SINGAPORE: A new hands-free ticketing technology is on a six-month trial at four MRT stations – making it easier for those with disabilities to enter and exit the stations.
Launched by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and ST Engineering, the technology removes the need for commuters to tap their EZ-Link card at the fare gates. Instead, they can just pass through the fare gates using a Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) Test Card or a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone with a dedicated application.
Redhill and Tiong Bahru MRT stations were chosen due to their proximity to SG Enable, an agency dedicated to enabling persons with disabilities as well as SPD.
The other two MRT stations are Bedok and Kembangan – as they are located near LTA’s Bedok campus, which makes it easier for authorities to monitor the operational impact of the trial.
This hands-free technology is welcome news for wheelchair-user Rohaizad Roslan - one of 50 participants taking part in the trial. Having been in a wheelchair for the last four years, the 39-year-old said getting his way around MRT stations hasn’t always been a smooth ride.
"There were a few times I knocked into the gantry while trying to tap the card and manoeuvre my way through. So it caused accidents and it could damage the gantry. When using the manual wheelchair, I also had to rush in because when I tap the card, I need to wheel myself into the gantry. So with this RFID card, I can just concentrate going through the gantry."
Speaking to reporters at Redhill MRT station, Senior Minister of State for Transport Dr Janil Puthucheary said this is part of ongoing efforts to make Singapore's rail system more inclusive.
"We see our public transport system as a key enabler for all persons who have some issues with mobility. Whether you're a person with disability, a mother with a pram, or an elderly person who finds it difficult to get around, we want our public transport system to be able to serve everybody."
Dr Janil said the trial period will also help authorities fine-tune the system: "When I tried it just now, the card was around my neck and it was difficult to sense, partly maybe it's a height issue where the gantry is. When I had it in my pocket, it was very easy.
"So these are some fine tuning things, getting the sensitivity of the sensor correct, getting the design of the gate correct, maybe even getting the design of the card or the form factor - does it need to be in a card or phone or a wearable. It just has to translate into a good experience."
On whether the technology will be made available to all commuters, authorities say they will have to assess the cost and its feasibility.
LTA said the trial will be extended to buses later this year.