Commuters' complaints sound softer as their waits grow shorter

Commuters' complaints sound softer as their waits grow shorter
An SMRT service ambassador guiding commuters in Bangkit Road. The ambassadors are stationed at crowded bus stops to manage peak-hour queues. Under the Bus Services Enhancement Programme, half of the existing 275 basic bus services have been improved and 31 new services rolled out.

Bus trips have become less of an ordeal for commuters, with shorter waiting times and less crowded rides in the last two years.

Since the Government's Bus Services Enhancement Programme (BSEP) was introduced, commuters say buses are arriving more frequently, resulting in shorter waiting times, and that buses are no longer as crowded.

Mr Derrick Tan, 31, who takes bus service 70 from Serangoon to Shenton Way, has noticed that his waiting time has been reduced by at least four minutes, from about 20 minutes previously.

"The wait is more bearable. The journey to and from work is much more pleasant," said the assistant manager at a bank.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Monday that half of the existing 275 basic bus services have been improved, and 31 new services have been rolled out under the $1.1 billion programme since 2012.

There are now 450 new government-funded buses, in addition to the operators' buses. The LTA has also been working with SBS Transit and SMRT to deploy more buses for popular routes. By 2017, there will be 1,000 government- funded buses on the roads.

Over two days, The Straits Times tracked 30 new and improved bus services plying Bukit Panjang, Woodlands, Bedok, Orchard Road and Shenton Way.

It found that most buses arrived within 15 minutes during the morning and evening peak hours. Buses along services that have not been improved under the BSEP can take up to 20 minutes to arrive during peak hours.

Even the notoriously crowded bus service 190 from Choa Chu Kang to Orchard Road has been improved. On Wednesday morning, The Straits Times found that service 190 came at intervals of one to three minutes.

The improvement of service 190 and the addition of new bus service 972 has helped to make journeys smoother for Bukit Panjang residents, who are not serviced by the MRT lines.

SMRT also has service ambassadors stationed at high-volume bus stops to manage peak-hour queues.

These trainee bus drivers in bright yellow vests were spotted at a crowded bus stop in front of Block 270, Bangkit Road, reminding passengers to move to the rear and ensuring that others did not get clipped by the doors.

"There's still a lot of space inside the bus, but it's hard to get people to move in, so having the marshals helps," said Mr Shaun Tan, 31, a construction executive.

Some commuters said that while service standards have gone up, more could be done. This includes reducing the bunching of buses, shortening waiting time further, and adding more double- decker buses.

"The waiting times are still unpredictable," said student Jon Chan, 17. "Sometimes, the buses come within a few minutes, and at other times, it can take more than 15 minutes."

Despite the overall positive response from commuters on the ground, an online poll of 438 commuters conducted by The Straits Times found that 75 per cent of commuters have not felt the effects of the BSEP.

Many said that the bus services they use - which have yet to fall under the BSEP - are in urgent need of improvement. These included bus services 66, 74, 145 and 171.

Others said that buses already under the programme need further improvement.

Service 858, which runs from Woodlands to Changi Airport, for example, drew the most gripes, with commuters complaining about a long waiting time for the bus and a lack of space for passengers with luggage.

The LTA has said it will continue to work with operators on bus services that need improving.

changmc@sph.com.sg

calyang@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Oct 10, 2014.
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