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SINGAPORE - In the battle against the car, space-starved Singapore has deployed road tolls, massive spending on public transport and a license fee that bumps the cost of an average vehicle to over $80,000.

Singapore has gone further than any other major city to avoid the heavy traffic that has blighted Asian metropolises such as Jakarta or Manila.

However, the model faces mounting criticism thanks to rush-hour jams that have frustrated commuters, surging vehicle prices after a freeze on car numbers and public transport breakdowns.

"I think the system can be made better and fairer," said Joel Lee, 28, a technician.

He said authorities should make "a distinction between those who need cars, be it for work or family commitments, and those who just want more cars as a status symbol".

Authorities" main tool is the certificate of entitlement, or COE. Every potential car buyer must bid for a certificate and the cost is added to the vehicle price.

The current cost of a COE for an average family car is almost Sg$50,000, pushing the price of a Toyota Corolla to Sg$114,000($83,000).

But COEs fluctuate depending on demand and at their high point four years ago the same car was Sg$159,000 - six times the price in the US.

The certificates are valid for 10 years, after which the car must be scrapped or the certificate renewed.

Despite the high price, many in the financial center, home to hordes of wealthy expats and millionaires, have bought cars, with some 600,000 on the streets - a considerable number for a limited road network.

Other key measures include controlling the number of vehicles on the road and charging tolls on main roads at busy times.

Authorities last month decided to freeze the number of private cars on the road from February for at least two years, citing land scarcity.

To mitigate its tough policies, Singapore has built a modern public transport network with a subway, overland trains and buses, and the government recently announced a plan to spend Sg$28 billion to upgrade the system.

Other places echo Singapore"s approach - London has a congestion charge while Paris sometimes orders some private cars off the road due to air pollution - but they are unlikely to copy the city-state"s tougher measures as it would be too risky.

"COE is not a very popular measure, and any government that tries to implement this kind of a measure in any other country may lose elections," said Vivek Vaidya, a transport expert.

Agence France-presse

(China Daily 11/21/2017 page11)