Make it Right for a Better Ride13 March, 2012
During PassportChop’s recent trip to Taiwan, we were amazed by a very interesting phenomenon in public transportation:
- People automatically give up their seats whenever someone in need of a seat boards the train or bus and usually more than 2-3 people will offer their seats and person in need would have quite a few choices!
- Priority seats are almost never occupied by anyone not belonging to the needy category (as illustrated in the picture below), no matter how crowded the train or bus is.
When I asked my Taiwanese friend about why wouldn’t a commuter just take one of the priority seats when there wasn’t anyone needy of the seat in sight, he explained that the locals would prefer for whoever needs the seat to not feel uncomfortable with a “warm” seat (due to it being occupied by someone who does not need it).
Furthermore, the local culture and society frowns against such behaviour so there is also the element of societal and peer pressure against occupying a priority seat when you don’t really need it.
Apparently this culture of being gracious and considerate to fellow commuters is not just limited to Taiwan. In Kyoto, Japan (in fact anywhere in Japan), commuters queue in an orderly fashion for their trains, no matter how crowded the train station and trains are or whether it is peak or non-peak hours.
This is very different from the current situation in Singapore where we have annual campaigns to promote graciousness on public transport. From the funny Phua Chu Kang “Don’t Play Play” posters to the catchy Dim Sum Dollies’ jingle “Train is coming…”, it is discouraging to still see quite a lot of ungracious behaviour onboard the public transport.
This is evident from the number of photos sent to STOMP of inconsiderate commuters – in fact the volume of such incidents had even prompted STOMP to set up a dedicated section titled aptly as “Singapore Seen – Ugly Commuters” where a series of photos showing commuters in different states of ungraciousness are uploaded for public viewing and comment!
I believe the following summarises the top 3 pet peeves with ungracious commuters in Singapore.
Not Giving Up Your Seat to the Needy
Not Moving to the Centre of the Train or Back of Bus (Blocking of Entrances)
Not Queuing and Letting Others Alight First
I feel that there are also a number of other ungracious behaviors by commuters e.g.
– Public Display of Affections (PDAs)
– Unhygienic Practices e.g. cutting of fingernails
As seen above and at the rate which STOMP’s Ugly Commuter section is being updated, we are still quite some distance away from being gracious commuters. Nonetheless, I feel that public education on the importance of being gracious while commuting, should continue and we should start with the very basic to make each journey more comfortable and pleasant for everyone. That means targeting efforts at encouraging the following behavior:
1) Give up your seat to the needy
2) Move to the centre of train or back of bus
3) Queue and let others alight first
This year’s campaign, “Make It Right For A Better Ride” features posters with poems, slogans and calligraphies penned by commuters on how to make our journeys more pleasant by being gracious. The posters are already on display found at MRT stations, bus shelters, trains and buses to remind passengers to be more considerate when using public transport. Check out http://on.fb.me/betterride for the full collection of these posters.
To me, two of these posters are very inspirational and I totally agree with what these commuters had to say about making every trip gracious and happy for everyone.
I am very inspired by how 11-year old Yeo Shi Wen had articulated clearly why she gives up her seat at the lower deck of the bus to the elderly and despite peer pressure to do otherwise (despite being seen as “uncool” by her friends, she sticks to her principles of doing it right!)
Graciousness is a two-way street. When you do something nice for someone else and make him or her smile, it also makes you feel good.
If someone offers you a seat, you should accept and say ‘Thank You’. If you do not require it, acknowledge the gesture with a smile and decline politely.
Either way, this becomes a reaffirmation of someone’s kind act and encourages that person and those around him or her to continue to do the same. That’s why I totally agree with Christina Chen’s words on Bringing a Smile to Everyone by queuing up or offering your seat.
Let’s all work together to achieve a more gracious commuting experience for everyone. Take the first step by giving your seat to the needy, move to the centre of the train and letting others alight first before boarding.
If you have children, influence them to display good behaviour by educating them on the importance of being gracious and that we can all help each other out. This could perhaps lay the foundation for societal norms to be more gracious, eventually leading us to the direction of a more gracious and inclusive society as seen in the Taiwanese society.
Do you have a favourite poster on your own? Why not join the “Make It Right For A Better Ride” Twitter contest by tweeting the message from your favourite poster and stand to win a pair of movie tickets?
The contest closes on 28th March 2012. More details: http://on.fb.me/betterride