‘Foot Soldiers’ of LTA
Land Transport Authority

The Problem

As society becomes more complex and public expectations rise, planning for transportation systems had to become more inclusive. Transport touches the lives of everyone in the city-state of Singapore. In the past, the city’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) gathered feedback through remote modes such as over-the-counter, telephone hotlines, letters, electronic mails, and Internet Web portals. These are impersonal modes of communication and there was a need for something more intimate ie. face-to-face, for a new level of understanding to be cultivated.

In October 2006, LTA embarked on a comprehensive Land Transport Review to create a more people-centred transport system. Apart from delivering technical and engineering solutions, LTA realized it had to transcend into a more responsive organization and to better understand the hopes and dreams of its users - be they students, workers, employers, commuters, transport operators, ordinary man-in-the-street or experts.

Thus it was vital that a complex public utility as land transportation employ a more personal approach in engaging the community. Engineering solutions alone cannot and does not resolve all issues; so a spirit of give-and-take by the community had to be nurtured with a new corps of community-involved officers ie. Community Partnership (CPN) Officers.

What grew out of the review was the Land Transport Master Plan (LTMP) which outlined the three strategic thrust of LTA, namely: To make public transport a choice mode; Managing road usage; and Meeting the diverse needs of the people.

Reaching out to citizens in a personalized manner has helped the public to better understand LTA’s policies and initiatives. At the same time, the open communication has helped the varied needs of different communities find equilibrium; all during the lifecycle of an initiative or policy ie. from planning to adoption.

For the next 10 to 15 years, this ongoing engagement with the community will help create a more robust public transport system. One that is able to support rapid economic growth, and a fast growing population with more diverse lifestyles.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
To see through the eyes of the commuting public, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) made a bold decision to engage them directly at a more personable and intimate level. Hence when the Minister of Transport launched the Land Transport Master Plan (LTMP) in March 2008, the Community Partnership (CPN) Division was featured as a means to engage the community directly through face-to-face interactions. This served to uphold the LTA’s and the LTMP’s vision of creating ‘A People-Centred Land Transport System’.

The CPN Division was set up to connect, partner and network with the public and establish a healthy long-term relationship with community leaders and Advisers. (Members of Parliament are generally referred to as 'Advisers' to the grassroots of their constituencies.) Each CPN officer serves as a single point-of-contact for the LTA. They help gather feedback through regular meetings with grassroots organisations.

CPN officers are expected to explain and clarify transport related matters. To ensure proper resolution of issues, CPN officers will make certain that each feedback is carefully assessed, outcome conveyed, and implementation monitored. By forging a close partnership with the Advisers and the grassroots, CPN officers can help community leaders become knowledgeable ’LTA spoke-persons’ to the public through regular briefing.

To better understand the increasingly diverse needs of the community, it is essential for CPN officers to widen their network. They accompany community leaders and Advisers on their ‘house visits’, block and garden parties, community forums, town hall meetings, project commissioning events and panel discussions. These direct and personable interactions have helped LTA build rapport with the community and opened opportunities for the public to provide valuable feedback. They have also led to better and deeper understanding of the ground sentiments, as well as the underlying challenges faced by the community. Very often the resolution of issues requires balancing the diverse needs of the community.

The community at large benefits from this personalised touch-point provided by CPN. Since its inauguration, CPN has touched over 260,000 residents and 32,000 grassroots leaders and other government agencies representatives. The public sector has also benefited from the positive account of responsiveness, active involvement, and sincerity to listen to public feedback displayed by the CPN division. In fact, this better engagement with local communities has made CPN a role model for other government agencies to set up a similar division—within their organisation.

To monitor the needs of the community, CPN Division introduced a tracking system designed to document and monitor the progress of a problem from the time it was raised to resolution, and to keep the community updated in a timely manner. The CPN division utilises the system to collate monthly reports, and to perform analysis so as to better understand the concerns affecting fellow citizens and the unique needs of the different segments of community.

Additionally, CPN conducts annual customer surveys with the grassroots and advisers. Over the past years, these customer surveys show more than 90% have rated CPN services as highly satisfactory.

With CPN’s active community engagement and well-established network of grassroots leaders and government agency partners, the rise in the number of issues received over the years is testament to the invaluable service provided (See table 1).

Year 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Issues received 4,260 4,405 4,306 6,825 >8,000(Expected)
Source: CPN Annual Reports
Table 1: Number of issues handled by CPN

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The setting up of the Community Partnership (CPN) division came about with the launch of the Land Transport Master Plan (LTMP). This underlines the changes to the Singapore land transport system for the next 10 to 15 years. The CPN division was implemented under purview of the Ministry of Transport with involvement from the then Transport Minister, Mr. Raymond Lim.

To plan for a successful ‘People-Centred Land Transport System’ with the community in mind, the intention was for the community to play a bigger role in shaping and implementing land transport policies and plans.

To this end, the CPN division has dedicated teams assigned to the Group Representation Constituency (GRCs) and Single Member Constituency (SMC) to engage the community more closely on the ground. The Community Partnership Program also invites grassroots leaders to discuss and share their views on transport policies and plans. LTA is the key stakeholder in this initiative, engaging the Grassroots organizations (and other government agencies, where necessary) to build relationships and sustain rapport amongst all stakeholders.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The Community Partnership Network (CPN) division was mooted by the then Minister for Transport, Mr Raymond Lim and LTA’s Chairman, Mr Micheal Lim and the then Chief Executive, Mr Yam Ah Mee. Its main objective was to engage the public through the Citizen Consultative Committees (CCC), whose members are grassroots leaders of the currently 87 constituencies in Singapore.

Each CCC comprises the Adviser and community (grassroot) leaders. The CCC serves as a platform for the government to engage in citizens’ dialogues, gather feedback, and foster community bonding.

Community leaders organise gatherings and activities to promote family, community, and social bonding. CPN Division leverages on such opportunities to set up exhibits and share LTA policies, developments, as well as update citizens on upcoming and completed land transport-related works in the neighborhood. Through these engagements, CPN officers can also solicit feedback directly from the public on any land transport matters. The networking and ground contacts cultivated through these activities have helped substantially in making subsequent engagements very fruitful.

Over the years, the data collected has trended CPN to focus on key areas that commonly remain as concerns to the general public. Five task groups within the CPN division were formed to boost the effectiveness of its engagement, namely:

Event and Publicity Task Group helps educate communities on road safety and champion newly introduced LTA programmes and policies. Educational materials and games are created to deliver impactful public messages. The materials cater to both young and old, serving to educate, inform, and guide them in fun ways.

Private Estate Task Group helps address concerns of residents from private estates such as illegal parking. Through briefings and outreach programs, the Task Group highlights the varying road and traffic issues encountered in these estates and recommend optimal solutions to balance diverse needs.

School Task Group helps to advise schools on appropriate measures to reduce traffic congestion, as well as to improve road safety in its vicinity. The task group proactively engages schools in seminars and dialogue sessions to achieve its goals of ensuring road safety and smooth flowing traffic.

Religious/Commercial Establishment Task Group helps alleviate road congestion and promote road safety by engaging such institutions through seminars and dialogue sessions. The Task Group is able to advise on appropriate measures to resolve challenging road issues related to road congestion during religious celebrations, as well as transforming the community’s mindset.

Resource Task Group helps to enhance the skill-sets of CPN officers by making available a knowledge-based library. By accessing the resources of the library, CPN officers can boost their capabilities, so that they can give immediate explanation and valid responses to feedback and queries.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The idea to set up the CPN division arose in March 2007. The pioneer batch of staff was put together in July 2007, and they started by feeling the ground and engaging the grassroots whilst moving to their new premises in September 2007. Only in March 2008, was the department officially announced by the then Transport Minister Mr. Raymond Lim. A group of 39 officers were organized into five divisions to match the five Community Development Councils (CDCs) districts in Singapore—which are regional groupings of constituencies. Today, each officer is assigned 2 to 3 constituencies to foster good rapport with these community leaders and serve as point-of-contacts for LTA.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Before the division was officially announced, many grassroots leaders doubted the CPN officers’ credentials and intentions. The initial approach of CPN was to patiently knock on the doors of the Citizen Consultative Committees (CCCs)/constituencies to befriend, connect, and understand their transport-related needs. Some CCCs shut their door when officers first requested to attend their monthly meetings. However, a conscious effort was made to break the ice and all attendances to CCC meetings were tracked.

In the beginning, the division was also constantly evolving as CPN Deputy Directors struggled to decide on the best platforms to engage citizens. A balance between effective outreach and the number and types of community activities to attend needed to be worked out. The events included block parties, appreciation dinners, Emergency Preparedness days, Town Hall meetings, resident dialogues and also walkabouts - where the Adviser meets residents during house visits around the estate to hear their concerns.

After many months, CPN officers finally gained sufficient trust and won acceptance by the community. A celebration was held when the CPN division finally made a breakthrough by being present at all 87 constituency’s CCC meetings and walkabouts.

CPN officers also had to learn to balance their work-life activities as many worked after-office hours, on weekends, and at times during public holidays.

The challenge of recruiting the right candidate hung heavy in the formative years. As the first batch of officers came from within LTA, buy-in was required from the other departments to release their staff for the new CPN division. Staff retention was also a challenge as some managers decided to return to their previous departments after realizing they were not suited for the role. To mitigate this, a stricter selection process was put in place for internal transfers. At the same time, the CPN division began looking outside of the LTA for potential hires.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
At the heart of the CPN division is people. CPN officers are required to have unique skills to effectively engage the people in the community. Effective managers have to have the right balance of IQ, EQ as well as technical knowledge to understand the needs of the community. They can then deliver effective solutions with the assistance of LTA subject matter experts (SMEs).

In the beginning, potential staff were identified and handpicked from different divisions within LTA. The selection and identification process was undertaken by the parent - Road Operations Community Partnership (ROCP) Group.

With a corp of public officers that is more engaged, the CPN division is able to connect with the community and other stakeholders to provide a public service that is:


i. No Wrong Door. In the absence of other government agency representatives during a public engagement, CPN officers will accept all feedback. They will subsequently re-direct non transport-related issues to the correct government agency. The community is thus assured that their feedback will be handled by the right parties.

ii. One-point of Contact. CPN officers are contactable at all times to address urgent issues, as well as all LTA initiatives.

iii. Learn, Adapt and Share. Officers are able to respond faster through growth and innovation.


iv. Stakeholders Participation. Communities are invited to participate at the launch of completed projects eg. opening ceremonies of new MRT lines and stations. This generates a greater sense of appreciation and ownership of these public amenities in the community.

v. Foster Better Understanding: CPN officers address issues in a more holistic way by working with the community to find the best solutions.

vi. Empathy: A balanced approach to problem resolution leads to LTA’s vision to meet the diverse needs of the various communities.


vii. Whole-of-Government Approach: Involved government agencies are now working better and faster together.

viii. Direct Engagement: Intimate understanding of the ground is sustained by CPN officers’ constant face-to-face engagement with the community.

ix. Good Network: Friendship and rapport with the grassroots and advisers is kept warm and intimate.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
CPN delivers real benefits to the people. It helps build bridges between grassroots organizations and the LTA. Through its work, common understanding and shared values are created between the two groups. This helps foster better understanding of current, as well as future, transportation needs of the community.

The community also develops a greater sense of appreciation of the public funds being used to provide public amenities. As the community is given more opportunities to participate in the launching of LTA’s major and minor initiatives, a greater sense of ownership and accomplishment is developed.

The experiences and lessons-learnt are propagated through sharing between LTA staff at the quarterly Road Operation, Community Partnership forums and also at Management meetings. To remain efficient and proficient in handling a variety of issues for the community, CPN officers are also constantly equipped with the latest knowledge and tools. Staff sharing sessions are conducted on a regular basis, where subject matter experts and other government agencies are invited to share and give updates on their new policies and initiatives. This sharing heightens awareness in CPN officers and helps them gain new perspectives as they deliver solutions to the community.

Responding to calls from higher echelons of government ministries, the CPN Division has also shared this new engagement strategy with other government agencies. CPN’s strength of having a dedicated team conversant with transport issues; her focused customer base ie. Grassroots and their advisers; her serving as a single point-of-contact for the numerous diverse issues; and most importantly, her personal, face-to-face approach to the public – are shared during these sessions. Difficult and complex case studies are also discussed.

Public Service Department (PSD) recently embarked on a PS21 (Public Service for the 21st Century) initiative to tackle issues that span across several government agencies and the communities. It suggests a re-think in the way the public agencies work today, both within the agencies (eg. policy making should be integrated with operational downstream needs) and with the communities (eg. ‘Joint solution-ing’ – likened as self-help by the community themselves). In this, CPN already has a head-start and will be able to actively contribute and even possibly, lead in some of the initial programs.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The new partnership process has successfully helped LTA improve its engagement with the community-at-large. This includes being more direct and intimate, while contributing significantly to its vision of creating a ‘People-Centred Land Transport System’.

Interactions with community leaders have opened up doors for LTA to understand the communication gaps and misconceptions that communities have of the many transport-related policies and issues.

This personalized engagement has given the community the assurance that issues raised are always handled seriously, reviewed by the right parties, coordinated, and resolved expeditiously.

Additionally, partnership leads to buy-in and opens doors for CPN officers to address cross-agency issues. The CPN division can formulate alternative solutions and manage trade-offs involving land transport policies and initiatives.

Local print media has described CPN officers as a “band of foot soldiers”. Additionally, “the move to work with people at the ground to come up with solutions has proven popular with residents and community leaders alike”. This is a strong testimony of the success of this initiative to engage the community directly.

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Teo Chee Hean, said in a Civil Service Publication that officers working with the community on the ground can combine their professional knowledge with intimate understanding of the actual ground situation to address issues in a more holistic way—delivering the best solution for the community.

CPN also recently won the Ministry of Transport’s Minister’s Innovation Merit Award for contribution towards ‘Service at Your Doorstep’ initiative. These accolades serve to highlight the real difference that the CPN division is making in connecting with the community and delivering a more responsive public service that is a key differentiator in today’s fast-paced national environment.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Land Transport Authority
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Margarita Loh
Title:   Deputy Director Community Partnership (Central)  
Telephone/ Fax:   +65 63961359
Institution's / Project's Website:   http://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltaweb/en.html
E-mail:   margarita_loh@lta.gov.sg  
Address:   1 Hampshire Road Blk 9 Level 3
Postal Code:   Singapore 219428
Country:   Singapore

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