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Lately you may have been hearing more from your local legislators about increasing tolls during commuter rush hour traffic in order to to reduce highway congestion. Some have already gone into effect.
But, if the United States is serious about reducing traffic congestion it might one day look at the way Singapore addresses the same problem...
In Singapore, an island of 248 square miles, the number of cars climbed to a record 603,723 at the end of 2011 from 405,354 a decade earlier, according to Bloomberg reporter Wes Goodman.
To limit the congestion and pollution the Singapore government planned to limit the growth of the vehicle pool from 1.5 percent annually to 0.5 percent. And they do that by charging exorbitant fees on vehicles including the cost of driver license "permits".
How bad is it? Just for the permit alone, which the government sells at auction, one Singapore resident said he paid $67,000 and that might be a bargain compared to the level they most recently reached. A new 2012 Volkwagen Passat sedan (including the license) costs about $152,000 in Singapore. Extraordinary...especially when you consider that the median price of a U.S. metro area home, according to the National Association of Realtors is at $158,000.
At the latest auction on May 23, Singapore driver permits, called the Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which all new car owners must have, went for $86,889 -- compared with $8,501 three years ago. And the permits only gives you the right to own a vehicle for 10 years.
Besides having to bid for certificates at auctions that are held every two weeks, Singaporeans also pay registration fees and taxes that can amount to $150 percent of the market value of the vehicle.
But apparently, the money is there to pay for it all. Low-wage worker income in Singapore has risen 12 percent in the past five years. They typically pay daily permit fees. More than a third of the 5.2 million population is made up of foreigners and expatriate permanent residents. Singapore's unemployment rate averaged 2 percent and is at a 14-year low.
Believe it or not, Singaporeans are eager to buy cars because any depreciation that occurs to the vehicle is more than offset by the appreciation of the license... They can actually make considerable profit by buying a car, selling it a year later and downgrading to a lower cost vehicle.
Singapore's millionaire households expanded 14 percent last year according to Boston Consulting Group, and their proportion of millionaire households, 17 percent, is the highest in the world.
But Goodman reports that, like the U.S., the middle class is rapidly disappearing and all that is left are the rich and the poor. But, they do have that nagging traffic problem contained.
All I can say is, "God Bless America!"