Policymakers should walk a mile in commuters' shoes

The Land Transport Authority is certainly on the right track with its initiative to seek users' perspective for its 2040 masterplan (LTA seeks ideas to realise Singapore's car-lite dream; Sept 20).

The heart of any transportation system is the commuter experience, and LTA has consistently sought to align its efforts with what the users need through ground-sensing.

However, it is puzzling that much intervention is needed to manage and regulate major initiatives.

An example is the active mobility programme promoting the use of alternative means of transport such as walking, cycling, and using personal mobility devices (PMDs) or others for first-and last-mile journeys.

Initial attempts at introducing bike-sharing has seen bicycles being abused and haphazardly parked, obstructing walkways with even a few of them ending up in trees.

The new licensing regime for bike-sharing operators is now much more stringent and costly.

How much of these obligations and costs would roll down to commuters?

The introduction of PMDs and e-bicycles has gained traction, but in such a dysfunctional manner that the Active Mobility Act had to be enacted to ensure safety.

Even then, the Act is unwieldy and not intuitive; one has to remember the rules and where the four main types of mobility devices can be legally used.

This ironically puts people off such alternative means of transport. The cost of enforcement is also significant.

If LTA is already receiving sufficient feedback from the ground, then why is the execution of the programmes seemingly not so well thought-out?

Does the problem lie with the policymakers then?

For a start, how many of those on the advisory panel reviewing the feedback actually take public transport daily, and are PMD users championing active mobility?

Getting users' feedback lets policymakers sympathise with users, but unless they actually go through the user experience themselves, policymakers will lack the empathy to come up with effective and sustainable solutions. Going through the commuting experience will also allow them to stand by their recommendations.

Teo Chian Chye

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2018, with the headline 'Policymakers should walk a mile in commuters' shoes'. Subscribe