LTA feedback division keeps ear to the ground

Among the numbers Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Sim Ann has on speed dial is one belonging to a Land Transport Authority (LTA) community partnership manager.

She calls him regularly to discuss traffic issues. "It's a great help," she said. "The LTA is quite forward-looking in reaching out."

She is not the only one.

The public is increasingly getting in touch with the agency for help, and to make their views heard.

In the space of three years, the LTA has seen the volume of feedback it receives from the public nearly double. From an average of 360 monthly cases in 2010, its Community Partnership division handled 640 cases every month last year.

Mr Mohamed Farook Abdul Wahab, one of the division's deputy directors, attributes the increase to an attitude shift after the 2011 elections.

"Singaporeans are bolder in making requests and expressing their dissatisfaction about the frequency of buses and overloading in the trains," he said.

But most of the issues are municipal ones. Mr Farook said Housing Board residents will raise concerns on facilities such as covered walkways and footpaths. Those living in private estates tend to complain about a lack of parking spaces or illegal parking.

And beyond taking down complaints, the division works hand in hand with residents to solve problems, such as building a footpath for Braddell View condominium residents to get to the Caldecott MRT station.

Previously, there was a dirt track between the headquarters of the Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped (SAVH) and CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh)'s school field. But in July 2011, the SAVH sealed off the track on its land to restrict access to its premises.

After requests from Braddell View residents for an alternate path, the LTA worked with other government agencies to obtain approval for a new walkway to be built on part of the land bordering CHIJ.

A tender for the footpath will be awarded soon, and construction is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Said LTA community partnership manager Vincens Tay, who handled the case: "You need some agency to help drive such plans through. Since we are always on the ground, we thought let's get people together to push it through."

The Community Partnership team serves as the face of the LTA, addressing the concerns of residents islandwide. The division is split into six teams, each overseeing a region of Singapore.

Every community partnership manager reaches out to residents through grassroots meetings, community events and house visits.

In a bid to enhance its feedback service, the LTA last month also brought in the staff who handle communications for road and rail projects to work alongside the Community Partnership division under a new Quality Service Management office.

The merger has boosted the number of staff handling feedback from 32 to 56.

Said Mr Farook: "More and more, you need the human touch. People want the Government to listen to them."