Why do some Singaporeans behave badly on public buses and what can bus captains do?
Mr J Kong was travelling home on bus service 157 last month when he saw an elderly man put his feet up on the seat opposite him.
The 38-year-old senior paralegal told The Straits Times he was aghast at the “unhygienic” and “inconsiderate” act.
Noticing that the passenger seated next to the old man looked visibly uncomfortable, Mr Kong told him to put his feet down.
“But instead of doing so, the man told me that he could put his leg up as long as he was not wearing shoes,” said Mr Kong. “I was surprised by his reaction because most folks would apologise and proceed to put their feet down from the seats.”
Stunned and unsure what else he could do, Mr Kong whipped out his mobile phone and snapped a photo of the man, and then sent it to citizen journalism website Stomp.
“At the end of the day, what can commuters do besides Stomping?” he asked. “I’ve not informed bus captains about these incidents before. But if I do, what are they able to do? I feel that it is important that commuters are willing to voice out on such matters so that we can make a difference.”
Mr Kong’s unpleasant experience is one of the many shared by frustrated Singaporeans on Stomp, and various social media platforms, involving inconsiderate commuters on the public bus.
On Stomp alone, there have been 40 examples of such behaviour since the start of the year, with half of these since the start of July.
In some cases, things can even get physical. One commuter, who wanted to be known only as Mr Low, said he was attacked after he took a photo of a man putting his bare feet up on a seat on service 961 on Aug 19.
“I was under the assumption that if I acted like I was taking a photo, he would feel a bit ‘paiseh’ (Hokkien for ashamed) and put his feet down,” said the 54-year-old trader, adding that he eventually did take a photo.
“The man confronted me after a few minutes and even demanded for my phone as he thought I was snapping several pictures of him. Although I did not (take multiple pictures), he started hitting my head and neck.”
Mr Low later made a police report, and the police told ST that they are looking into the matter.
“In hindsight, I should have informed the bus captain of the man’s behaviour instead of taking a photo, or, as advised by the police, called them immediately when I was getting hit,” said Mr Low.
Playful kids can also be a danger to themselves and others on public commute, said another commuter, Mr Boniface Da Luz.
The 57-year-old sent photos of a boy swinging on the handrails of a crowded bus to Facebook group Complaint Singapore on Sept 1.
“As a parent myself, this behaviour is unacceptable as he did not take into the consideration of people around him and his guardian did not constantly try to stop him from swinging around,” said Mr Da Luz, who felt the bus captain should have done something about the situation.
Bus operators ST spoke to said their bus captains are trained to advise passengers be considerate to other commuters.
SBS Transit spokeswoman Mrs Grace Wu said: “Whenever (our bus captains are) aware of or alerted to a situation, they will advise the passenger to stop the act immediately.
“If the passenger refuses to cooperate, they will contact our operations control centre to report the incident and seek guidance on the course of action to take. This can unfortunately cause delay to the journeys.”
Mrs Wu added that there are also posters on board buses to promote gracious and considerate behaviour, and these messages are reiterated to the public through school talks and organised visits to their bus interchanges and MRT stations throughout the year.
SMRT Buses’ deputy managing director Vincent Gay said that in cases where commuters who behave in an inconsiderate or unruly manner remain uncooperative despite being advised, its bus captains can seek police assistance through its operations control centre as a last resort.
Tower Transit Director director of communications and customer experience Glenn Lim said its bus captains will approach passengers propping up their feet on seats and point out signs prominently displayed telling them not to, and ask them to put their feet down.
“Most passengers will comply when they are told,” said Mr Lim, although he added that there is little bus captains can do if passengers do not.
Another bus operator, Go-Ahead Singapore, said stickers were introduced in 2019 to inform passengers not to put their feet up on seats.
In response to queries, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said behaviour such as putting one’s feet on a bus seat is not only unhygienic but it could also deprive another commuter of a seat.
“Signs have already been put up to discourage such behaviour,” the agency added. “LTA will continue to work with public transport operators to encourage gracious commuting and behaviour.”
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Baey Yam Keng said he seeks commuters’ cooperation when travelling on the trains and buses to be more considerate to one another, so that fellow passengers can have a pleasant commuting experience as well.
“I am glad that our commuters are comfortable taking our public transport...fellow commuters could politely remind any commuters displaying such inconsiderate behaviour not to do so.”