In what looks set to be another wasteful use of public tax payers money, the Land Transport Authority commissioned a study last year to find out what would solve problems such as crowding at MRT train doors and improve commuters’ moods while taking the MRT.

Led by a team from the Transport Experience Lab, the LTA study came up with a football-themed cabin, which had a penalty box drawn on the floor near train cabins, soccer balls tied to the ceiling and an astroturf mat placed at the center of the carriage. The odd design was based on studies which said that commuters’ experiences on trains were improved by witnessing other people performing acts of kindness, such as giving up their seat to someone who needs it more.

Themed MRT cabins, which will be put up in October this year, would improve Singaporean commuters’ needs for “human connection”, says team leader Mrs Audrey Ow.

“We basically realised that we needed a paradigm shift that goes beyond just infrastructural or policy-type service … that would affect the commuters,” Mrs Ow said.

She believes that with regards to service disruptions, SMRT should also think of solutions that go beyond focusing on the broken infrastructure.

“What if we were to rethink the issue from another angle? For instance, the experiential angle, when a service disruption unintentionally happens… How do we help people cope with that anxiety when such disruptions unintentionally happen?”

The football-themed cabin, implemented for two days during the World Cup period last year, experienced some success: Of those who rode in the cabins, 302 commuters said it made them smile, while 193 said they would move into the centre of the cabin to stand on the grass. But those who did not understand the football reference to penalty boxes did not know that they had to stand away from train doors.

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