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Singapore urban practice

Livability to start with the neighborhood – Singapore's urban practice (Part 1/2)

Xueman Wang's picture
For more than 30 years, Madam Toh has lived in Bukit Batok, a Singapore public housing town that accommodates more than 110,000 residents. Their flat was constructed by the Singapore Housing and Development Board – known as “HDB” – which provides public housing for 82% of Singapore’s residents.
 
While working at the World Bank’s Singapore Infrastructure and Urban Hub, I was fortunate to meet Madam Toh, who, together with her husband, raised their three children in their three-bedroom flat. When asked about her experience living in an HDB neighborhood, her immediate reactions were that it was both “convenient” and “comfortable” – “I can get everything I need within 10 minutes on foot.”
 
She is now 64 years old and takes a daily 10-minute walk to the metro train station (Mass Rapid Transit, or “MRT”) via a linkway – an activity she likes because the covered footpath seamlessly connects her home and the community’s amenities, making them excellent shelters from the rain or sun for pedestrians.
 
Covered walk pathways and multi-level bicycle racks
Covered walk pathways and multi-level bicycle racks. (Photo by Xueman Wang / World Bank)

After exploring several of Singapore’s neighborhoods, I found that they offer “down to earth” examples of livability and showcase excellent integrated urban design qualities.

5D Compact City Framework
 
A good method I’ve come across for explaining how Singapore has enhanced its livability is through the “5D” Compact City Framework:  

Livability to start with the neighborhood – Singapore's stories (Part 2/2)

Xueman Wang's picture
In the first part of this blog, I introduced the 5D framework and discussed the first 2Ds – Density and Diversity in the context of Singapore’s public housing neighborhood, i.e. HDB towns. In the second part of the blog, I will share the observations of how the HDB neighborhoods reflect the other 3Ds – Destination, Distance, and Design. 
 
To improve destination access, Singapore has increased neighborhood walkability and encouraged residents to use public transportation by putting in place the Walk2Ride program. This government policy ensures that public linkways are provided from MRT stations (Mass Rapid Transit, or “MRT”) up to a radius of 400m, or ¼ mile, to bus stops, public amenities, and public housing.
 
“Comfortable” and “walkable” access to public transportation is just one of the many examples that Singapore has done for its neighborhoods, and the total length of Singapore’s covered walkways has now hit 200km!
 
In order to decrease distance to transit, Singapore encourages people to cycle, which helps resolve the issue of the first and last mile connectivity to public transportation. Many MRT stations and bus interchanges provide multi-level bicycle racks as part of cycling infrastructure to make the city cycle-friendly. In fact, starting July 2016, any new constructions for schools, commercial, retail and business parks (up to a certain scale) must put in place a Walking and Cycling Plan to ensure the public space has adequately incorporated the design that facilitates walkability and cycling.
 
Neighborhood bicycle racks
Neighborhood bicycle racks. (Photo by Xueman Wang / World Bank)

For the last “D”, let’s explore Singapore’s various elements of urban design that create the city. I think neighborhoods are a key part of Singapore’s vision of being a city in a garden. Singapore is compact, but the government is making a tremendous effort to bring the natural environment to the residents.