Making buses more like trains

Plans to raise public bus service standards are gaining momentum. A project to install new-generation farecard readers is almost done, and another to put electronic destination signs on board buses is around the corner.

The new farecard readers replace the previous ones installed 10 years ago. The replacement, involving all 4,500 buses, costs $32 million, said the Land Transport Authority.

Besides having larger screens, the new units show the amount deducted, as well as card balance and distance travelled. They also let commuters know when to tap EZ-Link cards when they are disembarking - as doing so will ensure the right fare is deducted.

The replacement exercise started in August last year. By the end of next month, all public buses will have the new readers.

"They are easier for commuters to read, especially senior citizens," an LTA spokesman said.

The spokesman added that the authority is planning to install electronic destination information panels on public buses.

The proposed system will make buses more like trains, which display the name of each approaching station on LED panels.

Similarly, the bus version may display a landmark or housing estate at each bus-stop. This will help commuters who are unfamiliar with areas they are travelling to.

The Straits Times understands it will be a more sophisticated version of what operator SMRT Corp has on its bus fleet; and is likely to be rolled out as part of a centralised bus management system that is being planned.

SBS Transit spokesman Tammy Tan said: "Destination information on board buses is something we are exploring with the LTA as part of their next-generation fleet management system."

The satellite-tracked management system will give commuters real-time bus arrival information.

It will also allow the LTA to measure the punctuality of buses accurately, as part of an incentive framework that rewards operators for meeting or exceeding service standards, and penalising them for failure to do so.

A pilot scheme involving buses on 25 routes - or about 10 per cent of the total routes - will kick off next month.

The fleet management system will also allow changes to make the industry more competitive.

Regular bus commuter Tan Pang Soon said the centralised bus fleet management system "should enable LTA to have better control... and ought to eliminate any lapses in service deliveries".

The 24-year-old university student added that the new farecard reader "is indeed better" than the previous one.

He said the readouts could stay on for a bit longer, "but I suppose a balance has to be struck" between that and efficiency.

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