The Problem With Passengers Who Like to Exit-Block

Dk commented that no matter how they draw the lines, there will still be jokers who will block the exit (or is entrance).

Over at the post, there have been some suggestions on how to prevent commuters from blocking the path of those who want to exit.

Spikes, Sweeping doors…

Nothing will work.

Well, there is 1 solution that could work. You put all boarding passengers behind another door some distance away. Once the alighting passengers have cleared, the second door will open, allowing the commuters to board the train. This is something like the system used by the monorail system over at Sentosa.

In the end though, all these actions is just an attempt to control very expected behavior. The key is to change the behavior. Not control it.

How to change? Remove the incentive to want to rush into a train. Now, from my observation, people block the entrance (or is it exit) of the train not because they are concerned about getting into the train, nor concerned about getting into the train first.

What they are actually concerned about is getting into the train early enough to grab a seat.

So, the key to changing the behavior is to remove all the seats on trains.

Yup. No more seats, nothing to fight about.

But wait, what about old people, pregnant women, disabled passengers.

Hmmm…what about them…. they aren’t getting seats already…so what would be the difference?

On Singapore

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No Seats On The MRT Should Be Reserved

Have you noticed the changed signs on our MRT trains informing us which seats are reserved? What a total waste of money.

There should not be any concept of reserved seats on the train.

All those classes of people who are supposed to get the seats near the exit should get any seat if they need it and want it.

While I understand why certain seats are specifically chosen to have the status reserved (because they are closest to the exits), designating certain seats for a special purpose excludes the other seats from fulfilling that purpose.

I get a sense each time I see someone who needs a seat enter the train that everyone NOT sitting on a reserved seat feels that it isn’t their job to offer their place. After all, they aren’t the ones occupying the reserve seat. And it isn’t like there is a sign that says they have to offer.

People pass the buck when we offer someone they can pass it to.

Not having reserved seats is the first step in developing a culture where everyone feels obliged, or rather be more willing, to give up their seat because they can, not because they have to.

Further thoughts:

I am not sure if it is because of recent STOMP shamings, but people seem more reluctant to sit on reserved seats at the earlier stops along the lines. All the non-reserved seats get filled first. This is quite different from the past where people might sit on a reserved seat even though there were empty non-reserved seats. It is like, if I sit there, then it becomes my problem to offer a seat later on. If I don’t, then I can have a peaceful trip because I am not obliged to do anything.

I don’t understand why we haven’t developed a culture where people who genuinely need something can just ask for it.

I used to be very strict on myself about the ‘no-sitting-on-reserved-seats’ rule because my mom had somehow got it into my head they were truly reserved for those people with the identified needs. They always felt like sacred spaces which my sitting would violate.

I believe it was probably around upper secondary or JC that I realized no one else cared. So I didn’t.

When I was going to church actively, I somehow got it into my head that all the ladies on a cabin should be having seats before I get to sit and if a lady entered the cabin, I should quietly leave my seat to open up 1 slot for her. I didn’t explicitly offer it to her because that would just be awkward with Singapore’s culture.

The above notion was probably dismissed after a couple of months when I realized all the other guys weren’t playing by the same rules.

The kiasu part of the Singaporean kicked in – I wasn’t going to let another guy enjoy a seat while I denied myself that right privilege. I am ashamed that I still think that way.

Musing about Life
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How I Try To Make My Public Transport Experience More Enjoyable

I wrote this in an earlier post:

Small example: I hate traveling back during peak hour. No matter how much noise I make, the transport companies aren’t going to fix things in the short term. So I make my own plans to ensure that my own commuting experience is a pleasant one.

Someone asked me to elaborate. I’ll try. But let’s temper the expectations – what I’m sharing isn’t new. Lots of people have been doing it. It is more of a change of my own thinking to help make life just a wee bit happier for me.

The Singapore Public Transport problem is really simple. It can be roughly summed up below:

Public Transport Experience = k(Resources(t) – Consumers(t)) where k is a positive coefficient and t is time.

In Singapore’s case, it is evident that at certain times of the day, the public transport experience is negative because the number of consumers stretch the resources to, and sometimes pass, its limits.

I can’t control the resources part of the equation. What I can do, is control the consumers part. I can also increase k.

So how do I do it?

To improve k.

1. I subscribe to mailing lists. I do this so that my BlackBerry will always have something interesting to read. Surfing the net when commuting is a terrible experience. Reading email which gets loaded throughout the day isn’t.

Some people read books, listen to music, play games or watch videos on their portable players. I read email from mailing lists I have selected with care.

2. I go in with the mindset I’m not going to try to get a seat no matter how tired I am. I take it as a given that the default is standing. I take it as a default that I’m going to be squeezed like a sardine. If there is a seat, I resist going to sit on it even if no one seems interested to have a sit.

I do the above to train myself to manage my expectations on the public transport experience. Once I can lower my expectations, then whatever shit happens, well, I don’t get upset thus my k-coefficient is maintained.

The problem is not the level of your experience. The problem is the gap between the level of your experience and the expectations for that experience.

I know I know…self deception.

I also started observing at the various stations I usually board the train which cars are the one that have the least among of people. I think people are predictable and thus the distribution of people being squeezed into cabins do follow a pattern.

Some people might say that for a really packed train, there is no difference between cabins. I beg to differ. However, these observations are totally unscientific and this might just be another case of a self-deceptive coping mechanism.

I control the time I take the public transport.

I realized the problem with t is this – I suspect most people do not like to go to work early or leave work late. I’ve been thinking about this and I realized it is a mindset thing. People see the office as this terrible place that must be escaped. If the work you do is something you enjoy, then I think this issue is slightly mitigated, so first rule – get a job which allows you to do work you actually love.

For going to work, I start observing at which time leaving the house allows me to minimize bus waiting time and overall transport time. Usually this means you get to the office real early or real late. I started bringing my home laptop so I could do my own stuff in the office if I got there really early. I also started pushing the boundaries of how late I could actually get to work before the higher management actually said something; once I knew the actual markers, I planned accordingly.

Fortunately, my dad recently changed his morning driving route so now on most days I get a ride to the MRT.

Anyway, I used to think once office hours were over, the office was a place that needed to be escaped. I think that’s why you see people rushing off all at the same time once the standard hours are over. So I started changing the way I view my office. It becomes a base for me to live a life. I plan non-work related stuff to do in the office. I bring a book that I can read in the office. I searched out for places around my office that I can explore or just hang out by myself.

Of course, not everyone has the, what I consider, good fortune to be working in the city. Plus a good deal of people do not have the luxury of going back later because of kids or other family commitments.

Also, there might be times you have to rush off somewhere because of other plans. Besides trying to make all my plans in the city, what I do is this – I increased my walking range.

I’ve been walking from Shenton Way to Orchard Road, River Valley, Suntec City. Just yesterday, I walked from Lau Pa Sat to the National Library to return the books then walked to Sim Lim Square to take a bus home.

I’ve also started walking home from Newton MRT to my place. The trick I learned is to plan to walk home before you hit the bus stop. The reason is that when you already planned to walk home, the experience is much better than waiting for the bus then deciding to walk home because the bus is just taking so damn bloody long to arrive.

I’ve also started researching what sort of bike to buy once I move house and the possibility of cycling to work from the new place. I also started checking out my floor and realized the handicap toilet has shower facilities which I can use when I, hopefully, start cycling to work.

The thing is, we are so used to cars, buses and MRT that we forgot that these ways of traveling was never always a given. I still can remember the stories my elders would tell me about how they would walk home from school just to save a little bit of money. We could learn from that, not so much to save money, but to find a different way to get around in an urban environment.

On Singapore

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A New Singaporean Bus Company You Could Love

I asked a question a while back about how Singaporeans themselves can improve the public transport system?

I learned of a new transport company started by NUS undergraduates to help get students to NUS easily. The company’s name is Veloce and I think it is a terrific idea. They saw a problem – getting to NUS was not easy for people not staying in the west. They saw a significant number of people having the problems which usually means a business opportunity and they seized the opportunity.

Go check their site out if you are a NUS student tired of the hassle to getting to school. The site and their service just induces a warm fuzzy feeling.

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I Finally Realized SBS Transit’s Intelligent Route Information System Was Meant To Suck

I was waiting for my bus at this bus-stop beside the AMK MRT station. This stop has a display board which tells you when the next bus will come. The board said my bus had arrived. The bus probably belongs to Wonder Woman because I couldn’t see the bus at all.

Anyway, I was thinking how this iris ( Intelligent Route Information System ) sucked when I realized the people who implemented it probably already knew it was going to be bad in accurately reporting the arrival times.

How did I arrive at the above conclusion?

They named the system with the acronym iris.

Iris was a messenger-goddess who rode rainbows between heaven and earth to deliver messages from Olympus.

I wonder if it was by pure coincidence that iris is the name of a goddess who was a messenger for the gods. No matter. I think the implementors of the system were already hinting to us the effectiveness of their bus-tracking-time-reporting system by using a girl’s name.

Seriously, when has a girl who said she will be done in five minutes ever got done in five minutes.

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