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South Korea tests public transport alert system for pregnant passengers

Fri 3 Jun 2016

The city of Busan in South Korea has undertaken trials of a novel system which alerts seat-dwelling passengers that a pregnant traveller has just boarded the carriage, in order to prompt the surrender of a much-needed seat.

The ‘Pink Light’ system [Korean] was experimentally installed as a collaboration between the Busan city council and the local business community on the Busan-Gimhae Light Rail service, and tested over five days. The scheme involves the fitting of special alert modules over seats which are activated by Bluetooth signals from devices that the pregnant women carry, triggering the alarm.

500 pregnant travellers in the city participated in the scheme over five days of the trial, carrying round the Bluetooth pink Bluetooth devices, which operate at very low signal strength and will not activate the beacons if more than lightly concealed.

The mayor of Busan, Suh Byung-soo, commented “Consideration for pregnant women should prevail and they should be able to use public transportation more easily and conveniently with this policy,” and continued “Women should be able to use city facilities easily even when they are expecting.”

One newspaper poll found 63% of readers in support of a UK law making the surrender of a seat to a pregnant woman by able-bodied commuters compulsory, in response to the tale of one encumbered lady who ended up standing for two hours in a crowded train, with flat refusal from any of the seated passengers that she asked to give her a seat.

Select seats on London’s buses and tubes are marked as prioritised for the pregnant, elderly or disabled, but there is no underlying transport regulation on the matter.

The contentions around the issue in this country, along with the considerable number of flame wars that the subject can inspire, are perhaps linked with British inhibition; when a young mother-to-be in New York found herself in the same situation on the subway. A woman standing next to her asked if she wanted to sit down, and on hearing that she did, demanded that one of the seated men rise to the occasion.

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