SINGAPORE: At bus stops, bus drivers should pull close to the kerb for the blind to alight safely, and they should also be familiar with landmark names in English to help the deaf.
These are just some of 21 recommendations the Public Transport Council (PTC) released in its second advisory report on Thursday (Jan 25).
The PTC had engaged more than 11,000 commuters of diverse profiles through multiple channels like focus group discussions and in-depth interviews to produce the report.
Close to 100 commuters surveyed had different kinds of special needs, including physical impairments and conditions like autism.
“Commuters have shared with us their wish for the public transport system to be inclusive of the vulnerable or special needs commuters,” PTC chairman Richard Magnus said.
“They want to be part of the solution to improve their rail journey experiences.”
To that end, the PTC’s wide-ranging report also encouraged greater public education on being sensitive to the needs of visually impaired commuters who might not carry a cane.
“PTC recommends that other commuters be reminded that there are commuters with ‘invisible’ disabilities and render assistance if approached,” it said.
“Public education can also include information on the appropriate way to help a visually impaired person.”
This should also happen in schools, Mr Magnus said. For example, children should learn how to take the initiative of giving up their seats without feeling embarrassed about it.
"We need to redefine the communication discourse between commuters," he added. "It needs to be intuitive to us."
As for physical improvements, the PTC recommended a consistent painting of yellow lines at stairs and escalators at older MRT stations for commuters with low vision.
In addition, a countdown timer on display panels at MRT platforms will also benefit deaf commuters and improve safety for other commuters.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) can also explore a mobile application that alerts the deaf to route disruptions in the form of a video displaying an avatar signing the information, the report added.
A similar app is being studied in a European Union-funded research project called aim4it.
"We actually think it’s a step up because information is given live as opposed to just a scroll of text," Ms Heng Ju-Li, director, research and advisory, said of the app. "It's easier to comprehend; it's the equivalent of a hearing aid."
MORE HELP FOR ELDERLY
When it comes to the elderly, the PTC will expand the Heart Zone and Heartwheels initiative to include Jurong East and Novena MRT stations. SMRT will partner Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital to launch the initiative at the two stations by the second quarter of this year.
By 2030, it is estimated that there will be more than 900,000 seniors and 100,000 people with disabilities in Singapore.
"The exercises we have done show us how to look at commuters who are going to be elderly," Mr Magnus said. "It provides a bridge for us to understand their needs."
On top of that, the PTC and LTA will explore the implementation of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) by private sector providers to benefit commuters' door-to-door journey.
For example, an elderly person who has difficulty moving around might need more than just a taxi to get from one place to another.
"MaaS can be the kind of platform that offers even assistance services just to get out of the house," Ms Heng said. "So, you weave in more than just the public transport services."
Calling MaaS a social integrated app, Mr Magnus said the PTC will study how it can be customised to the needs of the elderly. "It is also a way of exposing our vulnerable groups to the use of technology," he added.
IMPROVING RAIL EXPERIENCE
PTC’s report also found that public confidence in Singapore’s transport system dipped following the two major rail incidents.
However, commuters remained positive that the Government and operators are doing their best to improve service, the report added.
“Singapore commuters remain satisfied with their rail journey experiences, and are appreciative of the service’s staff’s help during their day-to-day journey,” PTC said.
Responding to the findings, SMRT chief executive Desmond Kuek said he is "very confident" of rebuilding commuters' trust and confidence.
"Trust and confidence in our network is one area we continue to need to work on," he said. "We are encouraged by the effort our staff put in to continue to make every effort to improve."
The report suggested that operators deepen training of service ambassadors to help ease spot crowding at train cabin doors.
Good customer service standards, which involves staff who are cheerful and friendly when performing their job, should also be more consistent.
In addition, the report suggested that more attention be given to maintain the cleanliness of trains, stations and amenities, while greater effort should also be made to ensure the clarity of next-stop announcements.
“PTC will continue to listen to commuters for the public good of our transport system,” Mr Magnus said.
WHEN WILL RECOMMENDATIONS BE IMPLEMENTED?
PTC chief executive Tan Kim Hong said it will be able to implement some of the recommendations in the next one to two years. "It depends on how it turns out in terms of engagement with commuters and service providers," he explained.
Mr Magnus said some recommendations take a bit more time to be rolled out because it requires some infrastructure work.
Nevertheless, he pointed out that some recommendations from the first report - including the deployment of staff at MRT station platforms to ensure wheelchair users don't get stuck in the platform gap - have been implemented.
Mr Magnus said next year's report will focus on buses after the new bus contracting model has had time to settle. Subsequent reports will also look at taxis and private hire cars.
"We want to be able to cover as large a base as possible and to make it as current as possible," he added.