A Nation of System Gaming

Tuesday. Di di… Di di…

The alarm was set fairly late today. Although I know that the session starts at 8am, I wanted to skip the fluffy part and just get some technical details. After all, what do I know about blade servers?

I got up and stared at the clock – 9am. Then the phone alarm went off – also 9am. 9am, NLB. Why on earth would Sun have their session in NLB, right in the middle of the city, when their nice little show case place @ the CTE Havelock exit would have been nice and cozy.

Tuesday, also means that TPO is rehearsing tonight. The Philharmonic Orchestra has embarked on a journey to play all Sibelius’s symphonies this year. I’ll need to drive, lugging my trombone and my fat ass up Mt Sophia as we’ve recently shifted to this anonymous abandoned building.

WAIT A MINUTE! Drive + Tuesday + 9am = ERP!


Okay, no fear, I’ll take my time. If everything goes well, I will still arrive in town by 9:40am. For those who don’t know, the ERP is in operation from 7:30am to 9:30am, to sort of curb “demand” for CTE (CenTral Expressway) and other major arteries leading to town.

Lazily, I washed up, put on cloths, arranged some things on my desk to look neater, checked and double checked I got everything and walk purposefully out the house from my newly moved in flat in Ang Mo Kio. It wasn’t much of a flat before, but now it is quite comfortable after a simple coat of paint, a lavish IKEA furniture, and a lot of effort. Just like hunting for your own food, own-made designs always feels the best.


Boy that was fast – I usually can’t get out of the house in 10 minutes from bed. Hmm… issue. I don’t even know how much time I will take to drive the car to reach the first ERP between Ang Mo Kio Ave 1 and Braddell Rd. Good thing I did my research sometime ago on the quickest path – but now, quickest path means I need to wait a bit.

Oh well, there’s some bird shit on the car, let me remove it.

The weather is nice for 9am. Most of the cars has already left the car park.

Ok, double checked, I’ve got my Trombone. Sat in the car and rehearsed to myself today’s schedule, including what I’ll be doing back in Bedok when I get out of the NLB.


I started my engine. Hmm, it’s good to let the engine warm up a little, so that when I leave, the fuel consumption will be lower than if I step on the gas when the engine is still cold. Symphony 92.4 was playing on the radio as I last left it on.


10 minutes, that should be about right. Instead of taking Ave 3 exit, I’ll be taking Ave 1 exit, so that makes a total of 5 humps, 5 traffic lights, and expecting a fair bit of traffic anyway. In Singapore, you are never the smartest person around, especially on the street. If you can figure that out most drivers can. That means, at 9:30am there WILL be a huge massive jam just before the ERP – right?


Shit, the traffic is too smooth. Chong Boon area looks so deserted. Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 traffic lights are dancing to a green wave!! I suddenly regretted. I took out my Cash Card, unwittingly slotted it into the IU (Integrated unit), and prepared for the worse. After all, it would be like 50 cents, or something cheaper if I missed it by less than 5 minutes.

Fortunately, there was quite a queue at the end of Ave 10 before the left turn on to Ave 1. I twiddled my fingers a bit, staring blankly at the traffic light while some obnoxious guitar player tries to wake me up on the radio. The car is silent otherwise, and every other driver around me are ever so relaxed.

The light turns green..

No one is horning, no one is making a fuss, everyone strolled along.

We approached the next junction from Ave 1 into CTE. No one hurried over the traffic light, everyone was courteous to let other traffic go first.


Green. URGH – wait, there’s another light in front. Red! Red! Red! Red! Red! Yey! It turned red. And we waited again


Green… uh oh, this is it. As we slowly turned right onto CTE, a dash of yellow light flashed across my wind screen.

I N   O P E R A T I O N
9 : 2 9   A M

AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH………… I’m early by 1 minute.

Within seconds, I need to decide what to do, go ahead or wait. But I can’t wait in the middle of the road… or can I? Looking around me, all 5 lanes from the expressway to the ramp leading in where I’m on, every car is slowly to a crawl. There’s a police man trying to help someone on the side of the road, possibly a motorcyclist who was knocked out by cars slowing down unexpectedly. Way up front, a Hyundai Getz decide to hit the brakes and halted right below the gantry. The world was so peaceful…

Some cars went ahead as it was “inevitable” – it’s their turn. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! One by one they succumb to LTA’s ingenious money collection scheme, a system developed by Phillips, and operated for many many years, floating a total of more than $60 million dollars at one point by requiring people to prepay for their cash cards, watching people toil in this emotional struggle of whether to go to work on time or not, the rational struggle on whether to take the expressway or not, the ethical struggle of whether to be a jerk and wait underneath the gantry in these ambivalent situations. How many hours wasted, how much feelings hurt, why? For what end? To regulate the JAM?


I was 50m from the crossing. As if it was God’s grace, the lights went off. HALLELUJAH! To believe that for the first time I chose to take the CTE from Ang Mo Kio I was blessed to not pay ERP (both of them on CTE) is really unthinkable! What Joy! Victory!

I stepped on the gas, together with all the cars. The loud rumbling chorus rise to a small but discernible crescendo within sealed cars. We were all accelerating to mind our own business. The roads were smooth – there are not that many cars, but a quick glance at the rear view mirrors reveal the horror that I would have to endure should I be just a minute or 2 slower, as the rest of the cars who have waited and waited and finally released into CTE, like water through a broken dam.

After a turn, I stop looking back, anticipating the ultimate gantry, the one @ prinsep st that I must pay to get into town, and to NLB.

BEEP: $1

Today LTA is $1 richer, I’m $1 poorer.

But I’ve saved $2 😉 for McDonalds chicken burger!

Epilogue: I haven’t blogged for a while, mainly coz I’m rushing many scores for bands, Philwinds and TPO has both started rehearsing, and work load @ SCS has also picked up substantially. Surprisingly, I’ve composed this whole thing in my head while driving today, and it is going to be one of those memories that I would bring together with me when I leave this country eventually. What are your sentiments to ERP, as the rates have went up, new expressways like KPE now get ERP gantries by default? Is there another way without every driver having to Game the System?

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    LTA announces new ERP gantries, operational hours
    By Ca-Mie De Souza, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 23 August 2007 1727 hrs

    SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has completed its review of traffic conditions and has decided to extend the coverage of ERP at various locations to improve traffic flow.

    The new Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) will be open to traffic from 26 October.

    From the same day, the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantry at the KPE exit to the East Coast Parkway (ECP), in the direction towards the city, will start charging between 7.30am and 9:30am.

    And from 1 November, the existing gantry on the Central Expressway (CTE) before Braddell Road, in the direction towards the city, will have its operating hours extended to between 7am and 11am.

    A new ERP gantry, erected between Dairy Farm Road and the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) on the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE), will also take effect on 1 November and its operating hours are between 7.30am and 9am.

    From the same day, ERP will be implemented between Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) and Fort Road on the ECP, towards Changi Airport, from 6pm to 8pm; at the slip road from Ophir Road to the ECP, towards Changi Airport, from 6pm to 8pm; before the exit to the PIE on the CTE, heading in the direction of Ang Mo Kio from 5.30pm to 10:30pm.

    Two ERP gantries will be installed but not activated at the North-bound KPE exit to PIE in the direction of Tampines and at the South-bound KPE exit to ECP in the direction of Changi Airport.

    Gantries will also be placed in advance at Upper Bukit Timah Road between Hume Avenue and Old Jurong Road, Toa Payoh Lorong 6, Upper Boon Keng Road, Kallang Bahru Road and Geylang Bahru Road.

    More information is available online at the LTA website

    – CNA/so


  2. boy..i am definitely glad tat i dun hav to pay all these now. haha…i will definitely be broke. take cab la….

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