The recent announcement by Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) regarding changes to public transport payment methods, excluding older cards by June 2024, has generated significant discontent among the public.
Commuters using SimplyGo face the inconvenience of being unable to view fare information at station gates and bus readers due to the processing method of such transactions. This issue has become a primary concern for many commuters.
In response to media inquiries, LTA acknowledged that while displaying the information at fare gates is “technically possible”, it defended its decision by stating that obtaining and displaying balance and deduction information from the backend system could take “a few seconds.”
LTA argued that this could potentially slow down the entry and exit process for commuters.
However, LTA’s explanation has not successfully persuaded fellow commuters.
The online community has raised further questions, questioning why the previous system was able to provide this feature and expressing concerns about the lack of initiatives by LTA to address and improve the situation before deciding to remove the existing system.
LTA addresses concern over fare information display while using SimplyGo
Last Friday (12 Jan), in response to queries from state media CNA, LTA clarified that tapping a SimplyGo EZ-Link card would prompt fare gates and bus readers to take “a few seconds” to retrieve and display the card balance and deduction information from the backend system.
“While this is technically possible, it will slow down the entry and exit for commuters,” said LTA.
“Given the large numbers of commuters who are taking MRT and buses, this will lead to longer queues which is not desirable.”
A notable concern voiced by many is the absence of a card balance display at MRT fare gates or bus card readers under the SimplyGo system.
Instead, the screen only shows “SimplyGo,” requiring users to check their card balance through ticketing machines or the SimplyGo app.
LTA defended this approach, stating that the SimplyGo app was designed to provide comprehensive trip details and alerts on fares through push notifications.
Users who opt not to use the app can access trip details and card balance information at ticketing machines in train stations and bus interchanges.
LTA states renewing the existing CBT System would be ‘very costly’
Acknowledging the success of the existing Card-Based Ticketing (CBT) system, LTA highlighted that it is approaching the end of its operational lifespan.
LTA added that two in three adult commuters have adopted SimplyGo since December 2023.
“Instead of renewing the CBT system and continuing to run two systems which is very costly, we have decided to continue only with the SimplyGo system for adult commuters from 1 June 2024.”
Recognizing the adjustment period required for those yet to switch to SimplyGo, LTA assured commuters that the transition was announced several months in advance and that service ambassadors would be deployed at train stations and bus interchanges to assist them.
“We will continue to leverage advancements in technology to improve the experience of checking fares and card balances with SimplyGo.”
Netizens question LTA’s decision to phase out existing systems and transition to a perceived downgrade in payment methods
Nevertheless, upon reviewing netizen comments on both CNA and LTA’s Facebook posts, many individuals questioned the necessity of completely removing existing systems instead of seamlessly integrating new ones with the old.
Several users expressed the sentiment that commuters appear to be compelled to transition to what seems like a downgrade from the current reliable payment method, causing inconvenience in the process.
Others raised queries regarding the upgrades implemented by LTA, especially considering the removal of the existing payment method while allowing concession cards to persist.
Moreover, some netizens expressed confusion over LTA’s use of technical language in justifying the discontinuation of the old CBT system for adult commuters.
LTA claimed that the old system is “nearing the end of its operational lifespan,” leaving some users perplexed about the specific reasons behind this decision.
Observing the LTA’s official Facebook post, it’s apparent that netizens have voiced dissatisfaction with the authority’s decision.
Many deem it inefficient and inconvenient for their card balance not to be immediately displayed on the scanning machine.
One netizen suggested that IT should make improvements if they claim it slows down the system.
The netizen expressed skepticism, stating that if EZ-Link can display the balance immediately, then SimplyGo should be capable of doing the same.
Netizen recommends a unified standard card system for seamless transactions
Meanwhile, a comment suggested that Singapore should consider adopting the approach followed by countries like Japan (Suica), Hong Kong (Octopus Card), and Taiwan (iPass: Easy Card) by having a unified standard card for all transportation, convenience store transactions, and payments.
“Why do you need a SimplyGo Ez-link and NETS prepaid card. Making things so complicated for citizens. You should do something to ensure the SimplyGo card also display card balance on the fare gate like how existing ez-link card uses, ” the netizen said.
The individual further expressed frustration over the perceived inconvenience of having to visit ticketing machines for upgrades and criticized the new ticketing machines for being less efficient than their older counterparts.
While LTA claims that commuters can access their balance and trip information through the SimplyGo app, which also provides fare alerts via push notifications on users’ phones, a netizen raised concerns about the extended processing time of SimplyGo’s backend systems.
The netizen questioned why the backend systems take so long to compute. He shared his experience of no fare information being displayed throughout the entire day, except for an initial deduction of S$3.50 when they first boarded with the NETS Prepaid Card.
Another commuter shared her experience, highlighting issues encountered while attempting to upgrade her existing card to SimplyGo at the kiosk.
According to the commuter, the upgrade process allegedly became stuck at 95%, rendering the card unusable.
When seeking assistance from the counter staff, she was informed that the system was down island-wide, and she would have to wait until it was restored to complete the upgrade.
The commuter raised several questions:
1) why isn’t sufficient capacity to cater for the increase number of requests for upgrade requests?
3) why isn’t there an increased number of staff to cater for simplygo upgrades?
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