Hey, public officials, think about us users

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Hey, public officials, think about us users

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It’s already been two and half years since I moved to Unjeong New Town in Paju, Gyeonggi. Thankfully, the express Metropolitan Bus (M bus) stops near my home and I have an easy commute. However, when I wait in line for the bus every morning, I cannot help but laugh bitterly.

The bus stop is on the bus-only middle lanes, and the design seems flawed, leaving little space where people line up to wait to board, while the section that is not used for the line is, comparatively, downright spacious. The stop on the other side has the same problem.

The architect, builder and officials who ordered, approved, built and supervised the project made fools of themselves. I inquired at Paju Municipal Authorities, and they said the Korea Land and Housing Corporation, which oversees the Unjeong New Town project, placed orders for the design and construction of the bus stops, which cost 20 million won ($18,140) each.

It was raining the other day, and the line of commuters stretched out of the waiting area to the road. Would the architects and planners make such a design if they thought their families would be using the bus stop? The nearby pedestrian overpass is so close to a crosswalk that hardly anyone uses it because you need to walk quite a distance around to get to it. It is all a waste of money.

Last weekend, I had quite a pleasant experience riding the KTX to Busan. In August 2009, all turnstiles were removed from 17 stations around the country where KTX trains stop, including Seoul Station. Korail made the decision to “trust the customers, communicate with the customers and work for the customers, not for the station.”

Will it work? What if some people abuse the system and get a free ride? The conductor walks around the car with a PDA, checking if passengers are sitting in assigned seats.

At Daejeon Station, a group of kindergartners got on board, and the conductor approached me and said, “If it gets too noisy, you can move to the next car and find yourself a seat.” When I moved to the next car, another conductor came up to me and asked for my ticket. They were checking tickets subtly, but thoroughly.

I asked Cho Hyung-ik, director of the passenger planning division at Korail, if the number of free rides increased after the turnstiles were removed. In fact, the free rides are drastically decreasing from 88,921 cases in 2009 to 67,169 in 2010 to 46,080 cases last year. It is proof that trust, communication and autonomy work better.

In August, Korail launched the “Transfer Helpers” program, hiring helpers, including nine homeless people at Seoul Station. The helpers guide passengers who get off the trains and lend a hand with luggage. Korail CEO Chung Chang-young received rare praise from opposition lawmakers at the National Assembly inspection of government offices.

The officials and staff at government offices and public authorities are working hard, but they should think about the users, not themselves. The citizens are just not convinced.

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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