The quality of urban transport matters greatly to a city's character, its liveability, and whether it can continue to sustain itself and grow, said Transport Minister Raymond Lim yesterday.
'Today, about half of the world's population already lives in cities,' he said, adding that a UN report forecasts that this would rise to 70% in the next 40 years.
Mr Lim was speaking at the inaugural World Urban Transport Leaders Summit. The summit serves as a platform for senior government officials, professionals and academics to discuss and exchange views on urban transport policies and strategies.
Running till Thursday, the summit will include four plenary forums and policy dialogues chaired by the members of the Land Transport Authority's International Advisory Panel (IAP). Topics include 'good governance, sustainable transport', 'managing congestion' and 'strategies for emerging cities'.
The six members of the IAP themselves are internationally recognised transport experts and practitioners from Australia, Japan, South Korea, The Netherlands, the US and the UK. The IAP was formed in 2007 to advise LTA on its transport policies and strategies, and help keep LTA abreast of the latest global trends and developments in land transport.
The theme of the summit is 'Transforming Urban Transport for Liveability and Sustainability'. In his opening speech, Mr Lim also said that the UN report notes that 'in the last two decades, the urban population in developing countries has been growing by an average of three million people a week'. 'Such growth will put an unprecedented amount of pressure on urban transport systems. We need to urgently improve urban transport.'
Mr Lim called this a common challenge and said that Singapore has sought to learn from the experience of other countries when looking for transport solutions. Real-world examples were studied before the Land Transport Masterplan was unveiled earlier this year.
'Many of our technology systems in urban transport have also been developed collaboratively with other cities,' said Mr Lim, pointing to the Glide system that optimises traffic signals to smoothen traffic by creating 'green waves'.
'Such components for an Intelligent Transport System may be too challenging or expensive for any one city to take on alone,' he added.
It is understood that one such component is the Bus Priority System, which allows traffic lights to differentiate between public buses and other vehicles. Based on Australian technology, it makes use of onboard systems to relay information to a control centre in order to give signal priority to buses and allow them to travel more quickly through congestion.
Singapore is expected to introduce the system next year.
After opening the World Urban Transport Leaders Summit, Mr Lim also officially opened the LTA Academy's new premises at the LTA Hampshire Road office.
The LTA Academy was established in 2006 to share Singapore's experience and expertise in land transport. It also promotes the research and exchange of best practices within the global land transport community.
During the summit, the LTA Academy also signed four international memoranda of cooperation with universities and transport institutes to develop joint programmes and research.