top of page

Revolutionizing Public Transit: The Redesign of SMRT's Chimes for a Better Commuter Experience

Allan Ung

Revolutionizing Public Transit: The Redesign of SMRT's Chimes for a Better Commuter Experience

Inside the MRT train, Singapore. (Credit: ProjectManhattan, CC BY-SA 3.0)


SMRT, Singapore's prominent public transport operator, recently introduced new chimes on its trains, aiming to elevate the commuter experience. However, the change has sparked some dissatisfaction among commuters, highlighting potential gaps in Service Design principles.

SMRT's objective was to create seamless, meaningful experiences for commuters by providing auditory cues to enhance the commuting experience for visually impaired individuals.

Key Comments from Commuters

Several commuters on Reddit and the Hardwarezone Forum have expressed their opinions on the new chimes and announcements:

1. "The chime is so loud and intrusive, especially early in the morning. It feels like it's jolting me awake more than anything else."

2. "I appreciate that they're trying to make announcements clearer, but the new chimes just seem to be overkill. They could have achieved the same goal with a more subtle approach."

3. "It's frustrating that they didn't consider how the new chimes would affect commuters with sensory sensitivities. It's a step backward in terms of inclusivity."

4. "I think SMRT needs to go back to the drawing board and involve commuters in the design process. It feels like they made these changes without really understanding what we need."

5. "I've noticed that the new chimes are causing confusion among some passengers, especially those who are unfamiliar with the system. It might be worth considering a more user-friendly approach."

6. "The new chimes are so loud and repetitive. It's like they're constantly shouting at you, even when you're just trying to relax on your commute."

7. "I don't understand why they felt the need to change the chimes in the first place. The old ones were perfectly fine, and now we're stuck with these annoying new ones."

8. "The worst part is that there's no way to turn them off or adjust the volume. It's like SMRT is forcing us to listen to them whether we like it or not."

9. "I've noticed that the new chimes are causing confusion among passengers, especially tourists or those who are not familiar with the train system. It's just adding unnecessary stress to their journey."

10. "The chimes are so loud that they drown out any other announcements or sounds in the station. It's making it hard to hear important information about train delays or platform changes."

Reviewing Commuter Feedback and Concerns

In reviewing feedback from commuters, several key areas of concern have emerged:

1. Holistic Experience Design: The new chimes, while intended to improve the journey, have been perceived as loud and intrusive, suggesting a lack of consideration for the holistic commuter experience.

2. Comprehensive User Research: There are indications that, after a three-month pilot programme that began on Oct 29, SMRT may have conducted biased or inadequate user research before implementing the changes, leading to oversight of key user preferences and unintended consequences.

3. Segmentation Consideration: While the new chimes may benefit visually impaired commuters, they have generated dissatisfaction among other segments, highlighting the importance of considering the holistic user experience.

Understanding SMRT's Diverse Commuter Base: Meet the Personas Behind the Journey

Understanding SMRT's Diverse Commuter Base: Meet the Personas Behind the Journey

4. Educational Gap for Auditory Cues: The sources indicate that SMRT's new chimes use a high-pitch melody for one direction and a mellow melody for the opposite direction. However, there seems to be a gap in how commuters are expected to differentiate between these melodies, especially for those who may not be educated on identifying differences in pitches.

5. Existing Noise Levels: High noise levels on trains, including passengers watching videos or listening to music loudly, engaging in loud conversations, and babies crying, have been a longstanding concern for commuters. The recent addition of loud chimes and announcements has exacerbated this issue, contributing to increased dissatisfaction among some commuters.

Recommendations for Improvement

To enhance future pilot programs and design concepts, SMRT could consider the following:

1. Extended Pilot Period: Conduct pilot programs over a longer duration to gather more comprehensive feedback from a wider range of commuters, allowing for a more thorough assessment of the proposed changes.

2. Expanded Scope: Include a broader range of stations, train lines, and commuter segments in pilot programs to ensure that the impact of changes is assessed across the entire SMRT network.

3. Inclusive Design Approach: Ensure that pilot programs and design concepts are inclusive and consider the needs and preferences of all commuter segments, including those with sensory sensitivities or other specific requirements, so that solutions benefit all commuter segments without creating value for one group at the expense of others.

4. Comprehensive Testing: Conduct thorough testing of proposed changes in real-world scenarios, including during peak travel times and in different environmental conditions, to better understand how the changes will function in practice.

5. Commuter Education: Educate commuters on interpreting the new chimes through clear and accessible information.

6. Active Engagement: Actively engage commuters in the design process, seeking their feedback and suggestions for improvement to ensure that design concepts fully meet commuter needs and expectations.

Addressing these recommendations could help SMRT improve the effectiveness and acceptance of changes to its services, ultimately enhancing the commuter experience.

Service Design Principles for Enhancement

Unleashing Creativity: The Design Thinking Framework in Action

Unleashing Creativity: The Design Thinking Framework in Action

To effectively enhance the commuter experience, SMRT can apply the following Service Design Principles based on Design Thinking:

1. Empathy: Deeply understand the needs, feelings, and motivations of commuters through observation, interviews, and immersion in their experiences. This can help SMRT design solutions that truly resonate with commuters.

2. Define: Clearly define the problem by synthesizing the insights gathered during the empathy phase. This ensures that the focus remains on solving the right problem for commuters.

3. Ideate: Generate a wide range of innovative ideas to address the defined problem. Encouraging creativity and diversity of thought can lead to more effective solutions.

4. Prototype: Create tangible prototypes of potential solutions to quickly and cheaply test their feasibility and gather feedback from commuters. This allows SMRT to iterate rapidly and refine their ideas.

5. Test: Test the prototypes with commuters to gather feedback and validate assumptions. This iterative testing process ensures that the final solution meets the needs and expectations of commuters.

Best Practices in Service Design

1. User-Centric Focus: Prioritize the user experience in all design decisions, considering user preferences, behaviors, and needs.

2. Collaborative Design Thinking: Adopt a collaborative design thinking approach, involving stakeholders and commuters in the design process to ensure diverse perspectives are considered.

3. Create Awareness and Education: Develop strategies to educate commuters on changes, such as new chimes, to enhance understanding and acceptance.

4. Continuous Improvement: Embrace a culture of continuous improvement, where feedback and insights are used to iteratively enhance the commuter experience.


SMRT's initiative to improve the commuter experience with new chimes reflects a dedication to enhancing service quality. However, the discontent among some commuters highlights the need to effectively apply Service Design principles. By emphasizing inclusivity that goes beyond the visually impaired to encompass all passengers, adopting an iterative approach, and using data-driven decision-making, SMRT can address commuter concerns and improve the journey for everyone. Through ongoing improvement and a focus on user-centric design, SMRT can transform public transit and elevate the overall commuter experience in Singapore.


1. Channel NewsAsia. (2024, February 15). "Listen up for the jingles: SMRT to progressively roll out new chimes in trains and stations." Retrieved from:

2. The Straits Times. (2023, November 11). "SMRT rolls out new chimes on trains in 3-month pilot." Retrieved from:

3. The Independent. (2024, March 21). "Singaporean finds new MRT chimes too loud and annoying." Retrieved from:

4. Reddit. (2024, March 19). "Anyone else can't stand the new MRT chimes?" Retrieved from:

5. Hardwarezone. (2024, February 17). Retrieved from:

Allan Ung

Article by Allan Ung, Principal Consultant at Operational Excellence Consulting, a distinguished management consultancy based in Singapore. Our firm specializes in maximizing customer value and minimizing waste through the strategic adoption of Design Thinking and Lean management practices. For further details, please visit


Related presentations that you might be interested:


bottom of page