When is the bus or train or taxi arriving?

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By Mary Lee

As a community, our threshold for frustration seems relatively high. You don’t often see people arguing in public. Large crowds wait their turn to be served, queuing patiently.

What does frustrate people is the difficulty in getting a bus ride home at the end of the day. Or the inability to find a cab when one needs one. Or not being able to get on one MRT train after another because they’re packed.

What is the solution? We’re not asking for lower fares here. What we want is to be informed. When is the bus arriving? When is the train arriving? What’s causing the delay? How come taxi drivers aren’t aware that there are people waiting for cabs along certain roads without us having to go through the laborious and expensive process of booking a taxi?

Smart phones are carried by many people, so access to such information should not be difficult. I have a bus app on my phone which works most of the time, whichever bus stop I’m at. I tap the bus service number and, if it’s working, which is 95 per cent of the time, it tells me how long I’ll have to wait before the bus arrives. If it says 18 minutes and that is too long to wait, I may try and catch a cab, or even walk, to my destination.

But the information gives me an option, and I don’t feel totally helpless. Some bus stops which have up to 10 different services have an electronic time-board that informs commuters when the next and subsequent bus will arrive. Such information makes a lengthy wait a little more tolerable. Especially after a long day’s work and buses pull up full.

If only someone would make available an app that would alert taxi drivers to areas where they are needed, within an easily reachable distance, say of 0.5-2 km.. Destination areas should also be keyed in so taxis can have people sharing the cab if they are heading in the same general direction.

It would be cheaper than booking a cab with all the hassle and expense of employing operators, and cab drivers have the advantage of earning double or treble the cab fare for going the same distance. The taxi drivers may need to have notice cards showing the different areas they’re going. They may not have to work longer hours, but they would certainly be more productive than they are currently.

As for the MRT trains, commuters are being better informed but information about delays could come faster and alternatives during breakdowns must be communicated immediately and frequently in all four languages.

These seem like such elementary problems. Resolving them would go a long way towards reducing the daily frustrations we face. It’s hard to believe that in our tertiary institutions or even the LTA, we haven’t got the engineers who can fix it.