Planning for transportation in tandem with urban development has been crucial in creating a highly liveable environment in a small and densely built city like Singapore.
An integrated approach from the earliest days of urban planning helped optimise the utility and value of Singapore’s scarce land. It also ensured that new housing townships, commercial centres and employment hubs built outside the city centre were well connected, particularly by public transport.
Prior to independence in 1965, Singapore already suffered from overcrowding and traffic congestion. So when the newly independent nation embarked on long-term urban planning in 1967, the government was quick to recognise that excessive reliance on private cars would be the bane of a land-scarce city.
Planners proposed building a network of expressways and improving public transport, while restricting car ownership and usage. A rail-based Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system was also recommended and became a reality two decades later.
The MRT created a fast and efficient link to the central area from residential districts and aided the creation of a constellation of complementary suburban commercial zones. Over the decades, land above and around train stations has increasingly been developed into commercial and residential complexes connected to the MRT infrastructure, further optimising the use of the scarce resource.
At the same time, the central area itself has been reshaped to become highly walkable, with outdoor pathways and air-conditioned corridors facilitating seamless movement on foot. The area being well connected by public transport means there is little reason to drive.
A long-term vision and decades of planning have equipped Singapore with a comprehensive road network and a modern transport system comprising buses and a growing number of commuter train lines. These provide a reliable and comfortable form of transit and an increasingly viable alternative to owning cars.
More recently, Singapore’s mobility ecosystem has expanded to include active modes of transport such as cycling, as well as personal mobility devices (PMDs) like e-scooters that require dedicated infrastructure and place new demands on scarce land. This further increases the importance and complexity of integrating land use and mobility to meet the needs of a growing population in an increasingly dense urban environment.
By 2030, an expanded rail network will put 80% of Singaporean households within a 10-minute walk to the nearest station. Infrastructure also will be in place to complement the growing public interest in cycling and using PMDs to cover the last mile.