SINGAPORE: Families will be able to board public buses with open strollers from Apr 2 as part of plans to make travelling with young children on public transport more convenient.
Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng made the announcement in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 8) during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate.
He noted that it is challenging to have to fold up strollers before boarding buses, but the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and bus operators have genuine concerns for children's safety, for example, if the bus brakes or swerves suddenly.
"Parents will have to be fully attentive and take responsibility for the safety of their children, and hold on tight to the open strollers at all times,” he said. “As we work towards a more inclusive public transport system, I urge other commuters to be patient if it takes a bit longer for families with open strollers to board our buses.”
In a press release, LTA said parents and caregivers can approach bus captains if they require assistance. If there are space constraints, bus captains may request that strollers be folded.
The agency also said that various institutes of higher learning are developing restraint systems to help families secure the strollers on board buses. A prototype of the system will be tested from the second quarter of this year, it said.
REDHILL MRT STATION TO BE "ACCESSIBILITY TEST-BED"
Mr Ng noted that all MRT stations and bus interchanges are now barrier-free, and 92 per cent of public buses are now wheelchair-accessible. This will be extended to 98 per cent of buses by the end of next year, and all buses by 2020.
To help passengers with visual difficulties, LTA will also start testing audio announcements on buses. This will be tested as an enhancement to the new passenger information display system now being trialled on bus service 106, he added.
LTA also plans to collaborate with SG Enable, an agency dedicated to supporting people with disabilities. As part of this collaboration, SG Enable will “adopt” Redhill MRT station, which is used by many of the disabled community who travel to the Enabling Village at Lengkok Bahru.
“Redhill station can then be a test-bed for new mobility technologies and infrastructure designs that can make public transport more accessible for persons with disabilities,” he said. “The hope is that through this project, we are able to co-create solutions with the Enabling Village community.”
He also noted that it is a challenge for people with disabilities to make the last-mile journey between Redhill station and the Enabling Village, because of the hilly topography and 400m distance. And he challenged LTA and SG Enable to come up with a solution to improve this.
IMPROVING PEDESTRIAN SAFETY AND ACCESSIBILITY
In an update, Mr Ng said lifts have been installed at 23 overhead bridges to improve pedestrian accessibility, and another 24 will be completed by the end of next year. However, he said lifts are not always the “most optimal solution”.
“They are expensive - they cost S$4 million in capital cost per pair of lifts, and to maintain them takes about S$40,000 per year,” he said. “If the lifts were to be shut down for maintenance or repair, the crossings would no longer be barrier-free.”
He said a better solution would be to implement at-grade pedestrian crossings where safety is not an issue and the impact on traffic “not excessive”.
“These are more convenient for the elderly and faster to build,” he said. “With our Green Man Plus programme, the elderly and persons with disabilities can get more crossing time.”
He added that the Government is also making streets safer for the elderly and less mobile through the Silver Zone programme. These Silver Zones are specially demarcated areas in residential areas with a large population of elderly residents and a relatively high accident rate involving seniors.
There are now nine Silver Zones and the programme will be expanded to another 41 locations islandwide.
To improve pedestrian safety, LTA will widen narrow footpaths with high pedestrian volumes where possible, from the current 1.5m or less to at least 1.8m.
New rules have also been introduced to protect pedestrians sharing footpaths with bicycles and personal mobility devices, he added.