Proposals 'welcome but not game changers'

Manager of student development at Temasek Polytechnic Tony Halim, who reached his peak weight of 94kgin July 2014, uses wearable technology and mobile apps to monitor his physical activities and calorie intake.
Manager of student development at Temasek Polytechnic Tony Halim, who reached his peak weight of 94kgin July 2014, uses wearable technology and mobile apps to monitor his physical activities and calorie intake. PHOTO: ST FILE

Father-of-two Tony Halim does not take his children on buses during peak hours or when they are crowded, simply because of the ban on open prams.

The 39-year-old said that taking a child out of a stroller and folding it up can prove a "challenge" to parents in such situations and he takes a cab instead.

This is one of the reasons why he hopes recommendations in a report by the Public Transport Council (PTC) will be implemented.

Released yesterday, the PTC makes 17 suggestions to improve public transport, such as allowing open prams on buses. Currently, they must be folded up.

"Many younger families live in estates further away, and if you want to encourage them to take public transport, this will help," said Mr Halim, a manager in a polytechnic.

Other suggestions include providing a grace period for seniors, children and those with health problems to exit and re-enter train stations if they need the toilet.

The recommendations have been welcomed by experts.

Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Transport, said the recommendations "are commuter-centric and focus on groups of Singaporeans that may have difficulties utilising public transport".

The Potong Pasir MP added: "This is important as we move towards the vision of a car-lite Singapore... We must ensure that our public transport system is accessible to all Singaporeans."

Fellow GPC member Zaqy Mohamad said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) could take the suggestions into account and phase them in when new trains and buses are launched in the future.

But some experts have also pointed out that the suggestions made by the PTC are not "game changers".

"These recommendations will improve the commuting experience a bit but they are not something that will bring in fundamental change," said SIM University senior lecturer Park Byung Joon.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng agreed, but said that if the suggestions are implemented, it would improve the public transport experience from start to end.

"They try to facilitate the entire commuting experience - not just having reliable MRT trains or punctual buses - the moment you wait at the bus stop," said Professor Lee.

Some of the suggestions, such as displaying real-time trip information in buses, are already in place in many other countries.

"Many of these suggestions, there is no harm implementing and it's not difficult if the LTA wants to do so," added Prof Lee.

The LTA said a review of the ban on open prams is under way. It said it is "exploring ways to make public buses more family friendly and is studying different restraint systems with operators which will allow open strollers to be secured on public buses".

Danson Cheong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'Proposals 'welcome but not game changers''. Print Edition | Subscribe