Monday, March 29, 2010

Shortening the bus route may not resolve the frequency problem

Recently the newspapers have been reporting that the long haul bus route will be shortened to increase the frequency of the buses. However, this may not be the magic bullet that resolves the problem.

Let us assume that a person Z wishes to travel from point A to C. Previously it was a direct route but after changes to the bus system, Z must change to another bus at point B. Assuming that a bus must leave the interchange every 15mins and there's only one connecting bus at point B, Z must wait for a maximum of 15mins for the bus to depart. Upon reaching point B, assuming that the person misses the connecting bus, the person will have to also wait a maximum of 15mins for the connecting bus, depending on the traffic conditions.

Using the example above, Z who used to wait for a maximum of 15mins will now have to wait for a maximum of half an hour before reaching point C. This is assuming that the bus route does not lengthen as a result of the change.

Therefore, in order to increase the frequency of the buses, in addition to the change above,
  • short-haul buses should leave the bus terminal every 10mins (minimum);
  • the number of connecting buses should be more than 1 and should stretch to a few bus-stops; and
  • the connecting buses preferably should be from different companies so as to induce competition (better service).

Translated, that means the bus companies need to spend more money to procure more buses and hire more drivers in order to increase the frequency of the buses. Even without changes to the bus routes, just by increasing the number of buses, the frequency will get better, especially with the recent implementation of the single red line bus lane. In fact, just by introducing competition to the route may result in an increase in frequency due to more buses plying the same route.

Transport is always a chicken and egg problem. With the sharp increase of COE, I do not see why an increase of bus frequency will not result in more people taking that bus route. There's no running away from increasing the number of buses. That's the only way to increase the frequency.


Anonymous said...

Two things:

1. The govt's policies are meant to benefit the majority. It's fine if Z has to wait longer than before, as long as the majority improves their travel time.

2. With the new Circle line, the new bus policy is to route people to take the MRT, so that the ridership is good. Yes, politics here, what else.

Oh, one more thing, govt earns more as bus-MRT transfers costs more than a previously 1-hr trans-island bus ride.

Anonymous said...

Competition is always healthy, but some reasons that I dunno, if the competition doesn't translate to monetary benefits for the service provider, the govt would rather stop the "bleeding", rather than keeping it for the benefits the consumers.

...Of coz, they will come back with some arguments such as " the long run it is the consumers who are going to suffer...", "...service provider can no longer afford to provide quality service...", or any theories that says "competition introduce a vicious cycle"

chantc said...

I agree that government policies are meant to benefit the majority. However, by shortening the bus route without increasing the frequency of the bus leaving the terminal, it's useless. It's status quo for us and there will be minimal improvements in the frequency of buses.

I do not deny that MRTs are more convenient. I take it most of the time, but buses should provide a good alternative. Look at the over-crowding in the MRTs every morning and evening. Good?

There should always be an option for us to take either the MRT or the bus to go to a certain place. For the transport operators to diligently look at the service level, the bus and mrt MUST be from different companies. Only then will they be on their toes.

Regulation doesn't do much in increasing service level. Competition does.

Donaldson Tan said...

Few years back, a private bus operator wanted to undercut SBS and TIBS, but PTC wouldn't give him the license to operate unless he is operating a premium bus service.

Anonymous said...

There should always be an option for us to take either the MRT or the bus to go to a certain place. For the transport operators to diligently look at the service level, the bus and mrt MUST be from different companies. Only then will they be on their toes.

Sigh, after living in SG all these years, one shd have seen the govt true colors. There is no need for the public transport operators to be "on their toes"; they just need to be profitable. Look at their annual reports --- where do the millions profit come from?

We're just an elite, premium country. If u can earn enough to live this lifestyle, good, stay on and pay. Else, the policies are crafted that the "can't-afford" will leave for other countries (NB: the govt didn't tell u to leave, u left on your own accord, hor...!)

Was just discussing with my police fren on recent reports abt victims being physically bullied and police only gives advice on how to sue the aggressor. I commented that our laws bias the rich as the poor can't afford to pay legal fees to fight it out in court. He promptly agree. What else to say?

chantc said...

Yes, I recall that incident where a public bus operator wanted to compete in the public transport market. For some reason, it was shot down but I don't recall any reasons for it. I remember that time, we still had that stored value card mechanism, and it seems that after that incident, overnight all the OMO buses (I used to take it) seem to have disappeared. Didn't comply with the stored value card system? I guess no one knows.

The public transport system is the only alternative for us (high COE, ERP, season parking, insurance, petrol, etc) and it seems like we have to deal with the indifference from the incumbents. Why the restriction on competition? By the law of the "free market", competition will result in the survival of the fittest. Someone will want to eat the pie.

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