App for express bus service from your home being studied

App for express bus service from your home being studied

An on-demand bus service which gives online crowdsourcing a new twist could offer commuters a new, quicker travel option.

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore and the Land Transport Authority are looking into the feasibility of personalised bus routes using a transport app.

The experimental system is appropriately called Beeline, since travel will have fewer or no stops en route.

Through the app, commuters can indicate where they want to be picked up and their destination. If enough people create a similar route, a bus service can be activated to ferry them.

For instance, someone living in Hougang might travel to Raffles Place to work. Using the app, he can create a route from home to office. Others on the app who see the route and are heading the same way can back the need for a private bus to ply this route. If enough people do so, a direct bus service can be activated.

Human resources manger Pauline Teo, 38, who travels from Yishun to Marina Bay for work, is willing to pay and try such a service. "It will be more convenient to have a direct bus service, rather than having to rush to a crowded train," she said.

Such ride-sharing services are already gaining traction in cities around the world. San Francisco, for instance, has a service named Chariot, which plys routes which are "crowdfunded" by passengers.

The IDA has set up a website - www.beeline.sg - to gather feedback on the idea, and to obtain data on which routes are most in demand. The website will run for a few months to gather enough data.

The idea might eventually be developed into a functioning app if there is enough demand for such a service.

No details on price have been released yet. But SIM University urban transport management expert Park Byung Joon expects it to cost about the same as premium bus services which now serve commuters heading to the Central Business District, at an average of $4 a trip.

"This targets those who don't want to pay for a taxi, but want a more customised service, like working adults," added Dr Park. "There is a wide gap between (bus and train) fares and taxi fares, and this could help fill it."

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said that while such a scheme might be convenient for a small group of people, it might not solve Singapore's transport woes.

"The idea is good, but I hope reality can sustain the idea," said Dr Lee. "If this consumes a lot of resources, I would rather the government spend more to improve current public transport services."

lesterh@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 26, 2015.
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