Learning from other cities

Singapore's first MRT system might have been in place since the 1980s, but its improvement over the years pales in comparison with systems in other cities like Shenzhen, which started its metro in 2004.

A recent trip to Shenzhen was eye-opening. I was impressed by not only the technological advancements, but also the way its metro system is operated and managed, and how it runs seamlessly with a much bigger population than ours.

I hope our fourth-generation (4G) leaders can learn from other cities.

Sometimes, one can learn more from walking the ground than engaging consultants. The late Dr Goh Keng Swee and Mr Lee Kuan Yew are good examples our 4G leaders should emulate.

Attention to small details matters too.

In Shenzhen, gentle slopes have been built along the sides of stairways leading to and out of train stations - this saves on the installation and maintenance of escalators.

The elderly, parents with strollers and anyone with luggage find this very convenient as well.

Lifts are only occasionally used by the elderly.

Also, security checks are in place at the entrance of every metro station to check bags and to detect the content of water bottles.

Multiple modes of payment to use the metro, via cards, tokens or smartphones, are available.

Many street hawkers and vendors have an easier time running their businesses because of the facility for cashless payments.

While big companies have the resources to employ full-time cashiers, small businesses are the ones that really need to go cashless so they can serve customers faster instead of spending time collecting money.

Places such as hawker centres, small provision shops and stand-alone outlets here should thus be given the priority to go cashless.

We should also have a portal by which Singaporeans who travel abroad regularly can provide feedback on areas we can improve upon.

Government agencies can adopt these ideas after giving due recognition to the contributors.

Such feedback will help shape Singapore to become a better place.

Eddy See Siew Leng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2018, with the headline 'Learning from other cities'. Print Edition | Subscribe