Report from Tomorrow - Vol 2
1USD = S$1.62 (S$1 = 0.62USD)
We live in a brand new (open less than six months) apartment complex located about 6 km west of downtown Singapore. Our place is pretty upscale but we were advised to spend the money (see anchor-apts.jpg and anchor-pool.jpg). The more conventional government housing complex would still be close to S$2000 unfurnished and not be anywhere nearly as nice.
I'm told that our place probably cost the owner-speculator S$1,000,000. The guy is crazy, he's gotta be losing his shirt on it, but then everyone else is in the same situation. A couple years ago there were massive 100+% year profits and it really fueled a building boom, which is now slowing, but not fully come to a halt. The Anchorage has something like 600 2 & 3 BR apartments. I told a friend from work that and he immediately figured out that The Anchorage cost S$1 billion. Pretty big number regardless what the currency is. The places are far from opulent - the workmanship is uneven in quality for what you and I would expect for a million anything.
Anyway, The Anchorage is nicely located on a major thoroughfare (that we can't hear) and has a plethora of taxis at all times of the day & night. The buses runs right in front of the complex and we've learned how to use them regularly. My sometimes air-conditioned bus takes about 8-10 minutes to drop me off at work each morning. The local MRT (subway) is about a 5 minute walk away (we go out the "back door and cut through a Taoist temple) and goes directly to my work place also.
The cost of cars is astronomical and this is pretty effective at discouraging cars, as you might expect. I recently saw an advertisement from a dealer for a new Mazda 323 sedan costing S$98,000. I was in the middle of a downtown rush hour here and thought it was the easiest rush-hour traffic I've seen in any large city. While there were lots of cars, traffic moved along as the lights permitted.
In addition to tbe base cost of the car, there are permits required to drive in various parts of the city at various times. The CBD (central business district) is the most expensive. The cost for these permits is very confusing, being based on the age and size of the car, but I'm told they can range up to thousands of Singapore dollars a month. Even with these costs, there are far more cars that you'd guess.
Trucks are small compared to what we see in the US or even in Europe. No big 65 foot semis here! Most trucks in barely larger than a large van in the US.
The public transportation system here is really superb. The MRT (subway) is as good as London's, only smaller. It costs between S$0.60 to S$1.50 for a trip. The MRT covers the downtown and major N-S and E-W areas, but there are still many places you can't take the MRT to.
The bus system is really amazing. Most are air-conditioned and run every 5-15 minutes from early morning to midnight. The buses are the mainstay for people because they cover the island so completely. The biggest challenge is figuring out which bus to take. There are so many routes! After a bit you figure out the relatively few you need and then you're set. I think we've identified 6 buses we use for our normal activities.
Taking a bus ride can be an adventure. The bus drivers are mostly aspiring race car drivers and they drive these monsters (even double deckers as in England) like they are Honda Civics. One of the most exciting times we've had was a S$0.35, two km ride one Sunday in a double decker. I thought we were about to perish several times. Trying to descend the stairs while the bus lurches around the corner at a break-your-neck speed is akin to bumper cars without the cars.
Taxis come in mostly blue, yellow and white flavors and are amazingly cheap. As an American we expect it'll cost 10.00 USD just to sit down for a block. Here they cost S$2.40 for the 1st 2 km. Most rides we've had cost less than S$5, although the ride to and from the airport is much more expensive.
Taxi rates double at midnight when the bus and MRT lines stop. So social events come to a halt about 11 PM or so as everyone who's taking public transportation rushes home. At about 11:45 PM all the taxis are consumed by an anomoly in the time-space continium and disappear until 12:01 AM when they suddenly materialize before your eyes. Or so I'm told.