Downtown Line 2 – It’s closer than you think

On the last week of 2015, Land Transport Authority (LTA) was calling everyone to “Give Your Car A Break” and take a free ride on the newly opened Downtown Line 2 (DTL2).

To show my support, I took a bus to the first station Bukit Panjang, then got on the DTL2 train that passed through twelve stations to the last stop Chinatown, while keeping check on the way the exact time to reach every station – just to confirm with SBS Transit’s saying that “It’s closer than you think”.

Four reasons why DTL2 makes us proud

In fact, DTL2 deserves everyone to take it seriously for four main reasons:

1. The investment

It costs a hefty $20.7 billion to build the whole downtown line which is significantly higher than an initial estimation of $12 billion.

2. The odds

LTA has overcome many obstacles to open DTL2 on schedule, including higher construction cost, more delay caused by a bankrupted contractor, longer work days for construction workers, and more inconvenience for residents along Bukit Timah Road.

3. The length

The 16.6 km long DTL2 is made up of 12 stations, 1 depot at Bukit Panjang, and 3 interchanges at Botanic Gardens (Circle Line), Newton (North-South Line) and Little India (North-East Line).

4. The time-saved

If I stay at Bukit Panjang, it only takes 16 minutes to Botanic Gardens to change to the Circle Line. And 22 minutes is all I need to reach Newton to change to North-South Line, with one more minute to reach Little India for the North-East Line. It takes 29 minutes to arrive and go shopping at Bugis. If I work at Suntec, it takes me 31 minutes to reach my office. Even if my workplace is in the CBD, it is only 36 to 39 minutes to reach Downtown and Telok Ayer.

Below is the DTL2 map from the LTA website.

Four things I like about DTL2DTL2_facilities

Small booklets with the words “I love Downtime Line” were distributed to people who went for the DTL2 open house. There are four things I really love about DTL2:

1. Enhanced bus services

A new bus service 979 is introduced to provide connectivity for Yew Tee and Choa Chu Kang residents to the Bukit Panjang MRT/LRT station. Seven more bus routes are amended to make it more convenient for residents to use the downtown line.

2. Good facilities

There are elevators inside and outside the stations for those who need them. Toilets are available at all stations which are critical for the kids, the elderly and the pregnant. Covered overhead bridges are available at stations like King Albert Park, Tan Kah Kee and Botanic Gardens to shelter passengers from sunshine and rain.

3. Long escalators

At very DTL2 station, passengers have to ride on typically three long escalators, with each escalator at least 3-storey high, before reaching the ground. They can continue their calls, finish whatsapp messages and watch Korean drama without being interrupted, if they don’t mind taking another three minutes to reach the ground.

4. Very auspicious

Ever wonder why there are 12 stations but have DT13? The answer: There is no DT4 (though there will be DT14, DT24 and DT34). It is most likely for auspicious reason because four in Chinese is associated with death. Thirteen is a good number so there is DT13 for Rochor Station.

Four implications on properties

So what has the completion of DTL2 done to properties nearby?

1. It benefits the commercial properties.

Shops and eateries near DTL2 are the winners. Small shopping centres like Sime Darby Centre, Guthrie House, Sixth Avenue Centre and Coronation Shopping Plaza that use to serve the neighbourhood can now expect a bigger crowd. Thanks to the well-connected DTL2.

Here are the landmarks immediately outside the main exits of each DTL2 station.

2. It is no longer exclusive.

Prestigious areas like Sixth Avenue, Watten Estate, Robin Road, etc. that are once exclusively reserved for the well-to-do are now made accessible by DTL2. During the one-week open house, the once quiet neighbourhood suddenly became hectic by passengers getting out from various stations.

However, just like Tokyo and Kaohsiung, there are some areas that still look quiet and empty even there is a station there. For DTL2, such stations can be Cashew Station and Tan Kah Kee Station on weekends due to low resident population and being a school zone.

3. It is not necessary to move to CCR.

If my girls have their PSLE results good enough to get to the prestigious girls’ schools, we no longer have to upgrade our homes and move to District 10, 11 or 21. Thanks to the DTL2 stations built along Bukit Timah Road. It now takes less than 15 minutes to go from Bukit Panjang to Tan Kah Kee. So why pay the premium to move to the CCR?

4. It is worth paying for proximity to MRT?

I have touched on this topic in my earlier blog post “Should property owners be happy about the new Thomson-East Coast Line?”.

By 2030, the Singapore MRT network will have 6 rail lines, 28 interchanges, 146 stations and 186 stations MRT+LRT stations. One can hardly find any residential area in this little red dot unreachable by a station. The question is how fast one can get from home to workplace with minimum interchanges.

When the government announced the building of DTL2 in 2009, speculation in a hot property market immediately drove cash-over-value of HDB flats in Bukit Panjang from $25,000 to $40,000.

According to SRX, as of November 2015, both the resale market value and rental of HDB flats in Bukit Panjang are still under national average. For private properties, the gross market rental yield for leasehold apartment in Singapore is 3.5 percent while the yield of leasehold properties in Bukit Panjang is 3.2 percent.

People do look for convenience when they are buy a home. Properties near to a train station can definitely command a premium and hold their value. But do take note that people want to be close enough for the convenience but also far enough to get away from the undesirables, such as the noise, the sight and the crowd.

Find out more about pros and cons of staying near MRT stations and in different areas of Singapore, how to do desk research and field work before buying a dream home or investment property this Sunday at the Buying My First Private Property 1-Day Workshop. See you there!