Singapore Revisit Log #3.6: Traffic Jams

Nobody likes traffic jams but nobody hates it the way I do. I could probably blame my thinning hair on Singapore traffic jams, which certainly had me tearing out my hair on occasions. It probably gave me cancer too.

The taxi driver with 20 years of driving experience told me that he half mocked at tourists who commented that the traffic conditions in Singapore was really bad. His retort was, "Tell me where in the world without traffic jams?" and he looked visibly pleased when he told me it left his passengers dumbfounded. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I remained as dumbfounded as his previous passengers. Having said that, I wouldn't be really surprised if many Singaporeans thought the same way. Everywhere also traffic jam. Everywhere also corrupt scumbag politicians. Everywhere also bad working conditions, every company same. You work less in Australia but you have no life, you earn more but you pay more tax, you have more personal space but there is racism so it all works out to be the same. Everywhere is the same. There is no greener pastures. It's all illusions in the mind, they said.

Lan jiao, understand. The next thing you know people started to call every elderly man with the surname 'Lee' their Ah Gong. Same lah. Is it really?

Living in Perth has been a privilege. I had met up with my counterparts living in the more populated Eastern cities and had been informed about the traffic situation in their cities. Though Perth has grown very much over the last decade in population, the traffic condition outside the smallish Perth city is still favourable, somewhat the level of Singapore in her 80s. Unless one commutes to and fro the city everyday, it is probable to drive home without getting trapped in a traffic jam everyday. Comparing that to my last driving memories in Singapore during 2010-2011, a mere 25 km drive from Choa Chu Kang to Marina Bay took me at least an hour in the morning and 1.5 hours for the opposite direction at the end of the day. The same 25 km drive to and fro work in Perth takes me 22 minutes everyday, 99% of the time. Same?

Since Singaporeans like to talk about money, we'll talk about this in dollars and cents then. The differences in my time taken to drive to and fro work in Singapore and Perth was 38 and 68 minutes respectively. That equates to me being trapped on the roads unnecessarily by 106 minutes per working day, 27560 minutes per working year. That works out to be a grand total of 7.6 days spent waiting on a fucking Singapore road to get to point B in a working year. Since you are so calculative, tell me how much is 7 days of your life worth? If I were to work ten years driving the same route everyday, I'll tell you where I rather spend 70 days of my life - elsewhere.

Don't even try telling me to move closer to my work place in Singapore. Don't get me started on housing topics. Just don't. You'll not regret it. That will be good for everybody.

Having said that, Perth is not immune to traffic jams. In fact it will only get worse, just like anywhere of a growing city. I experienced a Great Freeway jam in Perth a few times. Normally there would be a real nasty truck accident of some sort. The key differences of being trapped in a traffic jam here in Perth, as I observed:

1) Drivers still kept a reasonable distance from car to car in a standstill situation. There is a distinctive (positive) difference in general driving patterns.

2) Drivers do not weave in and out of lanes to gain an advantage over a couple of cars around them.

3) If they do (2), it is rarely at the expense of another driver's safety and done in a courteous manner.

4) Impatient drivers have the liberty to exit a traffic jam by doing an 'illegal U-turn' at the unblocked dividers. In Singapore, most if not all central dividers are fenced or railed so a traffic jam cannot be defused in that manner.

5) I've witnessed drivers turning off their engines, stood by their cars and chatted with the next few random blokes who did the same while waiting. In Singapore, these folks would be blasted mercilessly with honks.

6) You don't get an ERP fee even if you are trapped in a jam.

7) There is still a plenty of 'unknown' short cuts or longer routes with much lesser traffics available as alternative routes. In Singapore, it has became open over the years and there isn't secret paths for 'emergencies' anymore

8) I hardly hear a single sound of the honk in a week on Perth roads. When I honked at very rare occasions, I couldn't recognise it.

9) If I do (8), it would be a tap, not a 'press and hold' and expect a god to split the traffic jam like the ocean.

10) Drivers do stop to help another distressed driver by the roadside, especially in the regional areas. This may be another post, another day about what happened to us in 2007.


  1. Nix... this will be my first comment in your blog posts.... you forgot to mention about drivers slowing down just to catch the numbers of cars involved in accident... too many kaypo drivers on singapore roads

    1. Kaypoh drivers are everywhere. When there are flashing lights, people want to see. That is normal.

      Sometimes, it is just the flow on effects of the earlier accident... :
      bang - number of lanes reduce. cars behind needs to change lanes.
      Whole road slows to a bottleneck.

      The jam 'wave' moves backwards.. now 500 metres of slow cars..

      Accident cars move to the side.. bottleneck removed, but the slowness will not be clear until there are less cars.

      This happens sometimes even when there is no accident. Just need someone to press the brakes and the cascading effect is felt for hours..

      View it another way, it is a good 'lesson' to teach everyone in the car, "look, if you are not careful, this might happen"..

      Sometimes, if it teaches the kids a lesson, it might be worth slowing down and looking..