Landing at Changi Airport in Singapore, one could mistakenly think the pilot has landed at a luxurious shopping mall. Great ambience, delightful food, five-star toilets… heck, they even have a park and a waterfall! As first impressions go, Singapore wow’d all of us. Overall I found Singapore to be a very inspiring city. If I ever land a job as an urban planner or meet some planners from my home city of Dhaka (one of the worst planned cities on the planet), here is an inspiration board to consider:
In Singapore crosswalks have a card scanner which lets the elderly and the disabled scan a card, which allows them more time to cross the road. Why don't we have this everywhere in the world? Whereas, here in Penang and many other cities crosswalks don’t even exist.
Singapore has a population of close to 6 million and is a small island city. Even though the population density is high, it never felt crowded. I could not fathom why though. Hong Kong has a similar population density and it was probably one of the most crowded places I’ve been to outside Dhaka. Again, as explained by Professor Henry, this was due to the planning of the city and the transport system. There is no singular hub in Singapore, nor a clear separation between commercial and residential areas. Which means the population is much more widely dispersed, and less commuting for Singaporeans. Again, why aren’t more cities like this? Traffic kills, literally as you may get and figuratively by the working hours lost due to commuting.
Whenever I visit a new city, I can’t help but compare it with the cities I’ve lived in. Vancouver is blessed with abundant natural beauty. You do not have to choose between the mountains or the sea, you can have it all! Whereas, apart from being an island close to the sea, Singapore has no natural beauty. It has no historical landmarks or any of the wonders of the world like the Grand Canyon or the Pyramids. However, Singapore has been able to artificially create “beauty” for tourists through projects like the Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay. Tourists love it, I love it! More importantly, through these initiatives Singapore has been able to brand itself as a tourist hub and a model city which brings in a lot of tourist income. Which in turn generates more revenue for future infrastructure projects. I hope the planners from my hometown can take inspiration and can develop something like this that can bring some prosperity to our poor city.
I know I sound like the kool aid that Professor Henry talks about. I’m sure Singapore has its share of issues. Civil rights are limited, to develop this new Singapore a lot had to be lost. However, from a personal perspective, Singapore seems to do a lot more things “right” than “wrong”. Or at least, they have brainwashed me enough to be part of their cult