Tag Archives: Singapore

Air Pollution Returns to Singapore and Johor

Bad air pollution levels have returned to Singapore and Johor in the last month. So far the recent air pollution problem has been moderate compared to June of 2013 (or Bejing). The readings have been in the “moderate” problem area but those are noticeable visually and when you are outside breathing the air is obviously more polluted than normal. I don’t usually use my air conditioning but I have the last week due to the air pollution.

The air pollution readings are published by Malaysia and Singapore. Air pollution will get a bit worse at night (assuming everything else stays the same) due to air pressure.

Air pollution has dramatic health consequences. The World Health Organization released a study last month stating that 7 million premature deaths annually are linked to air pollution.

Regionally, low- and middle-income countries in the WHO South-East Asia and Western Pacific Regions had the largest air pollution-related burden in 2012, with a total of 3.3 million deaths linked to indoor air pollution and 2.6 million deaths related to outdoor air pollution.

The damage done by air pollution to health include respiratory diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases, changes in lung function. There is mounting evidence that exposure to air pollution has long-term effects on lung development in children.

With effect from 1 April 2014, Singapore has moved to an integrated air quality reporting index, where PM2.5 (particulate matter 2.5 micros or larger) will be incorporated into the current Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) as its sixth pollutant parameter. The PSI will therefore reflect a total of six pollutants – sulphur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM10) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and ozone (O3).

The 3-hour PSI will take into account PM2.5 concentrations. In addition, NEA will also publish the 1-hour PM2.5 concentrations every hour.

From the Malaysian site today (their update was dated September 2013)

DOE is in the midst of finalising the new Malaysian Air Quality Guidelines to include the standard limit of PM2.5 in the ambient air which based on World Health Organisation (WHO) 2006 Guidelines.

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Extremely Bad Haze in Johor Bahru and Singapore

The haze in Johor Bahru and Singapore has been extremely bad the last few days. It hit the worst reading since 2006 in Singapore a few days ago and today seems much worse. [June 20th update: the air pollution readings exceeded all time highs in both Singapore and JB. And Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the haze could "easily last for several weeks and quite possibly longer until the dry season ends (September or October) in Sumatra."]

photo of the Haze over Johor Bahru

Updated photo (see the bottom of post for original photo). Haze over Johor Bahru, June 20th at 11AM.

photo of Johor Bahru on a clear day

Photo of the same scene without hazy conditions, buildings in Singapore are visible in the background.

The conditions are mainly due to Indonesian fires. It is hard to reconcile the eco-city push for the Iskandar marketing however with the continued open burning of trash in downtown Johor Bahru daily [update a day or two after the severe haze problems Malaysia seems to have banned open burning if I read press reports correctly].

Update: From the Department of Environment of Malaysia which publishes API* readings 3 times a day from 4 sites in Johor (as well as the rest of Malaysia). A reading above 100 is unhealthy, above 300 is hazardous. With readings of 300 and above: healthy people will experience reduced endurance in activities. There may be strong irritations and symptoms and may trigger other illnesses. Elders and the sick should remain indoors and avoid exercise. Healthy individuals should avoid out door activities. For readings of 200-250, healthy people will be noticeably affected. People with breathing or heart problems will experience reduced endurance in activities. These individuals and elders should remain indoors and restrict activities.

date
  
Location (Johor)
  
7AM**
  
11AM**
  
5PM**
Jun 18th Kota Tinggi 107 118 126
Larkin Lama 116 125 122
Muar 65 70 68
Pasir Gudang 142 153 148
Jun 19th Kota Tinggi 137 138 166
Larkin Lama 122 124 152
Muar 133 157 172
Pasir Gudang 148 149 168
Jun 20th Kota Tinggi 211 232 291
Larkin Lama 171 181 219
Muar 337 383 no report
Pasir Gudang 190 199 333
Singapore (psi**) 162 183 192
Singapore (PM2.5**) 223 247 275
Jun 21st Kota Tinggi 313 314 226
Larkin Lama 190 197 158
Muar 183 193 273
Pasir Gudang 310 323 189
Singapore (psi**) 184 206 198
Singapore (PM2.5**) 247 262 250

Subscribe to the RSS feed for the Living in Malaysia blog. You may also like, Circumhorizontal Arcs, Fire Rainbows, Cloud Rainbows in JB from a day when pollution wasn’t a problem and nature put on a show.

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Quality of Life and Personal Safety International Rankings for Cities

Mercer Quality of Living Survey, Worldwide Rankings, 2011. Selected cities to put Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpor’s rankings in context (in SE Asia and the world).

Rank City, Country
1 Vienna, Austria
2 Zurich, Switzerland
3 Auckland, New Zealand
4 Munich, Germany
5 Vancouver, Canada
11 Sydney, Australia
18 Melbourne, Australia
25 Singapore, Singapore
30 Paris, France
30 San Francisco, California, USA
43 Washington, DC, USA
46 Tokyo, Japan
47 New York City, NY, USA
70 Hong Kong, China
76 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
80 Seoul, South Korea
83 Athens, Greece
85 Taipei, Taiwan
88 Cape Town, South Africa
95 Shanghai, China
97 Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
101 Brasilia, Brazil
101 Johor Bahru, Malaysia
109 Beijing, China
121 Bangkok, Thailand
121 Mexico City, Mexico
128 Manila, Philippines
135 Cairo, Egypt
140 Jakarta, Indonesia
141 Bangalore, India
143 New Delhi, India
147 Hanoi, Vietnam
186 Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Phnom Penh Travel information
196 Yangon, Myanmar

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Taxi Between Johor Bahru and Singapore

Iskandar Regional Development Authority chief executive officer Ismail Ibrahim on transportation improvements:

The land transport authorites of Singapore and Malaysia are studying a rapid transit system (RTS) link between Singapore and Johor Baru. The architecture and engineering consultancy consists of two phases. Phase one is expected to be completed by year-end.The Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar will decide on the option to be adopted in phase two. Taxi services between Johor Baru and Singapore are also being improved.

Effective June 1, commuters taking cross-border taxis will be able to board and alight anywhere on the domestic leg of the journey.

For example, a commuter that takes a Singapore cross-border taxi can board or alight anywhere in Singapore. Similarly, a passenger taking a Malaysia cross-border taxi can board or alight anywhere in Malaysia.

But commuters need to board and alight at the designated terminals when they are not on the domestic leg, i.e. a commuter that takes a Singapore cross-border taxi can only board and alight at PasarBakti terminal in Johor Baru and likewise, a Malaysia cross-border taxi can only pick up or drop off commuters at the Ban San Street terminal in Singapore.

The transportation improvements are critical to the success of Iskandar-Singapore success. Currently the delays on the current links are bad and increasing. It seems that the estimates for how much traffic would be generating have been far too low. The addition of the second link is recent and yet the delays keep getting longer on average days (not even holidays). This seems to me to be a serious problem, especially when you consider that in the next 2 years there will be substantial additions in Iskandar, Malaysia that would increase cross border traffic. But with the delays already unacceptably long it seems there will be serious problems.

If there are process improvement and manpower adjusts that can help address these problems they should be a top priority (and why they haven’t been done already would be very puzzling). It seems to me a 3rd link is needed as soon as possible. In addition to the MRT and an expansion to the existing causeway capacity.

The tweaks to allowing taxis to pick up passengers anywhere at the first leg of the journey (which is my guess at what is said above though I am not sure really) is good thing. This doesn’t do anything about capacity issues or long delays at the links but it is an improvement in the previous operating process (which required taxi pickup at 1 or 2 specified spots only in order to cross the links). Hopefully the restriction on dropping people off can be eliminated soon also.

I don’t really understand the sense of the taxi process. There are cars that will pickup and drop off anywhere (for crossing the links) but are not painted up as taxis. I don’t quite understand the value of having different rules for cars depending on if they have meters inside or are considered something else (but do the exact same things a taxi does, but probably can’t pick up passengers on the street – probably they are only allowed to respond to phone calls).

Anyway, at least the taxi process is improving.

Related: Taxis in Johor BahruTaking the Bus Between Johor Bahru and SingaporeJohor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ)

Taxis in Johor Bahru

photo of Johor Bahru taxi

Photo of Johor Bahru taxi near Zon (with the strait and then Singapore in the background)

Online I read a fair amount of people worried about taxi drivers not using the meter for cab rides in Johor Bahru. I have found that normally they do use the meter. Occasionally, taxi drivers do refuse to use the meter (even though I believe they are required to and the cabs are plastered with signs saying they must use the meter). I have noticed that if the taxi has to stand in a long queue, waiting for passengers, this problem is much more likely.

It would seem to me, that there is a systemic problem, if the taxi has to wait a long time for fares. It seems to me the best way to handle this would be to put a surcharge on those locations (there shouldn’t be too many). I have refused to pay non-meter fares, but will pay reasonable ones from now on, from locations with long queues.

Even when they want to charge a non-meter fare I think only twice have they asked for hugely unfair amounts (more than twice what the meter would be). Normally it is a maybe RM 5 above the meter, which isn’t ridiculously high (and they may be inflating it for me).

Calling the taxis usually will get you a taxi very quickly (within 5 minutes) which is quite convenient. I would imagine in some areas outside the Central Business District (CBD) it might be longer.

Photo of Natural gas tank in the trunk of a taxi

Natural gas tank in Johor Bahru taxi trunk

One of my driver’s stopped by the gas station and I noticed they were using compressed natural gas as the fuel. This is a smart move as globally there is a surplus of natural gas. Natural gas is also cleaner burning and contributes less to global warming than regular gasoline. The storage tanks are in the trunk for some reason.

The taxi drivers understand english to some degree. They are a bit less able to find places than I would expect, some are quite good but I have run into more than a handful that needed directions for pretty large places.

The cars are generally fairly old but decent. Normally they have decent air conditioning, but some are weak on this. Like Kuala Lumpor there is a “executive” class taxi that is blue and much more expensive – I don’t see them being worth it, myself. The cost of rides is 3 RM for the first 2 km plus 10 cen to every subsequent 115 meters. There is a RM 2 charge for calling a taxi for a pickup (Taxi Comfort number: 07 332 2852). There is a 50% surcharge between midnight and 6 AM.

In general people tip very little (like rounding up to the next RM). In general, I give a tip of 2 – 4.x RM. The taxi fares are reasonable and including a tip still results in a reasonable fair. Taxi drivers work hard for a living and giving a bit of a tip seems reasonable to me (for those who can easily afford it).

One note about taxis in Singapore – there really don’t seem to be enough. When I want one, I find large queues that hardly seem to move (so few taxis coming to the stand). And when it rains it is much worse.

Related: transportation between Johor Bahru and SingaporeBus to from CBD to Jusco in Permas JayaPaying bills over the internet

Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ)

photo CIQ building in Johor Bahru

Johor Bahru CIQ

The Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ) is a very large complex at the causeway to Singapore that accommodates Malaysian customs check for cars, trucks, buses and the JB Sentral train station. The CIQ was opened in 2008. The complex is know as CIQ – if you tell a taxi for example they will know where you mean to go if you say CIQ.

photo of Johor Bahru CIQ

Looking up to Johor Bahru CIQ from the street (all photos by John Hunter)

Queues are often reasonable but at rush hour (especially leaving Singapore on Friday’s and near public holidays) can be long. In several ways taking the bus is quite appealing (costs of bringing a car into Singapore plus tolls and there are significant restrictions on taxis that make that option difficult) but the walking from the entrance to the custom lines is quite a distance so that will add 5 minutes to your time. And waiting for a bus once you clear customs can add another 5 – 10 minutes.

The 2nd link (to the West) has shorter queues currently (these are the only 2 links between Singapore and Johor Bahru now). That is one of the reasons many people have been buying out near the 2nd link. Also that is a focus area for the Iskandar economic development initiative and the available of housing estates with integrated security and new bungalows is another attraction.

JB Sentral, which opened in 2010, is located in the same area and includes the train station and a large bus terminal.

Singapore and Malaysia have been taking recently about extending the MRT (light rail) from Singapore into Johor Bahru before the end of this decade and the likely location of the first stop is JB Sentral. This MRT (and extending 5 to 7 more stops in Johor Bahru will be a welcome improvement to mass transit and continue to build the economic ties between the two cities. Currently you have to take the long walk through Malaysian customs, then walk to the bus, take it over the causeway, walk through Singapore customs, catch the bus again and then got to the MRT (which for some reason isn’t the closer Woodlands MRT but the Kranji MRT). So just getting on the MRT in JB and clearing customs and getting right back on will be a big improvement. Of course they will have to add quite a few more customs staff to prevent long queues.

Related: Taking the Bus from Johor Bahru to SingaporeResidence Pass for Talented ExpatsPenang Condo Market

Taking the Bus from Johor Bahru to Singapore

Taking the bus from Johor Bahru, Malaysia to Singapore is easy once you know what to do.

First go to the Custom and Immigration Quarantine Complex (CIQ) in downtown Johor Bahru right near the causeway to Singapore. Walk through the complex to leave Malaysia (you need your passport, obviously). Once you clear Malaysian passport control you follow the signs to Singapore/Woodlands for the bus (on your left after you leave the passport area). You go downstairs and catch your bus. You pay for the bus, on the bus.

photo of people standing in lines for bus to Singapore at Malaysia CIQ

Lines for bus to Singapore at Malaysia CIQ. On the signs (and the ground) they list what buses the queues are for.

There are various options but the 3 most common are:

  • Queen Street (this gets you to downtown Singapore). You can take the CW2 (direct) of the 160 (many stops – so really you probably don’t want to chose this unless you want to get off before queen street). The Queen street stop lets you off right near Little India. Cost is under RM 4 (update 2014 – with increases in tolls the busses hiked fares by under 1 RM, they are a much better value now, since car and taxi tolls increases so much).
  • MRT – if you want to go to the Singapore MRT you can take the 170 or CW1 to Kranji station. Woodlands is the closest station but there isn’t a bus to there (that I know of). Cost is under RM 3 (after 2014 increase).
  • Airport – the airport bus takes you directly to the Changi Airport in Singapore and costs RM 7 (from Singapore to JB it costs SGD 7 – I am not sure of the prices after the 2014 increase). The bus is a small bus (seats about 20 maximum) – asking people where it is, will be the easiest way to find it. This bus only runs once an hour. This bus works great but you should be aware if you get stuck in customs trying to get into Singapore it is possible the bus will leave without you. If that happens catch the 170 to Kranji and take the MRT to the airport. I think the bus will wait 20 minutes for people to clear customs (and if several of you are not back yet the bus may wait, but missing it is something to consider).
  • photo of Kranji MRT in Singapore

    Kranji MRT in Singapore. There is a bakery right where the bus lets you off. To catch the bus back to Customs you have to cross over the road so you are on the opposite side from the MRT.

    The busses will take you across the causeway to Singapore and then you will disembark (with any luggage and belongings) and go through Singapore customs and then go back downstairs and catch your bus. The CW1, CW2, 170 and 160 run frequently during the day and evening (every few minutes to every 15 minutes for some).

    Overall it is an easy process and doesn’t take too long. But at rush hours (especially Friday night or on holidays) it can get very busy and backed up. I hear the morning rush from JB into Singapore is pretty bad, but I have gone a bit later (9:30 AM) when I have gone, and it has been fine (most of the time).

    The prices are from Singapore to JB are the same number but in SGD which means about 2.5 times as much money. So, for example, from Queen Street to JB is $3.30 (versus 3.30 RM).

    Related: Bus to Jusco in Permas JayaPlaza Pelangi in Johor Bahru Townresources for living in Johor Bahru

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