Red, amber, green: New system tells MRT commuters which train cars are empty or crowded

The new Passenger Load Information System will display the load levels in each train car through LCD screens at the platform.
The new Passenger Load Information System will display the load levels in each train car through LCD screens at the platform.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ LTA

SINGAPORE - Downtown Line MRT commuters will soon get a better sense of which cabins of an oncoming train are crowded or empty, so they can choose the appropriate platform doors to queue at.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Monday (May 14) announced the pilot of a new Passenger Load Information System, which will display the load levels in each train car through LCD screens at the platform.

The authority said this will help to channel more commuters to less crowded train cars for easier boarding and maximise each train's capacity.

There will be three colour codes: Green indicates that the train car is not crowded and commuters have a high chance of getting a seat; amber means only standing space is available, with a low probability of securing seats; and red means there is limited standing space.

The system was rolled out at Downtown Line's Downtown station on Monday morning and will be extended to five more stations – Bugis, Chinatown, Bayfront, Promenade and Telok Ayer – in the evening.

By next week, all 34 stations on the Downtown Line will have the system.

The trial of the system will last six months so that it can be fine-tuned and for the LTA to get feedback through commuter surveys. This will help LTA decide whether to extend the system to other MRT lines.

A similar system is employed in Tokyo, on the Yamanote Line.


The LTA said the Downtown Line was chosen for the trial because the trains are equipped with the hardware to measure passenger load.

Data for the Passenger Load Information System is derived from the weight of  passengers, using load sensors that are already on trains. The load sensors are required for the train’s braking system.

After passengers have alighted and boarded a train and its doors close, this loading data is transmitted – within a few seconds –  to the next train station, for commuters waiting at the platform there.

The system, which cost $1.5 million and took about eight months to develop, also updates the loading information for a train at the platform as passengers get on and off. 

Commuter Andy Ang, 35, said the system will be useful for the North-South East-West Line, which has trains comprising six cars each. The Downtown Line’s trains have three cars each. 

Mr Ang, a bank relationship manager, typically waits for the train at either end of the platform, where he reckons the cabins are less crowded. “It can be hit and miss,” Mr Ang said. 

Mr Purnadi K, 46, an IT manager, said: “Some cars are very crowded and others quite empty. The crowds are not spread out. So, having this system is a good improvement.” 

He suggested that load levels for oncoming, as well as subsequent, trains be made available, so he can decide whether to give the first one a miss if it is too packed. 

Mr Tham Chen Munn, director of PTV Group, a traffic solutions company, said passengers naturally gravitate towards platform doors nearest escalators and staircases, or towards each end of the platform.

He said the LCD screens displaying train loading information must be visible to all commuters. He suggested that they could even be located above each platform door instead of having them at the far end of the platform, as is the case at Downtown station.

Mr Tham questioned the effectiveness of the system during peak hours, however. He said: “So if a passenger sees ‘red’, and decides to avoid that platform door. What happens if a chunk of passengers alight there? Wouldn’t there be freed-up space then?”