Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Connecting with your audience

Yesterday, for the first time in a long while, the Northeast MRT subway line broke down. I was trapped in Potong Pasir MRT station, on board the train, for about twenty minutes which isn't all that bad, except it was rush hour (about 7pm) and every commuter was just looking forward to going home pronto after a hard day's work. I was one of them.

To my fellow commuters' credit, everyone remain calm and composed. It was as if these things happen regularly (which in fact, it doesn't). People got to talking grandmother and grandfather stories to pass the time, anticipating that the glitch will be resolved soon. SBSTransit, the operator of this sophisticated driverless subway system, wasn't so sure. But it did its part in giving out periodic announcements on the state of the repairs.

The only problem is that the PA system announcements didn't reach into the train itself where the bulk of its intended audience were. It was ridiculous. Even those, like me, standing near the doors of the train could only guess at what was being announced. Sometimes we took a guess, others just followed what the others were doing, either staying put or leaving the train. After waiting ten minutes or so, we were informed that it would be another ten minutes' delay. Many of us, myself included, abandoned the train and considered alternatives.

Lo and behold, a few moments after I had step off the train and was on my handphone seeking advice from my wife on alternative transport, the train resumed operation. This time, no announcements were made prior to the train moving off. Just when I was in a position to hear any announcement loud and clear, they don't announce anything. It caught all of us who were standing outside the train by surprise. I had to wait for the next train, which, thankfully, came in a short while.

I am sure SBSTransit had been doing its level best to get the system going, but they really really need to fix their mis-performing and mis-communicating communications systems. That is the least one would expect from a state of the art subway system.

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