Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Checking Out SMRT's Journey With Us Event @ Bukit Batok Bus Interchange


Some of you may remember the yellow Trans Island public buses which was eventually bought over by SMRT. They were rebranded to SMRT Buses Limited in 2004 and fast forward to 10 years later, they organised two "bus carnivals" called Journey With Us to let the public know more about their bus operations. I took a visit to one of the bus carnivals at Bukit Batok Bus Interchange in November 2014 out of curiosity and I'll be sharing my experience of the time I spent during this event which you can find out more below.

What is Journey With Us?



Basically, Journey With Us is the name of a series of 'bus carnivals' organised by SMRT Corporation's public bus subsidiary to educate the public about SMRT's bus operations. It's also used to showcase the various innovations SMRT has come up with to make bus operations more efficient for both bus drivers and bus passengers.

The event also includes static displays of the buses in the current SMRT bus fleet and a career fair for those interested in working for SMRT. This is a great initiative by SMRT to engage the community and educate the public about their sophisticated bus operations in a fun and interactive way.

Journey With Us At Bukit Batok Bus Interchange


This is the second Journey With Us bus carnival event SMRT has organised with the first being held at the Devan Nair Institute located at Jurong East. The first one was held over two days in early September 2014 but as much as I wanted to go for the event, I didn't have the time to do so.

The second one, which is the one I am currently writing about, was held on the 15th of November 2014 and it's a smaller scale event held at the premises of the Bukit Batok Bus Interchange. This time round, the event only had three buses for its static display but it was still an awesome and successful community engagement event.

SMRT Bus Driving Simulator


One of the highlights of the first Journey With Us event at the Devan Nair Institute was the bus driving simulator. It was one of the most popular features of the event as visitors get to try driving an SMRT bus in the virtual world. The simulator also made an appearance here. What's unique about the bus driving simulator is that it was modelled after a real SMRT bus driver's cabin complete with (non-functioning) revenue equipment like EZ Link card readers, coinbox and a ticket printer.


The roads that visitors had to drive through in the simulator were designed after real roads in Singapore particularly the ones where real life SMRT bus services go through. The purpose of the whole driving simulator is to not only let the public have a try at driving a virtual SMRT bus, but it's also to let the public know that SMRT will be using a similar setup to train future SMRT bus drivers which in turn, makes it easier for them to learn bus driving.


SMRT has plans to set up a training centre for future bus drivers at the Devan Nair Institute complete with state of the art features to familiarise SMRT employees with bus operations (which is why they held the first Journey With Us event there). It's definitely an innovative way to use technology to groom SMRT's future bus drivers.

Static Displays of SMRT's Buses


Along with the bus carnival, there was also a static display of three of the buses in the SMRT bus fleet. Two of them were Mercedes Benz and Man-branded single decker buses while another one was a double decker bus newly introduced in 2014 manufactured by a company called Alexander Dennis.


What's special about these relatively new buses is that they are low floor, providing convenience for the elderly who do not have to worry about climbing stairs in buses and wheelchair accessible, providing convenience for wheelchair passengers who intend to ride on public buses using the onboard wheelchair ramps. The buses also offer more standing space to ensure more passengers can fit into the bus.


With the double decker buses, they can accommodate more passengers and give a nice view to the seating passengers in the upper deck at the same time. These buses make use of new technology to make them more environmentally friendly and they make the journey much more comfortable. SMRT's main rival, SBS Transit, has similar buses in the fleet as well. All these are part of the Singapore government's plan to make public transport more accessible and a more viable solution than private transport to all Singaporeans.


Many visitors could be seen enjoying their time taking photos inside and outside of the buses. Some of them even made use of this opportunity to take photos of themselves in the driver's cabin which is something you can't do when the bus is in revenue service.

Kiddie Rides, Popcorn And Cotton Candy


The carnival also has something for the young ones as well. There were kiddie rides where children can hop on a toy car and drive around inside the event's tentage along with a popcorn and cotton candy booth where they could get free popcorn and cotton candy. The popcorn and cotton candy booths were so popular that even adults lined up just to get a hold of the free treats. Who can resist free treats? Unfortunately, since I came in the late afternoon, the free treats have all been given away. Oh well, better luck next time.

SMRT Career Fair


There were also booths where jobseekers could find jobs within the SMRT corporation. Posters, collaterals and flyers were available for jobseekers to use them to find suitable jobs for themselves. SMRT staff members were stationed at the career booth for jobseekers to find out more about the jobs they are looking for in more detail.

There was even a big poster showcasing the various SMRT employees and what I like about it is that they make the employees look like superheroes. They are indeed superheroes of the company as they work hard in making sure that all of SMRT's operations are working smoothly for the safety of the passengers.

Technology Showcase


At the other end of the event venue, booths were set up to showcase the technology developed by SMRT to improve SMRT's bus operations. One of them was an interactive touchscreen panel where bus passengers could navigate and find out more about the various SMRT bus routes originating from the interchange. It was intuitive, user-friendly and Bukit Batok Bus Interchange was the first SMRT bus interchange to use the technology. The technology will eventually be carried over to other SMRT bus interchanges in the coming months.

There was also another technology where some buses (particularly buses on SMRT bus service 189) has a small electronic display at the side which informs passengers of how many minutes the next bus of the same service will be arriving. The electronic display is an additional feature which complements the standard side display that displays the service number commonly seen on most buses. These are some of the many technology innovations that they have developed to improve the lives of both bus drivers and bus passengers.

Place Your Well Wishes At The SMRT Service Excellence Booth


The SMRT Service Excellence booth is where visitors can pick up some Post-It notes and write down well wishes they have for SMRT's bus drivers. As the bus drivers have to drive long hours, deal with other road users, adhere to strict bus schedules and at the same time, ensure the safety of their passengers, it's a great initiative by SMRT to let the public appreciate their hard work. There were a lot of sweet messages and compliments written by members of the public directed to the bus drivers. A small appreciation does go a long way.


There was also an Instagram photo printing station where users could actually upload a picture to their Instagram accounts with the hashtag #JourneyWithUsAtBBI and their pictures would automatically show up on the photo printing station's computer. The person taking care of the printing station will then print out your Instagram photo for you to keep as a souvenir. It's certainly an awesome way to remember your time here at the event.

Launch of New SMRT Bus Service 990


In the morning, an official ceremony was held at the event to launch the new SMRT bus service 990 which starts from Bukit Batok Bus Interchange and loops at Jurong East estate. The official ceremony was officiated by Madam Halimah Yacob, Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC in which she represents residents of Bukit Batok. After the official ceremony, she hopped on to the bus along with other Bukit Batok residents.



SMRT provided free bus rides to all passengers on the whole day for them to try out the bus service which conveniently brings Bukit Batok residents to various parts of Bukit Batok and Jurong East. This new bus service, along with other new bus services launched in several parts of Singapore is part of the government's plan to provide more buses and better rides to Singaporeans under their new Bus Service Enhancement Programme scheme which you can find out more here.

Conclusion

The Journey With Us event is a great initiative by SMRT to engage the community about SMRT's bus operations in a fun and engaging way through highlights like the driving simulator, career fair, technology showcase, bus static displays and much more. I do hope that SMRT will organise more of such events as it's a great way to educate the public about the complexity of SMRT's bus operations. Plus, I wish to try out that bus driving simulator as I did not get to try it out during the event so hopefully another Journey With Us event will happen sometime in 2015.

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