Buses more punctual, but many do not feel it

Buses more punctual, but many do not feel it

A trial to improve bus service reliability has shown that operators are running some of their vehicles more punctually, but commuters seem to need more convincing.

Out of 50 people interviewed, 66 per cent said they did not feel the difference, or saw no improvement in bus frequency, while the rest felt that buses were running more frequently.

The Straits Times spoke to these people who take buses along some of the 22 routes that are under a trial to see if a carrot-and-stick approach works to get buses to run at regular intervals.

Retiree Ho Won Cheng, 60, who hops on bus service 853 from Serangoon to Geylang, said he has noticed a big change.

"In the past, you had to wait 10 to 15 minutes. Now you need to wait for 10 minutes or less."

But the majority, such as student Nora Tiqah, 19, feel more can be done to reduce bus bunching and long gaps between buses - a frequent complaint.

Ms Nora said: "Sometimes the wait can be as long as 30 to 45 minutes. Sometimes three buses come at one go."

Bus ridership climbed 4.2 per cent last year to 3.75 million trips a day.

The two public bus operators here were assessed between June and November last year under the Bus Service Reliability Framework, an ongoing two-year trial.

The Land Transport Authority said results have been encouraging. SBS Transit and SMRT will together receive more than $1 million in incentives for exceeding targets last year.

SBS Transit has been awarded $710,286 for ensuring that 11 of its 12 bus services under trial ran at more punctual intervals. SMRT will get $345,714 for improvements to seven of its 10 routes in the scheme.

The operators managed to cut down on excess waiting time - the difference between actual and scheduled waiting times - by between 12 seconds and 36 seconds.

Under this reward-and- penalise scheme, an operator can earn as much as $6,000 a month for every six seconds it shaves off the waiting time, but it can also be fined up to $4,000 for every six seconds exceeded.

Transport analyst Park Byung Joon noted that there is a gap between commuter expectations and the effectiveness of the government trial.

Dr Park, who heads the urban transport management programme at SIM University, said: "People expect more buses arriving at shorter intervals, but what this scheme aims to do is to make buses come at regular intervals. People must be able to see the difference."

Commuters such as shipbroker Alvin Leong, 29, who takes bus service 52 from Bishan to Sin Ming every day, hope operators will be able to do more than just ensure buses run on time.

"(Service) 52 is not a problem for me, but sometimes there is a bottleneck in Lornie Road, so more buses coming faster is not a bad idea."


This article was first published on April 11, 2015.
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