Aviation / Current / Economics

I’m Back

Another hiatus I’m just now ending? Not quite. Travel has interfered with the running record of my thoughts. Since I marked the sad news of the departure of my favorite comedian in early April, I’ve been to Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. Before I jump from the pan into the fire, let me begin with some simple advice for two Asian cities.

Every Twenty Minutes

Please Hong Kong and Singapore—stop shutting down the MTR/MRT at midnight. Take a page from New York and Chicago and run your buses and (especially) trains two to three times hourly between 11:15 pm and 6:00 am on high-traffic lines instead of shutting the entire system down each night. A fair number of flights arrive at HKG and SIN after midnight, and heading to Changi Airport for a 6:00 am flight without access to the MRT was extremely annoying. Considering New York’s airports rightly seem more appropriate as belonging in an infrastructure-bereft nation (Vice President Biden’s comments about LGA are equally appropriate for JFK and EWR), there is no reason the aging NYC MTA should have a scheduling leg up on the ultra-modern systems in some of Asia’s largest cities.

I know taxi companies cry foul at proposals such as these, but given that foreign travelers do notice such stupid inconveniences and the cost of living in these cities (one is the highest worldwide) there must be significant economic costs that both Hong Kong and Singapore suffer as a result of this misguided policy. Both cities have lively nightlife scenes—what is the likelihood more revelers (local, expat and tourist) would frequent bars and nightclubs in greater numbers if not for the fact that low-cost transportation is eliminated after midnight?

When On An Island…

Speaking of lost business opportunities, why doesn’t Changi Airport mimic Hong Kong and offer direct ferry service to passengers transiting to foreign cities and vice versa? Johor Bahru has a population in excess of 1.3 million, yet the only link to Singapore is the jam-packed Causeway. After transiting through the Malaysian city southward, I wondered if flying from Senai Airport (JHB) to SIN through Kuala Lumpur (KUL) would have been faster.

There are already three ferry terminals near Changi Airport (Changi Ferry Terminal, Changi Point Ferry Terminal, and Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal), but the service to Malaysia is restricted to remote resorts. Shuttling passengers into the airport terminals shouldn’t be a major undertaking with the added benefit that Singaporean immigration officials could treat passengers as being in transit (the only exit from the terminals other than airliner being the customs stations). Ferry service would also certainly relieve traffic congestion on the Causeway. But the benefits would be far more direct than these ancillary effects.

Should ferry service be extended to Johor Bahru and adjacent Pasir Gudang, Singapore-based airlines would certainly draw increased passenger traffic from 3.3 million people living in Johor State. Locals certainly realize the Causeway is a nightmare to cross, and would rather catch connecting flights through KUL on AirAsia and/or Malaysia Airlines. Well, maybe not the latter after MH370…

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