By Sophie Hong
The public-transport crunch and skyrocketing certificate-of-entitlement (COE) prices here have driven commuters to seriously consider car-pooling as a viable way to get around.
A check on websites offering car-pooling and car-sharing services here showed more than 7,000 registered users.
The websites include carpoolking.com, Singcarpool.com and Tompangbuddy.com.
The latest player in the field is ShareTransport.sg, which has amassed more than 3,000 registered users since the launch of its website and mobile application last month.
It is owned and managed by home-grown company Estatebuzz.
By tapping its network, users can look for others with whom to car pool or share a taxi.
The website also offers chartered- bus services, at a monthly fee, to those who travel on the same route from a housing estate to a certain office or an industrial area.
Such services are not new here. A report in 2008 cited at least five independent websites which sprouted to cater to the car-pooling needs of commuters.
The demand was then attributed to a sharp increase in taxi fares and petrol prices.
Four years later, at least three of the websites are defunct.
But this has done little to dampen the drive of Estatebuzz's chief executive, Mr Moh Hon Meng, 43, who is certain that the practice of car-pooling will pick up here once again.
"The median COE was only about $15,000 in 2008. Now, with COEs over $80,000, there is a greater need to share (travel) costs," he said.
On March 21, the premium for cars above 1,600cc closed at $82,003 - a 17-year high.
"Taking other costs into consideration, such as petrol, parking and Electronic Road Pricing, most people cannot afford to drive an empty car around any more," said Mr Moh.
Transport experts whom my paper spoke to agreed that efforts to get commuters to car pool may be more successful now, given the grievances that people have towards public transport.
Transport analyst Tham Chen Munn said that the recent news on public-transport woes has caused commuters to look for alternatives, making the idea of car-pooling "worth a shot".
Said Mr Tham: "It is viable in Singapore because we are a small and compact country. The way people move from home to work is quite predictable, so there is an opportunity there."
But transport researcher Lee Der Horng from the National University of Singapore pointed out that more incentives need to be in place for car-pooling to take root here.
He said that studies done abroad on car-pooling have shown that most people stop after just two weeks, because they find it uncomfortable to share a car with a stranger, or with people who do not make compatible company.
For successful long-term carpooling arrangements, it would be better if the parties involved already know each other, he added.
"Employers can come into the picture to encourage company carpooling," said Dr Lee. This can be done through benefits and incentives like discounted parking rates.
It was reported yesterday that the Land Transport Authority is seeking a consultant to embark on a two-year study on workplace- based initiatives that will help ease congestion during peak hours.
Another incentive that can be considered is having car-pool lanes on expressways for faster and cheaper travel, said Dr Lee.
He said: "Without some obvious incentives, the pickup rate for carpooling would be ordinary."