Bickering over a Reserved MRT seat

Woman on Reserved Seat tells auntie: 'You pay, I pay ... you earn my respect!"

A video of a woman and an auntie engaged in an altercation over an MRT reserved seat has been circulating on Facebook.

The video, shared on Sure Boh Singapore’s Facebook page, shows a woman sitting on the reserved seat on board a MRT train. An auntie in turquoise can be seen standing in front of her. The woman then told the auntie:
  • “You pay, I pay.
  • “I don’t think you deserve it (the seat).”

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SBS - Sure Boh Singapore Yesterday at 06:03

Young lady sitting on reserved seat and quarrel with an auntie.
Credit: Eddie

Ane Tan: Best is remove all reserved seats ... everyone has equal rights to a seat .. it's up to individual kind-hearted soul to give up your seat to the needy .. this way it doesn't dawn on old people to demand for their reserved seat ... becos everyone paid the same fees to the MRT and Don't forget working adults are equally tired after a hard day's work.

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Women bickering over reserved MRT seat: "You pay, I pay ... you earn my respect!"

A video of a woman and an auntie engaged in an altercation over an MRT reserved seat has been circulating on Facebook.

The video shared on Sure Boh Singapore's Facebook page shows a woman sitting on the reserved seat on board a MRT train.

An older woman in a turquoise top can be seen standing in front of her.

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Old Lady VS Young Lady, over priority seat in Singapore Subway/Mrt
Related image

Over the years, we have heard stories and perhaps even seen it with our own eyes about “sleepers” in the train. In particular, those seated on the priority seats will shape shift into “sleepers” almost instantly whenever they see any fellow passenger that fits the priority seats criteria.

However, seldom do we hear cases about such a UNIQUELY SINGAPORE drama, and this has stirred up massive curiosity amongst all Singaporeans. Most of us – myself included – don’t know the exact details thus I would not jump to conclusions with regards the topic.

From the bits and pieces of the conversation recorded in the video, I can only make out certain information which I believe would not be entirely true.

related: Youth being disrespectful to an elderly in the bus

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Please stop this SMRT seat shaming nonsense

For some years now, some Singaporeans have taken much delight in shaming supposedly undeserving people who are occupying the SMRT train carriage’s “reserved” seats for the needy. They snap photos with their phones and put it online on forums, websites or social media to shame the subjects. Their desire is for the Internet lynch mob to descend on their photo victims to teach them a lesson. It’s time to stop this nonsense, people.

Every seat is up for grabs by anyone, and every seat should be offered to someone more in need. Just because some SMRT staff stuck a sticker above one  seat, doesn’t mean you have to get all huffy-puffy about that particular seat. If that occupant doesn’t want to get up, maybe you might want to ask someone else who is seated too?

I’ve always believed that we should always be on the lookout to help other train commuters. But there is a line between civility and self-righteousness that has been crossed here. You folks who believe in cyber-shaming over train seats, you say you do this to help someone in need. The minute you post that photo online of the stranger you hardly know, do you realize you’re actually missing the real point of being gracious?

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Should reserved seats in public transport be exclusive?

Are 'reserved' seats in public transport exclusive to a certain group of people, or are they simply a form of guideline for Singaporeans to take more initiative in giving up their seats?

What's your take?
  • Are reserved seats in public transport exclusive to a certain group of people? Why?
  • Should it be so? Please elaborate
  • Do Singaporeans lack the initiative to give up their seats, or do they have the right to stay seated?
  • How can conflicts like the above be avoided?
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How effective is priority seating in Singapore?

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) launched its ‘Graciousness Campaign’ a couple of months ago – posters and stickers illustrating positive social norms are being put up on bus shelters, inside buses and in the trains. In addition, with the Downtown Line being opened recently, there will now be brightly coloured ‘reserved’ seats for the disabled, elderly, pregnant or whoever needed it more.

This does not differ from the current norm where one can still use such ‘priority/reserved’ seats but if someone came along who needed the seat more than you do, it would only then be right if you gave up the seat. This generally seems to be the case in other countries as well. Most public transportation abroad do have ‘priority seating’ clearly labelled and most people that I have seen are indeed gracious enough to give up the seat to someone else more in need of it.

However, I have also seen the oblivious individual either fast asleep or glued to their phone or iPod while someone in greater need stood right in front of them. So, the question still stands – how effective is priority seating in Singapore? So far there has not been a law in Singapore where ‘priority’ seats are solely meant for the disabled, elderly and pregnant. As of now, these seats are simply ‘priority’ and anyone could still use them.

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Priority seats breed culture of dishonour

I refer to the letters “Reserved seating signs not needed in civilised society” (Apr 22) & “Offer more priority seats instead of giving the needy their own cabins” (April 19).

The concept of priority seats in Singapore’s public transport has developed a belief among locals that we are entitled to publicly shame those who do not give up these seats.

If this culture of dishonour continues, people would be giving up their seats only for fear of being shamed. Do we want to be part of that kind of culture?

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Priority Seating
P seat 2

Someone told me that in Taiwan I think, such Priority seats are never taken by anyone WITHOUT special needs. Well, it’s a different scenario here in Singapore… Many who are strong, healthy, male, young, sit on it without much thought if it’s empty. Maybe they think the P seat shouldn’t be ‘wasted’ if there’s no one with special needs around. And maybe perhaps, someone else without special needs would take it even if they don’t.

Well, I personally avoid sitting on P seats simply because I think there are MANY people with special needs around. Even if there are none who boards the train at Kembangan, there most probably will be one who walks straight into YOUR cabin in Eunos. Don’t you notice?? Anyway, I am fine whenever I see these people give up their seats quickly for the special needs person. But last week, I saw this uni student who only gave up the seat after 5 mins of pondering!

Today when I was coming home in the MRT, I felt even more vexed. This 18-year old looking girl was sitting on the P seat. Then, an elderly couple strolled in with their daughter who was pushing a baby in the stroller. This girl saw them… and did not stand up! The train moved for about 5 mins… then 2 persons (1 of them a Caucasian) who was next to her gave up their seats for the elderly couple. And that teenage girl just acted oblivious!!! I felt so MAD! When that teenage girl glanced at me, I gave her the MOST DISAPPROVING look I could give! I think she has ZERO etiquettes …. So if you are reading this, let’s be more considerate and give up your seats (not just the P ones) for those with special needs… You’ll definitely feel better and burn a little more calories by standing… :)

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On how to encourage people to give up their seats
Priority passes make it easier for people to give up seats

There has been much effort put into encouraging Singaporeans to give up priority seats on public transport to those who need them. However, a prominent issue with the system of priority seats is that not all sickness and discomfort can be seen. For example, a woman in the early stages of pregnancy or a man with a hidden disability falls into the “needy” category, but is not given priority seats, mainly because the discomfort is not visible.

The solution to this is an improved system where people in need can apply for priority passes. Such a system is used in many other parts of the world, such as in Taiwan and London. Of course, it is hard to be sure that commuters will give up their seats, even when they see a priority pass.

The gracious act of offering others help has to come from the heart. But, hopefully, with the introduction of this system, people will have less doubt on whether a person is really in need, and will be less hesitant to give up their seats.

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Is priority/reserved seat an entitlement?

Last week, I took the MRT and it was quite packed. I am a senior citizen and I had hoped that someone would be kind enough to offer me a seat, as has happened before. But not this time. I was standing in front of a younger lady who was seated on the priority seat and busily engaged with her smartphone. I tried to make eye contact with her but chose not to verbally request for the seat. I took the opportunity to do a personal experiment. She looked up at me momentarily, but quickly returned to her smartphone. At the City Hall MRT, we both alighted. I gave way to her as she made her exit and I followed. Quickening my steps, I caught up with her, smiled and said, “Good morning. May I ask you a couple of questions?” She returned a smile and said, “Sure.” I asked her if she would give up her seat to someone in greater need, like a senior citizen. And she replied, “Of course, I would.” I then gently announced that I was the Senior Citizen standing in front of her. In obvious shock and embarrassment, she said, “I am so sorry!!! You do not look like a senior citizen. If I had known, I would have gladly invited you to take my seat. I am really really sorry.” Her sincerity was fully evident in her profuse apologies. I smiled and said, “Thank you, that is what they all say about me. No worries.” I then asked her if she would give up the seat for me if I had requested for it. “Of course,” she said. “ I would have ... without any hesitation.” And she continued apologizing. I thanked her for her responses and we walked together towards our offices.

We’ve read or watched Stomp videos of situations similar to what the younger lady and I were in, and those didn’t go well. If I had curtly demanded the seat, I would have either made her lose face totally, or worse, possibly triggered a defensive-aggressive response. So while we might be well in our place to expect the priority seat to be given up for us who are identified as needing it more, we can also ask nicely and without prejudging the person occupying the seat.

My experience reinforced what I believe about our people. We are essentially kind. People do not act graciously because they do not know or are too caught up in their busyness to be aware of the need. If they knew, they would respond. This is why we keep reminding people and we know that many are responding. We need not prejudge, we can do our part by assuming the best of people. Chances are, people will respond according to what we think of them. Kindness is all about being other-centered. It is a value that should be inside us. But to look out for or not prejudge others, we need to consciously make an outward effort and take some time. And that only takes a moment. That’s why we say, there’s always time to make someone’s day.

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Debate online on reserved seats

NETIZENS are abuzz on local forum HardwareZone.com over an MRT-board incident of a senior citizen being refused the reserved seat occupied by a younger man. More than 400 comments were posted overnight following the Tuesday-morning incident.

Some have accused the younger man of being inconsiderate; others said that, although the seats are reserved for the handicapped, the aged, the pregnant or mothers with very young children, such commuters did not have the right to demand to occupy them. The young man has since apologised for his action in the forum.

The senior citizen, Mr Jason Wang, a 63-year-old architect, said he boarded the train at Tanah Merah station at 7.35am and saw that the reserved seat.

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Does that mean that only PRIORITY seats can be given up to the needed?
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Rachel knew that I dislike sitting at the priority seat and there were 2 seats, which one of them was that, so she sat there and I'm beside her. We're carrying laptops and bagpacks. When it reached a certain stop, this guy sitting 2 seats away from me tapped on me and said "Hey, tell your friend to give up your seat to the lady." I felt weird to tell Rachel, so I stood up and gave the seat instead. Rachel stood and asked as well. She was pissed off after knowing and said "ONLY PRIORITY SEATS then can give up?" loudly and obviously people turned.

We did look, and not like we did it on suppose that we don't want to give up. The lady doesn't look like an elderly either. I bet the lady felt awkward after both of us gave up the seat.

Yup, if you are so great (伟大), why not you give up your seats? It's true, why must it only be the priority seat that must be given up? If you have a heart for the needy people, you will definitely give up no matter where you are sitting.

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Inconsiderate behaviour as the Singapore way

Every now and then, we hear outcries over the lack of consideration among Singaporeans not giving up a seat to the needy on public transport, or pushing their way in on boarding without first letting others alight. To be honest, I am not sure if the situation here is as bad as all that, but I suppose it varies depending on time and place. Some sections of the route, or times of day, especially when the trains get crowded, it may be worse. To begin with, it’s got to do with urbanisation: The more people congregate, the more we are atomised, and competition for scarce common resources can bring out the worst in us.

At the same time, showing consideration to others is a learned trait. We can cultivate a sensitivity to the needs of the other person and pride in our displaying co-operative behaviour. But first, one has to see the other person not only as a competitor — or worse, an Other — but as a fellow member of the community, however community is defined.

That this is a learned trait is quite obvious when we observe the competition for seats on trains. There is a cultural difference, and here, I will not mince words: Nine times out of ten, the most aggressive person pushing her way into a carriage in the hope of grabbing a seat, without letting others out first, it is a middle-aged Chinese woman.

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Do we really need reserved seats on MRT trains?

While reserved seats were no doubt conceived with good intentions, they have not yielded the best results on MRT trains. Reserved seats are an artificial means of promoting graciousness that may be doing more harm than good for Singapore’s MRT culture.

Stigma surrounding reserved seats - Nowadays, many commuters hesitate to occupy a reserved seat on an MRT train. This is in part due to the prevalence of internet shaming on social media sites such as Facebook and Stomp, which has caused sitting on reserved seats to be stigmatised. Earlier this year, a man tried to publicly shame a woman who had no visible disabilities but was occupying a reserved seat on the MRT train. He asked his friend to record him on video and proceeded to confront the lady in an arrogant manner, possibly for the sake of gaining online attention.

In another incident, a pregnant woman who tried to sit on a reserved seat was questioned by another commuter, who demanded “proof” of her pregnancy. Unwell passengers who are not visibly disabled may also be shamed into giving up their reserved seats. Such is the tricky nature of reserved seats – how do you ascertain if someone is “deserving” of a reserved seat? How old is old enough? And how “injured” must one be to rightfully occupy a reserved seat without having to endure disapproving glances from fellow commuters?

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I've always wanted to express my views about this issue that is ever so present in this society. What I cannot grasp is how people do not understand that we have our own points of views and you have to be okay with that - you can reject feeling the same way as someone but you cannot stop them from feeling the way they do.

I will dive straight into the point. (I'll leave out buses, because I travel by train 90% of the time, and I don't sit when I travel by buses 99% of the time).

When I take a seat on the train, I do not seat on the reserved seat. The only exception is when I am one-stop away or when the train is basically empty when I boarded it. I did not feel the excessive need to give up the seat for anyone and I know how this sounds but here are the reasons why.

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Keep the Reserved Seating signs in MRT trains

After our report on the spat between two MRT commuters over a reserved seat, there has been some debate on whether the Reserved Seating signs in the trains should be removed.

Of the 23 commuters we spoke to yesterday, 21 were against removing the reserved seats. Student Rohini Chopra said: "Until it becomes natural for people to get up and give their seats to those who need them, the signs are still necessary." A few commuters even suggested a fine be imposed on those who refuse to give up reserved seats to those who need them.

But lawyer Edmond Pereira disagreed: "Singapore is already a 'fine' city. Let's not add to that list of fines."

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Make it Right for a Better Ride

As seen above and at the rate which STOMP’s Ugly Commuter section is being updated, we are still quite some distance away from being gracious commuters.  Nonetheless, I feel that public education on the importance of being gracious while commuting, should continue and we should start with the very basic to make each journey more comfortable and pleasant for everyone.  That means targeting efforts at encouraging the following behavior:
  • Give up your seat to the needy
  • Move to the centre of train or back of bus
  • Queue and let others alight first
This year’s campaign, “Make It Right For A Better Ride” features posters with poems, slogans and calligraphies penned by commuters on how to make our journeys more pleasant by being gracious.  The posters are already on display found at MRT stations, bus shelters, trains and buses to remind passengers to be more considerate when using public transport.  Check out http://on.fb.me/betterride for the full collection of these posters.

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Horrible manners on Singapore MRT reserved seats
What’s your take on people abusing the MRT reserved seats?

Apparently not every one is willing to give up their seats for the less-able. Yesterday I went on the MRT with my 73-year-old mother, we stood right in front of two reserved seats for about a minute. One girl pretended to be in deep sleep, while the other avoided any form of eye contact and buried her face in her phone—furiously punching the keypad the very moment we stood in front of her.

They were both young and able-bodied. I tapped the one who was not pretending to be asleep and said: “Excuse me, could you give up the reserved seat for my elderly mother?” She looked up reluctantly and glared at me for about 3 seconds before vacating the seat.

You would think that’s the end of the story, but it wasn’t. This passenger was “vindictive”. We alighted at the same stop and when on the platform, she went out of the way and made it a point to elbow my side before walking away. I just shook my head in disgust.

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Giving up a seat to someone more deserving or in need should be a social and cultural norm
Every seat is up for grabs by anyone, and every seat should be offered to someone more in need

Full Coverage:
Malaysian media shame S'pore MRT commuters for inconsiderate behaviour
Inconsiderate commuter refused to move toddler’s legs, prevented use
MRT saga involving couple accused of hogging reserved seat
Lady asks for seat on MRT for her 3-yr-old, gets rejected, ends up taking photo
Have clear guidelines on priority seats
Women bickering over reserved MRT seat: "You pay, I pay... you
Public transport-reliant mom with infant fed up with S'pore's jam
The politics of dominance: Don't take it to the limit
MRT reserved seat hogger's spat shines spotlight on Indian bankers
Standing firm against hate speech
Lady asks for seat on MRT for her 3-year-old, gets rejected, ends up
Here's a breakdown of the MRT saga involving couple accused of
Man wants to lodge police report after wife gets accused of hogging
Inconsiderate MRT commuter refused to move toddler's legs and
Husband of alleged hogger of MRT reserved seat threatens TISG
Malaysian media shames Singapore MRT commuters for
MRT commuter slams man for refusing to give up priority seat; man
'Tired' MRT commuter slammed for refusing to give up reserved seat
was unwell, says commuter in seat spat
Public transport-reliant mom with infant fed up with S'pore's jam
SMRT introduces new stickers, queue lines to promote better
SMRT rolls out stickers and special queues to promote better travel
Accessibility - SMRT
MRT commuter slams man for refusing to give up priority seat; man
Singapore MRT - Horrible manners on Singapore MRT reserved seats
How effective is priority seating in Singapore?
94% say they give up their seats on MRT trains | TODAYonline
Lady asks for seat on MRT for her 3-year-old, gets rejected, ends up
The evolution of priority seats - The Pride - Singapore Kindness
Do we really need reserved seats on MRT trains? | The Independent
The evolution of priority seats in MRT trains | REACH
Priority seat - Wikipedia
Singapore news today | IF YOU DON'T GIVE UP PRIORITY SEAT
Singapore news today | MRT RESERVED SEATING IS NOT AN
Written Reply by Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan to ...
Should reserved seats in public transport be exclusive?
Reserved for the deserving - Youth.SG
Please stop this SMRT seat shaming nonsense - Empty Vessel
Singapore's Public Transportation: In A Fix Over Priority Seats
Pregnant? Who cares? (A social experiment) - Five Stars And a Moon
Tap 'N' Sit - Nanyang Technological University
Lady asks for seat on MRT for her 3-year-old, gets rejected, ends up
Should reserved seats in public transport be exclusive?
reserved seats - Picture of Singapore Mass Rapid Transit SMRT
94% say they give up their seats on MRT trains | TODAYonline
'Tired' MRT commuter slammed for refusing to give up reserved seat
SMRT giving away Care stickers to needy passengers | Everything
MRT seats removed after public feedback | Press Room
New Reserved Seat Designs in Trains Send the Right Signal
SMRT train reduced seats to increase standing instead
Can Children Sit On Reserved Seats In Singapore MRT?
MRT reserved seats - Singapore Parenting Magazine for baby
Singapore news today | MRT RESERVED SEATING IS NOT AN
Do we really need reserved seats on MRT trains? | The Independent
MRT reserved seats for Malays as part of Elected Presidency changes
Lady asks for seat on MRT for her 3-year-old, gets rejected, ends up
This uncle standing beside an MRT reserved seat is either Khaw Boon

Busology: A humorous look at public transit!

Mounds of bags in the aisle, the symphony of heavy metal music, passengers not moving to the back of the bus and the gentle aroma of food and beverages – these are the reasons for Busology.

Busology provides a good natured, humorous look at common situations that can make our public transit system unpleasant for travelers. t’s hard to establish enforceable rules for many of these situations, because most really come down to a matter of common courtesy.

We sincerely hope you enjoy the Busology and that it results in a more pleasant ride for you and all passengers.

Prioritus Seatus
Priority seats are for people who have a hard time standing on a moving bus – but unfortunately some people have trouble recognizing that

Why do some people prefer the sardine treatment at the front of the bus when there’s room in the back? When it’s crowded, beat the crush – step to the back and relax.

Backus Packus Smackus
When walking down the aisle try not to smack us. Please be careful with your backpacks and other belongings

Pollutus Transportus
Buses don’t have snack bars because they’re not restaurants. Imagine if Transit’s 135,000 daily passengers each left litter and spills behind

Roller Bladeus
Buses often have to stop quickly! For your own safety, please remove roller blades before boarding the bus or take a seat near the front

Graffiti Muchos Costus
Transit spends thousands of dollars every year cleaning graffiti. It’s not pretty and it costs all of us a lot of money. Please don’t sign the bus

Loudus Obnoxious
Double, double, toil and trouble. Music blares and tempers bubble. Enjoy your music…quietly please

Aislus Cloggus
Some people make an obstacle course out of the aisle with strollers, and packages. Please keep your belongings out of the way of other passengers

Cheapus Skatus
Qualifying high school students, post secondary students, children and seniors pay reduced fares for some very good reasons. If you’re not eligible, please pay your fair share

Qualifying high school students and post secondary students pay reduced fares with a valid school Student Photo ID. Sorry, other IDs and notes from teachers don’t count

Exitus Wrongus
Oh, what a tangled web we weave when by the front door we leave. If possible, please exit by the rear door

Blasphemous Vociferus
Why must some people use profanity? Please exercise self-control while sharing the bus. Public transit is just that, public

Odourous Unbearableous
Everyone likes to stop and smell the flowers. Unfortunately, some people are sensitive or allergic to them, as well as strong perfumes and colognes. Please be considerate of others when using transit

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Singlish - Uniquely Singapore
Politics and the Singlish Language
Wah! Not bad-lah! Oxford shiok
Singlish join Oxford English Dictionary
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Chinese Dialects Revive After Decades of Restrictions
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Putting Packets of Tissue to “Chope” Seats
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Bickering over a Reserved MRT seat
Malay President, Chinese Prime Minister & Indian Chief Justice

Kopi Siew Tai