Singapore Area Licensing Scheme

Singapore Area Licensing Scheme

The Singapore Area Licensing Scheme (ALS), (Chinese : ) (Malay : Skim Perlesenan Kawasan Singapura) introduced in 1975, charged drivers entering downtown Singapore, and thereby aimed to manage traffic demand. This was the first urban traffic congestion pricing scheme to be successfully implemented in the world. [Citation | last = Cervero | first = Robert | year = 1998 | title = The Transit Metropolis| page = 169 | publisher = Island Press, Washington, D.C. | id = ISBN 1-55963-591-6 Chapter 6/The Master Planned Transit Metropolis: Singapore] These scheme was bounded into all roads entering a 6-square-kilometer area in the Central Business District (CBD) called the "Restricted Zone" (RZ), later increased to 7.25-square-kilometer in order to include areas that became commercial in nature.


The introduction of congestion pricing was one of a number of anti-congestion policies implemented in Singapore since the 1970s, in recognition of the country's land constraints, need of economic competitiveness, and to avoid the traffic gridlock that chokes many cities in the world. One key aspect of demand management in Singapore is the restraint of vehicle ownership, either through the imposition of high ownership costs or restriction on the actual growth of the car population. These measures have included high annual road tax, custom duties and vehicle registration fees. Besides fiscal deterrents, supply of motor vehicles was regulated since 1990, when a Vehicle Quota System was introduced. These high initial buy-in charges are considered as the price motorists pay for the luxury of owning a car and to cover part of the fixed costs associated with scaling basic road infrastructure. Then, use-related charges, such as fuel taxes (50% of final sale price), ALS or high parking rates are utilized by public authorities to further constraint travel. [Citation | last = Land Transport Authority| year = 1996 | title = A World Class Land Transport System| publisher = "White Paper" , Republic of Singapore] In parallel to the whole spectrum of road pricing measures, the government has invested heavily in public transportation and implemented a park-and-ride scheme, with thirteen fringe car parks, hence providing car users a real alternative to switch travel modes. In summary, Singapore's urban and transport strategy allowed the users to have pro-transit "carrots" matching auto-restraint "sticks", [R. Cervero "op. cit." pp. 155] and as a result, and despite having one of the highest per capita incomes in Asia, fewer than 30% of Singaporean households owns cars. [Singapore Census of Population Office]

The ALS was first formulated and designed in 1973, under the leadership of a high level inter-ministerial committee, which recommended policies and measures to improve the urban transport situation back then. The ALS scheme was implemented only after a one-year public dialogue and some modifications were made based on the public's feedback. As detailed above, the ALS was sold as part of an overall package of road pricing measures and public transportation improvements that helped to gain public support. [Citation | last = Keong | first = C. K. | year = 2002 | title = Road Pricing Singapore's Experience presented at the 3rd Seminar of the IMPRINT-EUROPE Thematic Network: "Implementing Reform on Transport Pricing: Constraints and solutions: learning from practice", Brussels, 23-24 October, 2002]

Description of the ALS

A total of 34 overhead gantries were setup along the boundaries of the RZ, including the shopping areas of Orchard road. These gantries were monitored by auxiliary police officers who carried out visual checks and recorded any violations. Fines were stiff, S$ 70 then, [ Jeremy Jap, Implementing Road and Congestion Pricing - Lessons from Singapore pp. 7-9] and for obvious traffic management reasons, licenses were not sold at the control points of the RZ. Users had to buy in advance a paper special license at a cost of US$3 per day, which was sold at post offices, gas stations, area license sales booths or convenience stores, on a monthly or daily basis. This license was displayed on the car windshield or on the handle bars for motorcycles during hours of operation, initially, for entry between 7:30 am to 9:30 am daily, except on Sundays and holidays, and very shortly had to be extented to 10:15 am, in order to control the surge of vehicles waiting to enter just after 9:30 am. In 1989, the evening peak had to be restricted too, and in 1994, the ALS was extended from 7:30 am to 6:30 pm.

At the early years of introduction, passenger cars having four or more occupants, taxis, public transportation buses and service vehicles were allowed into the zone with out charges. Carpool was exempted too, in order to better manage demand and to counter the charge that the scheme favored only the rich. Special carpool pick-up points were set up. In 1989 more users were required to pay the fee, as motorcycles and heavy vehicles made up about two-thirds of the traffic entering the RZ. Hence, with this review of the policy, only buses and emergency vehicles were exempted. Later on exemptions for carpools was abolished, because many private cars were picking up bus commuters just to avoid the payment.

In 1980, the fee was increased to US$5, but in the 1989 review it was reduced back to US$3, considering that now more vehicles were paying. In 1994, two levels of license fees were established, in order to differentiate between daily permits and inter-peak licenses. The paper licenses vary in shape depending on the class of vehicle, and colors change from one month to another to deter fraud. The color-coded licenses also made it easier for the enforcement personnel to identify the vehicles during the restricted hours. For traffic management reason, violating vehicles were not stopped at the gantries, but their license number was taken down and their owner would receive an order to appear in court to pay the fine. The control was made only at the gantries, therefore, vehicles were free to move around or leave the RZ without having to pay the fee.

ALS gantries were enforced by CISCO officers, who manually screen passing vehicles and book offending vehicles with fines. 105 such officers were deployed in the last days of the ALS prior to the implementation of Electronic Road Pricing, rendering manual checks obsolete [] .


From the statistics from "The Journey - "Singapore's Land transport Story"' the amount of traffic entering in June 1975, before ALS, was 32,500 vehicles into the Restricted Zone, and the after the enforcement of ALS in June 1975, the vehicle numbers drop to only 7,700, between the hours of 7.30 am to 9.30 am, an impressive 76% reduction; and 9% of the users switched to transit. [Citation | last = Spencer | first = A. | last2 = Sien
first2 = C. | year = 1985 | title = National Policy Towards Cars: Singapore| page = 301-324 | periodical = Transport Reviews |volume=5 | number=4
] [Citation | last = Seah | first = C. | year = 1980 | title = Mobility and Accessibility: Transport Planning and Traffic Management in Singapore| page = 55-71 | periodical= Transport Policy and Decision-Making | volume=1] The use of transit for work related trips into the RZ "sharply increased from 33% before the ALS to about 70% by 1983". [ J. Jap, "op. cit." pp. 9] In 1994 ALS was extended to a full day, resulting in an immediate 9.3% drop in traffic in and out the RZ.

The ALS, despite its simplicity, succeeded in effectively restraining congestion in the RZ for more than 20 years. Before the implementation of ALS and the other complementary measures, the motor vehicle fleet was growing at an annual rate of 6%, and in 1975 the traffic volume entering the RZ was about 100,000 vehicles. After the government intervention, the fleet slowed down to a moderate 4% rate of growth, and traffic entering the RZ was limited to only 230,000 vehicles in 1994. [Cervero]

Road Pricing Scheme (RPS) extended

In 1995, congestion pricing was also implemented in urban segments of three major freeways, starting with the East Coast Parkway (ECP). The (RPS), as it was called, also operated manually with paper licenses to enter the expressways. In 1997, the RPS was implemented in the Central Expressway and the Pan Island Expressway. After the implementation of RPS, the Central Expressway Average speed at peak hour went to 67 kph from the previous average of 31 kph. [Citation | last = Cervero | first = R. "op. cit." ] This extension was necessary because some through traffic was diverted by the ALS to routes that bypassed the RZ, increasing demand on these arterials and creating a need for expanding the capacity of the road network outside the RZ. Because of heavier demand, only the Central Expressway required a separate license, not valid for the RZ. During this time, a more modern system was being planned, in order to charge every time a user entered the RZ, and thus, charges would reflect the true cost of driving at congested times.

Upgrade to Electronic Road Pricing (ERP)

Overall, the ALS was successful in ensuring smooth traffic flow in the central business district. After 10 years of planning and testing, in September 1998, the Area Licensing Scheme was terminated as Singapore upgraded to the current Electronic Road Pricing system, which is completely automatic and allows passing the control gantries at normal speeds. [Cite web|url=|author= Land Transport Authority home page|title= "What is ERP"?|accessdate=2008-04-06|language=]

ee also

* Road pricing
* Congestion pricing
* Electronic toll collection
* Singapore's ERP
* London Congestion Charge
* Stockholm congestion tax


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