Going from Good to Great

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I read the PTC’s Advisory Report and fully support their focus on commuters.

We exist because of the commuters. Fulfilling their needs is our mission. Not all wishes that were expressed to PTC can be fulfilled because what one person wants may contradict with another person’s aspiration. But we should do our best to reach a fair compromise. I also support PTC’s strategy to look to other cities for inspiration and learning points. Our problems are common and we should learn from each other.

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Receiving PTC’s inaugural Advisory Report

I read commuters’ strong feedback on making our buses and trains more senior-friendly, child-friendly and more inclusive. Our population is ageing and we need to up our birth rate. We must make our city the best place to bring up children and for our seniors. From a transport perspective, this means we will continue instilling a philosophy of making sure our seniors and disabled are able to use the transport network with confidence, while at the same time we embrace the needs of young families in their daily journeys. This philosophy starts from the beginning of a rail line or bus service with our transport planners and designers, and will be ingrained all the way through to our staff on the ground, delivering efficient, reliable service with a smile. As the PTC puts it, it is the small things which make a difference between a good transport system and a great transport experience. We have a good public transport system, but our job is to make the journey great too.

LTA will study PTC’s Report and strive to put into practice the many useful recommendations contained in it.

Watching out for seniors!

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As we get more senior citizens in our midst, we must make special efforts to ensure that Singapore is fully elderly friendly.  I will do my part in MOT.  We will build on some existing initiatives.

LTA’s Green Man Plus scheme at selected pedestrian crossings has been in place for 6 years.  Senior citizens and persons with disabilities can tap their transport concession cards on a sensor at the traffic light post.  Doing so extends the ‘Green Man’ duration so they can take their time to cross the road.

While overhead bridges are the safest means to cross roads, climbing a flight of steps can be difficult for the elderly. To ease their efforts, LTA has started installing lifts at overhead bridges.  Six have been installed so far, and lifts at another 41 overhead bridges will be completed by 2018.  We will continue to look for bridges that are often used by seniors, with a view to building lifts for them.

One recent initiative is to create “Silver Zones”, for us to test out some new traffic features to deliberately slow down motorists so that the elderly can make their way across major roads slowly and safely, without stress. In Bt Merah and Jurong West, we are testing out rumble strips, raised zebra crossings, centre dividers, and pinch points.  And at the upcoming Silver Zone in Woodlands, we will be testing a raised junction.  By 2020, we hope to have 35 Silver Zones island-wide.

Where practicable, we have also reclaimed road space by narrowing our roads to create more space for footpaths for a safer and more enjoyable walk. These have been very popular and we will extend them to other parts of Singapore.

Car entering a Silver Zone Gateway

Car entering a Silver Zone Gateway

Raised Junction - Artist Impression

Raised Junction – Artist Impression

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Sharing economy in transition

Sharing Economy

I have been intrigued by the emerging sharing economy.  Technology, internet are combining to make this simple concept (we share surplus resources for maximum public good) viable. Uber, Grabtaxi and the likes help to link up (surplus) supply with demand, leading to better resource utilisation and consumer welfare. Like all new business models, there will be winners and losers. But if consumers benefit, the models are likely to survive or even flourish, no doubt, with modifications along the way as dictated by the market.

Some of the applications may even transform lifestyles. See the huge uber market capitalisation and how the young have taken to uber and airbnb.

Some countries, like Germany, have banned uber and its likes. Some like, New York, tried to ban it at first but have now decided to hold back in response to commuters’ unhappiness.  I think they have over-reacted and have been hasty in their judgement on such new business concepts. A balanced approach is called for.

TaxisSingaporeans have responded well to such innovations. Commuters find it easier to call a taxi. Taxi operators do not welcome it but forced to compete, have been able to rise to the challenge, to the benefit of commuters.

Taxi drivers have also welcomed uberTAXI, as they saw their business improve. However, during the recent GE campaign, quite a number of taxi drivers have told me that “uberX is unfair”.  I was surprised.  Apparently, uberX signs on drivers to drive private hire cars to provide a booking type of transport service, and these drivers do not need a vocational licence unlike taxi drivers. While taxi drivers welcome competition, they demand that the playing field be level. I think our taxi drivers have a point.

MOT will study this, and where justified, we shall level the playing field.  I have asked SMS Ng Chee Meng to take on this assignment, consult our taxi drivers and the general public, and forge a fair solution.

We must not resist new innovations and new business models.  Our instinct must be to flow with the time, keep an open mind to innovations.  But we must always be fair to players, whether incumbent or insurgents, and strike a balanced approach.

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