With the bad press that SMRT has been facing lately with the Singapore public, they have been trying to improve the travel experience for their commuters. We previously reported on the charging points now available at several MRT stations. Well, this is just one of seven initiatives, pilot projects developed based on public feedback and overseas study trips according to SMRT’s vice president for rail operations, Alvin Kek.
These initiatives are only available at train stations with higher traffic (more than 80,000 commuters per day) and SMRT will be collecting feedback from commuters till the end of the year to decide which projects become permanent features.
We look through the seven initiatives and rank them on their possible success rate.
1. SMRT SNAP-REP
A Whatsapp hotline (+65 9788 4398) will be available to commuters to send photos and feedback while on SMRT trains, buses, and taxis. The message is encouraged to provide useful details such as vehicle number, date, time, location and a short description of the incident. Commuters are encouraged to call the existing customer hotline instead (1800 336 8900).
This may ease Singaporeans who need an outlet to vent and be heard. But the success of this hotline may be shortlived if the only reply they get will be an automated “Thank You For Your Feedback”. Be sure to look out for hotline trollers.
2. E-Feedback System
Another feedback channel available would be the electronic feedback systems located at the station’s Passenger Service Centre. These systems are available at City Hall, Tanjong Pagar, Orchard and Kent Ridge MRT stations, on fancy tablets even.
SMRT will be implementing them at 18 other stations soon, such as Jurong East, Woodlands, Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio, Marina Bay, Bedok, Pasir Ris and Changi Airport. Since late July, SMRT has received about 600 feedback notices.
Unless people have a lot of time, and are curious to play with these notices, they won’t really bother filling up a feedback form. Most likely the angry people will yell at SMRT personnel, or rant about it on social media. Whatsapp at this point seems more feasible.
3. Care Zones
Large blue demarcated zones are marked out at SMRT train platforms. These Care Zones are reserved for “priority” commuters who need extra attention, such as those with special needs, and children. Emergency phones are placed nearby in case of emergencies. These zones are also CCTV-monitored to keep people out. The zones are located at Tanjong Pagar, Orchard, City Hall and Kent Ridge, and nine more stations will have these care zones in the future.
The really obvious blue area would be pretty handy at visibly yelling at Singaporeans to stay out, the way those subtle yellow lines weren’t able to do before. The CCTVs may help as well, because everyone knows Singaporeans are scared of CCTVs.
4. Escalator Safety Announcements
Currently, at Simei and Tanjong Pagar MRT stations, SMRT is making escalator safety announcements to remind people to be mindful when using the escalators. They will be extended to Yishun, Buona Vista, Jurong East, Orchard and City Hall stations. According to Kek, at least 15 escalator-related incidents happen every month, mostly due to smartphone distractions.
No one really listens to the announcements they make now anyway, especially when people are glued to their smartphones.
5. Care Stickers
Passengers who need more help on their commute can ask for Care Stickers. This will help SMRT staff and other commuters identify them along their journey. This includes pregnant women, parents travelling with young children, senior citizens, and people who are unwell.
I know of a friend who was pregnant and unwell but wasn’t visibly showing yet being forced to give up her seat for an old lady. Commuters wouldn’t have known that she needed the seat as much, so this sticker might have helped then. However, a lower score for possible abuse of these stickers. What is the necessary procedure to get them?
6. Priority Queues
A marked out area next to the lifts, for priority users like pregnant women, the disabled, the elderly, and parents with small children.
I seriously doubt this would make a difference.
7. Mobile Device Charging Points
We’ve reported on this before, but yes, you can now charge your mobile devices in MRT stations without getting fined. There are currently charging points at high-traffic areas like City Hall, Tanjong Pagar, Kent Ridge and Orchard stations.
Because no one likes a dead phone. A lowered score for the fact that there is only one per station.
Let’s hope that these SMRT initiatives will be enough help commuters, on top of their current efforts to update their infrastructural problems that caused the frequent MRT breakdowns in 2013. SMRT is under a lot of stress to appease commuters that are still pretty upset about the events of last year, some of whom are taking to social media to vent their frustrations.
While some initiatives seem dubious, it is heartening to see that SMRT is taking customer feedback much more seriously, and are working to show their efforts in answering Singaporeans’ complaints and worries. I guess we’ll see in time which will stick and which will flop.
What do you think? Will these initiatives take off? Let us know!