We Have Seen The Future, And It Is Green

By 2040, Singapore wants to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles. What does that mean for our city’s infrastructure, and the way that we travel? Read on to find out about some changes you can expect and what part we’re playing at CapitaLand’s office and business parks as we move towards a car-lite future.

Green mobility has been a topic of interest since 2014, when Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first mentioned a car-lite future in the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, a 15-year, $1.5 billion plan for the nation to rely less on private cars and shift towards more sustainable modes of transportation.

We’re now at the halfway mark of that plan, which is a good time to check in and see how far we’ve come, and what still needs to be done. 

Goodbye Parking, Hello Parks

Did you know that in multi-storey car parks, each parking lot for each car, including the land for aisles, ramps, and pillars, takes up about 30 sq m? That’s half the size of a three-room HDB flat. Think about what we could do with the 1.4 million parking lots we have across the island! The central business district (CBD) is an area of particular interest—if you think about it, driving to work means that your car sits in a parking lot for a good eight to nine hours.

Fewer cars on the roads mean a lesser need for roads in the CBD, which could also be repurposed—just like what CapitaLand is doing to convert part of Market Street into a new park. Blending into the upcoming CapitaSpring’s City Room on the ground floor, the pedestrianisation of Market Street will add more greenery and result in a walkable and pleasant environment for pedestrians and cyclists.  

An artist’s impression of the pedestrianised Market Street, which blends into the ground floor of CapitaSpring. More green spaces will take over roads and under-utilised car parks.

The Future Is Electric

Here’s an ambitious plan: in 19 years’ time, Singapore will have zero petrol and diesel vehicles on the road, and have all vehicles run on cleaner energy instead. The number of electric vehicles (EVs) is set to grow steadily over the next two decades. But EVs need an entirely different infrastructure compared to regular cars, and this means more charging points for more EVs. In 2015, there were just 47 charging stations across the country.

But the goal? 28,000 points by 2030. 

Electric vehicle (EV) charging points and parking lots at 5 Science Park Drive (left) and Nordic European Centre (right).

We’re doing our part to reach that goal too—18 (and counting!) CapitaLand properties in business parks across the island—from ICON@IBP and Nordic European Centre at International Business Park, to Ascent and 5 Science Park Drive at the Singapore Science Park, and the upcoming Rochester Commons will have newly installed EV parking lots. 

While EVs are more expensive than petrol- or diesel-powered cars currently, you could save money in the long run, as electric energy gives you more bang for your buck than regular petrol.

Travel Lite

EVs are all well and good, but what about those who don’t drive? A well-connected public transport network, together with well-positioned destinations, is the first step—for example, CapitaLand business parks, offices, and malls are located within walking distance of major train stations and park connectors.

But getting more people to adopt greener forms of commuting like cycling or walking is also dependent on whether it’s possible to have a safe and pleasant journey, which involves the creation of more cycling lanes and sheltered walkways (200km of which were completed in 2018). 

In addition, because nobody likes to spend the rest of their workday drenched in sweat, end-of-trip facilities—such as those in Funan, Asia Square Tower 2, CapitaGreen, 79 Robinson Road, and the upcoming CapitaSpring —are equally important in encouraging active mobility.

End-of-trip facilities in 79 Robinson Road

There’s also the concept of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), with apps that put together different taxi, ridesharing, and public transport options into one journey planning platform. What this means is that your journey to work could start with a short cycle on a shared bike to the nearest MRT station, with a quick transit on a feeder bus, and end with a carpool. Even public transport is being refined: a pilot, on-demand autonomous shuttle service is being tested at our very own Singapore Science Park 2, and could help to make future bus journeys more time- and energy-efficient. 

The autonomous bus making its rounds at Singapore Science Park 2. More on-demand services in the future could replace some bus routes.

There are many exciting plans on the horizon that will surely be welcome by anyone who understands the damaging impact of carbon emissions on not only our city, but on the entire globe. However, reducing our carbon footprint is as much a personal responsibility as it is a task for the government and corporate entities.

Attitudes towards car ownership may need to change, while pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike can also learn more about safe road sharing on increasingly busy routes. What’s always key is a change in mindset. Could you try waking up half an hour earlier to catch the train, instead of taking a taxi to work? Do you really need to drive?

In her speech at the Urban Land Institute Singapore Annual Conference 2021, Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, put it simply: “These plans to enhance our built environment are a key aspect of Singapore’s sustainable development journey. But for Singapore to truly thrive as a city that is green and vibrant, we will need everyone to play their part—businesses, civil society, and individuals…Every sustainable action and decision we make today will go a long way towards preserving our planet and leaving a legacy for our future generations.”

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