With more than 300,000 people crossing the Johor Bahru-Singapore causeway daily, it is important that those crossing the border for work, education or leisure have a smooth travelling experience. Despite pre-existing efforts, waiting time can still last anywhere from 2 to 4 hours during peak periods or weekends due to traffic congestion at checkpoints.
Going by the numbers, the hours saved from improving this issue could potentially free up a massive 600,000 to 1,200,000 man hours to be spent on the workforce or with loved ones, daily. It is therefore imperative that more efforts are set in place to reduce traffic congestion and shorten waiting time at the causeways.
Current efforts proposed by the Singapore task force to improve the situation include:
1. Set up a single agency at the complex to reduce bureaucracy (there are currently 23 departments and agencies operating Malaysia’s checkpoint)
2. Increase the number of Immigration Department personnel.
3. Minimise and eventually abolish top-up transactions for Touch n’ Go cards in the car lanes within 1 year; make Touch n’ Go top-up transactions available in Singapore.
4. Increase the frequency of Johor Bahru-Singapore train services and shuttle buses; improve the online ticket booking method for train services.
5. Make the Rapid Transit System Link a reality (TODAYonline, 2019).
In addition, we propose 5 other possible solutions:
1. Kickstart ferry services
Provide ferry services across both checkpoints that depart twice hourly. Large ferries can carry thousands of people at one go. Given the fact that ferries travel on water without the need for roads, we can have an unlimited number of ferries plying the routes between the two cities. What’s more, this could be reserved for daily commuters on special passes which would then guarantee the consistency of demand for the service. All in all, this would serve to ease the congestion on the causeway.
2. Expand the number of train tracks
Currently, the most reliable and fastest way across the Straits of Malacca is by train. Trains bypass the jams and even have separate immigration counters. However, the current limitation is that there are only so few train tracks that then decide the number of trains plying the route. In fact, bookings for specific timings of trains are almost always fully booked at least 2 weeks in advance of the travel dates. Thus, increasing the number of train tracks at the Second Link and Woodlands Causeway will enable significantly more commuters to cross the straits.
3. Multi-storeyed causeways
Currently, all vehicles share the few lanes available. We can thus consider building multiple storeys above and below ground level. This could provide the potential to separate private and public transport from cargo vehicles. For example, public transport would travel at ground level; private vehicles would take the second storey and all cargo vehicles could take the basement level. Needless to say, this will facilitate immigration procedures and reduce waiting time.
4. Air taxis
Of late, air taxis have been gaining popularity as a concept and as a potential mode of transport. Singapore is starting air taxi trials in the second half of 2019 (CNA, 2018).These air taxis are specially designed for covering short distances. They can be reserved for high-paying customers and also emergencies. More importantly, they will be able to bypass the jams entirely. Once flight trials are completed and operational guidelines and air taxi routes are established, the option for cross-country aerial taxis can be implemented.
5. Third Bridge
A third causeway from Punggol to Pasir Gudang can be built to ease the congestion at the Woodlands causeway and even bring greater volumes across borders. The idea, however, is not new. It has been explored previously by both parties. Malaysia previously indicated interested to link their industrial estate in Pasir Gudang to Pulau Ubin or Punggol. If the plans do get realised, Moovaz advocates for a digital nomadic lifestyle, in which mobility plays a huge role.
With increased accessibility across Singapore-Malaysia borders, citizens from both countries can gain immense benefits, including the exchange of cultures and lifestyles. With the rise of urban mobility, we are incredibly excited for what technology and global citizenship will mean to our world today.