With a route winding through both housing and industrial estates in Woodlands, feeder bus service 964 is often packed full with residents and workers during the morning and evening rush hours.
But since May, when an additional government-funded bus was put on the route, commuters have noticed that it is less crowded. "If the coming bus is crowded, we can (give it a) miss and take the next one. The service is good, coming every five to 10 minutes," said Ms Sarala Gopalanraman, 33, who works in purchasing.
The situation at Woodlands bus interchange has also become better, Ms Sarala added. "In the morning, when the queue is long at Woodlands bus interchange, buses arrive two to three in a row to take the passengers. It's very fast."
Service 964, operated by SMRT, is one of the latest services to have been augmented under the Government's billion-dollar Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP). Under the initiative, the Government partnered operators to enhance bus capacity and boost service levels, to address the issues of rising public transport ridership.
Peak-time travel less of a hassle now
Since the programme started in September 2012, the number of services with persistent peak-period crowding has fallen by more than 83 per cent - from 96 services prior to BSEP to 16 as of May, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA). Peak-period crowding is when the bus loading, including standing and seated passengers, exceeds 95 per cent.
Besides service 964, another route which has been improved recently is that of service 856, also operated by SMRT. It plies between Woodlands and Yishun, and passes by the Woodlands Train Checkpoint and industrial areas in Senoko and Admiralty.
Since the rush-hour crowding on service 856 was observed by the LTA in April, through fare-collection data and on-the-ground checks, it worked with SMRT to introduce one more bus to the route the following month. A single-deck bus has also been converted to a double-decker.
Commuter Dennis Maramara, 36, a drawing coordinator, said: "I have to stand most of the way when I take the bus from Yishun interchange to my workplace near Admiralty, but the newer buses are cooler, with better air-con."
More relief may be on the way for commuters who take service 856. SMRT said it plans to replace another single-deck bus with a double-decker next month.
Mr Tan Kian Heong, vice-president of SMRT Buses, said efforts to improve service 856 started back in June last year. In total, three buses have been added, and two single-deck buses have been converted to double-deckers. "This has increased capacity by 15 per cent and reduced headway by up to two minutes from a year ago."
Meanwhile, the LTA said it will continue to monitor the 16 services with peak-period crowding and make improvements. "Typically, services can experience peak-period crowding due to operational reliability issues, such as the public transport operators being unable to operate the full slate of scheduled trips during the peak period, slow traffic along congested sectors or inclement weather."
Through BSEP, a total of 620 new buses have been added on the roads so far, with 380 more to come by 2017. Forty new services have also been launched. On the whole, 166 out of the 282 - or three out of every five - bus services have been improved.
But with more buses on the roads, Ms Wendy Ho, 50, said commuters need accurate information too. Ms Ho, a telephone operator who takes service 856 from Yishun interchange daily, said the departure timings on the information board are, sometimes, not accurate. "When I'm in a rush, that's not good," she said in Mandarin.
This article was first published on July 6, 2015.
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