LCD screens at station platforms to guide people to less crowded cars
Downtown Line to trial system showing how full train cars are The new Passenger Load Information System display at Downtown MRT station. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Downtown Line MRT commuters will soon get a better sense of which cars of an oncoming train are crowded or empty, so they can choose the appropriate platform doors to queue at.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday announced the pilot of a new Passenger Load Information System, which will display the load levels in each train car on LCD screens at the platform.

The authority said this will help channel more commuters to less crowded train cars for easier boarding and maximise each train's capacity.

There will be three colour codes: Green indicates that the train car is not crowded and commuters have a high chance of getting a seat; amber means only standing space is available, with a low probability of securing seats; and red means there is limited standing space.

The system was rolled out at the Downtown Line's Downtown station yesterday morning, and extended to five more stations - Bugis, Chinatown, Bayfront, Promenade and Telok Ayer - in the evening.

By next week, all 34 stations on the Downtown Line will have the system.

The trial will last six months so that the system can be fine-tuned and the LTA can get feedback through commuter surveys. This will help it decide whether to extend the system to other MRT lines.

The LTA said the Downtown Line was chosen for the trial because the trains are equipped with the hardware to measure passenger load.

Data for the Passenger Load Information System is derived from the weight of passengers, using load sensors that are already on trains. The load sensors are required for the train's braking system.

After passengers have alighted and others have boarded a train and its doors close, this loading data is transmitted - within a few seconds - to the next train station, for commuters waiting at the platform there.

The system, which cost $1.5 million and took about eight months to develop, also updates the loading information for a train at the platform as passengers get on and off.

Mr Purnadi K, 46, an IT manager, said: "Some cars are very crowded and others quite empty. The crowds are not spread out. So, having this system is a good improvement."

Mr Tham Chen Munn, director of PTV Group, a traffic solutions company, said passengers naturally gravitate towards platform doors nearest escalators and staircases, or towards each end of the platform.

He said the LCD screens displaying train loading information must be visible to all commuters. He suggested that the screens be located above each platform door instead of at the far end of the platform, as is the case at Downtown station.

Mr Tham, however, questioned the effectiveness of the system during peak hours.

He asked: "So, if a passenger sees 'red' and decides to avoid that platform door, what happens if a chunk of passengers alight there? Wouldn't there be freed-up space then?"