There is much to appreciate in the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) decision to adopt many of the Public Transport Council's recommendations aimed at making commuting more user-friendly and inclusive. Once in place, the council's proposals, which were based on an intensive six-month consultation involving more than 2,500 commuters, will make travelling via trains, buses and taxis more accessible, and perhaps even safer. In at least half a dozen ways, the elderly, the very young and people with disabilities will benefit. Buses will allow open strollers and cabbies will be trained to serve wheelchair users.
Dual escalator speeds and travelators will offer safer and greater ease of movement for those who want to move more slowly. Bus stops will be more commuter-friendly, buses will be designed to nudge passengers more naturally to the rear, and a reasonable grace period will be given when a personal situation warrants it.
These welcome additions are likely to incentivise more people to use public transport. But there are some concerns which the LTA must address in accommodating these changes. While the relatively high commuter satisfaction ratings may be the envy of public transport authorities in major cities, commuters here are just as consistently unhappy over three aspects of bus and train ridership: crowding, waiting and travelling times, and service reliability. These factors consistently rank lowest in annual satisfaction surveys and point to an underlying commuter priority: expending as little time as possible while travelling.
Time being a key disincentive in using public transport, the system must be designed to facilitate smooth rides. In addition, users must not push the limits of inclusiveness by, for example, ferrying cargo together with prams or wheelchairs. Consideration and patience demonstrated by all will be essential to making the scheme work.