Use technology to reserve MRT seats for the elderly

Singapore's population is an ageing one. With current birth rates and without immigration, the median age of our citizens will rise to 47 in 2030 from 39 in 2011.

At the same time, the Government is interested in promoting a car-lite society, with a greater emphasis on public transport. 

In order to make public transport an attractive and viable option for our growing pool of senior citizens, it is insufficient to simply have more buses and trains.

There must additionally be adequate seats on these buses and trains for our senior citizens, who may find it exhausting to have to stand throughout their journeys.

In this regard, a perennial bugbear is the unwillingness of younger commuters to offer their seats to the elderly.

Currently, the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) preferred solution is to designate some of the seats as reserved ones and encourage commuters to be gracious in giving them up to seniors.

However, this solution has been in place for quite some time and yet the stream of complaints continues.

I propose replacing the normal reserved seats with tip-up seats similar to those found in some cinemas.

These reserved tip-up seats would be locked in the folded-up position and linked to a card reader that will unlock the seat when a senior citizen's concession card is scanned.

A similar card reader system is already being used at traffic lights to enable elderly people to increase the duration of the green-man light, as senior citizens usually take a longer time to cross the road.

Tip-up seats are already in use in trains overseas. LTA is even studying the installation of such seats in new trains here.

It would probably not be too difficult to bring these technologies together to assure elderly people of some reserved seats on public transport.

Christopher Ong Wen Rong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 08, 2016, with the headline 'Use technology to reserve MRT seats for the elderly'. Print Edition | Subscribe