a car during peak hours, you will be in the luxury of your own personal and private space. Air-con and vast leg and arm space are your best friend. You will not be in close contact with anyone, and you can travel peacefully home without anyone crushing you.
So, we have listed out the pros and the cons of cars vs. public transport. People with wealth and disposable income will lean more towards owning a car just because they can enjoy such a luxury, despite the downsides but hey, if one can own a car, why not right?
It’s efficient, all yours and you can travel from places in pure bliss and comfort. Taking public transport can also be seen as efficient. Singapore has one of the world’s best public transport systems that are fast, not prone to accidents, and also very clean to travel with.