Top image: Shiva Bharathi Gupta / RICE file photo
Confusion ensued after the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced that bus and train payment cards must be upgraded. Come June this year, those with adult EZ-Link cards and NETS FlashPay cards will be left hanging at the gantry. Commuters must either upgrade to SimplyGo EZ-Link cards or exchange them for NETS Prepaid cards to ride.
Commuters questioned the benefits of the switch to the SimplyGo system. They pointed out that a card balance is not displayed at the MRT fare gate under the SimplyGo system, which is a hassle for those who plan their budgets down to a tee.
Some raised valid concerns about whether the new system could have been more friendly to less tech-savvy seniors. While the new system arrives with a wider range of services, those services are accessed via yet another companion app for commuters to keep up with.
Others who’ve long abandoned EZ-Link cards in favour of contactless debit and credit cards (or smartphones and smartwatches) don’t really care—nothing’s changing for them, after all.
Regardless of how you feel about the impending upgrade to SimplyGo, one thing remains clear: This was one confusing ride.
“The SimplyGo system doesn’t show you your card balance. And if too many people ahead of you at the gantry are on SimplyGo, it’s difficult to tell whether the fare gate is registered because it says the same thing on the gantry screen. There’s no changing card balance, so you don’t know you tapped out.
The new system seems streamlined to the point of inconvenience. The old EZ-Link system worked fine. Sure, it needed a few cosmetic upgrades. But this overhaul, with its app and streamlined system, feels like it’s trying to be advanced for the sake of it without considering the daily commuter in mind.”
– Isaiah, 27
“Maybe it’s just the neurodivergent need to see things laid out in front of me; if not, I’ll completely lose track or forget about its existence. I’m the kind of person who needs to go through the physical motions of adding money to my transport card to monitor how much I’m spending on transport.
Simply not having my balance shown when I tap in and out of rides becomes an increased inconvenience because I end up boarding the bus without any remaining balance on my card, which could’ve been easily prevented if I could, y’know, see how much money I have left.
And before anyone says I can just pay via the SimplyGo app, just how many apps—ones with only one purpose—do you have on your phone? What a waste of space.”
– Adrianna, 28
“It doesn’t affect me because I use contactless payment for everything. It says SimplyGo whenever I’m at the fare gate, so I’m used to it already.
For those without credit cards, I can see why it would be tricky for them. The SimplyGo system requires a… different form of financial planning because the card values are not shown immediately.”
– Eleanor, 29
“SimplyGo can actually track movements because my card is connected to my dad’s account. The app literally updates my dad where I went, where I alighted, and how much my fare is.
Once, I went to Plaza Singapura, and my dad questioned me the moment I came back. I know he can go to the SimplyGo app to double confirm if I am telling the truth about my whereabouts. It feels worse knowing that he can track my movements via the app. There’s literally no privacy!
The app updates in real-time as well. When my sister comes home from work, my dad can check the time she boards the bus. Sometimes he’ll go: ‘Oh, she’ll be back soon. She just boarded the bus.’ It’s so creepy.
Sometimes, I’ll use my bank card to pay for trips instead, pretending that I’ve forgotten to bring my SimplyGo EZ-Link card out.”
– Miss S, 26
“This transition to the SimplyGo system was not carried out properly. The announcement was sudden. I mean, the whole point of EZ-Link cards is that they store value, which can be used for other functions like paying for ERP. All in just one app.
But cards which have been ‘upgraded’ to SimplyGo cannot be used with motoring applications. What’s the point of upgrading to a card that has fewer multi-functionality? That’s like trading a slightly older Swiss Army Knife for a newer and sleeker pen knife. Oh, and the pen knife comes with an app. If it matters.”
– Ralph, 26
“Think about the seniors who will now have to toggle between the app and the card to see their card balance and to top-up. That’s yet another app for them to pick up and learn and navigate. And really, who needs another specialised app for a super-specific purpose?
It’s a case of where if you only have a hammer, everything else looks like a nail. Now, every solution is about streamlining and coming up with an accompanying app. The problem is that SimplyGo looks like it’s digitalising for digitalisation’s sake. Not everything needs to go digital or have an accompanying app.”
– Jaiden, 23