Keep slower passengers in mind when planning bus schedules

Although punctuality is key to running efficient and competitive bus services, there can be unintended consequences if it becomes the be-all and end-all (SBS, SMRT get $3.4m for better bus services; March 3).

For instance, it is not uncommon to see buses which are ahead of schedule parked and waiting at bus stops.

This is frustrating to the passengers on board, and is a waste of fuel.

Also, the running engine results in pollution.

Some drivers also slow the bus down to a crawl to pad up time so they do not arrive too early.

Other drivers who are pressed for time become agitated and impatient when passengers, especially the elderly, are slow to board.

Other drivers who are pressed for time become agitated and impatient when passengers, especially the elderly, are slow to board. They then drive aggressively to make up for lost time.

They then drive aggressively to make up for lost time.

I have also encountered drivers who close the entrance doors and drive off without a thought for the elderly folk who are making their way to the bus.

In implementing the Bus Service Reliability Framework, the Land Transport Authority should focus on the time taken to board and exit buses, taking into account the time needed to deal with fares, cards and inquiries.

Perhaps some extra time could be built in so the elderly do not need to hurry and risk falls and other injuries.

Given that traffic congestion varies throughout the day, regular interval services may need to be ditched in favour of a more complicated schedule to accommodate longer journeys at more congested times.

As more people use smartphones to obtain real-time information on when the next bus is arriving, the traditional timetable may even become less relevant, especially on higher-frequency routes.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2017, with the headline 'Keep slower passengers in mind when planning bus schedules'. Print Edition | Subscribe