MRT to try out new way to queue to foster gracious behaviour

Aim is to foster graciousness and make getting in and out easier

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) is planning to try out a new queueing scheme at selected MRT stations to smoothen the boarding and alighting process.

It has drawn inspiration from cities such as Taipei, where the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation draws queue lines along station platforms to encourage commuters to line up and board trains in an orderly fashion.

At stations here, markings prompt commuters to stand clear of the doors, but things can get messy when the train doors open.

The LTA is also considering a scheme that would allow simultaneous boarding and alighting.

The upcoming trial is part of a concerted effort by the LTA to foster gracious behaviour among commuters to make public transport journeys more pleasant.

LTA group director for corporate communications Tammie Loke says it is firming up details and locations for the scheme.

"While the LTA works to bring in more rail lines and buses and improve amenities overall, commuters can do a lot to make their own journeys better," she said.

The LTA started running its graciousness programme in 2009 with the Public Transport Council (PTC). Past campaigns have featured celebrities, including the Dim Sum Dollies, but throughout this year, it will use messages from commuters on how to improve travelling etiquette.

Ms Loke noted that changing attitudes and behaviour takes time, so the LTA is looking to sustain its campaign over a longer period than previous ones, which lasted for only several months.

Past LTA surveys have found commuters' three main grouses are people who do not queue, those who fail to move in on buses and trains, and those who fail to give up seats to people in need of them. This year's programme will also encourage passengers to ask nicely for a seat.

Besides traditional posters and stickers, the LTA is also using social media and YouTube videos. Next month, it will launch a Facebook app so commuters can post photos and share stories of positive public transport experiences.

Said Ms Loke: "The idea is to move away from the 'shame and tell' of some online sites and shift towards the positive."

In August, a new series of posters highlighting "social norms" will be introduced to the transport network. They will carry messages such as: "87 per cent of commuters say they give up their seats to those who need them more. Are you one of them?"

A UK study found tax payment rates jumped when citizens received letters that highlighted social norms instead of threatening penalties for non-payment. The LTA is hoping this new approach will resonate with commuters.

It is also planning to work with the Ministry of Education to introduce graciousness on public transport as an area of focus in students' curriculums.

PTC chairman Gerard Ee said commuters have to buy into the message of graciousness.

He said: "As more people do it, others will follow... There are people who are not displaying signs of courtesy. But if we focus on those, we miss out on a larger number of people who have actually changed their behaviour."

Student Shen Hong Sheng, 23, said a new queueing scheme might have limited impact during peak periods, but "it will help during off-peak hours, when trains are still quite crowded but it's not so orderly in queueing".

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