Better bus service info with single system

Commuters boarding a SMRT bus near Clementi MRT station. All public buses here are to be managed by a single computer system in a move designed to provide commuters with more reliable information. -- ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Commuters boarding a SMRT bus near Clementi MRT station. All public buses here are to be managed by a single computer system in a move designed to provide commuters with more reliable information. -- ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

All public buses here are to be managed by a single computer system in a move designed to provide commuters with more reliable information.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has called for tenders to develop a common system that transport operators SBS Transit and SMRT will eventually use to keep tabs on their services.

It will also be a source of real-time information to both operators and the LTA.

Currently, SBS Transit and SMRT have separate systems, and provide data on operations to the authority on a regular basis.

An LTA spokesman said the common infrastructure will offer commuters "enhanced bus service information" and "reliable island-wide bus arrival times". She said the system will also allow the LTA to monitor the network in real-time.

This will enable it to send up-to-the minute advisories to commuters, helping them to make more informed travel decisions.

As part of the new approach, an in-vehicle system (IVS) will be installed in public buses.

This will include a GPS system to help drivers navigate. It will also display diverted routes and information on bridging services if a train disruption occurs.

Other new features include an early warning alerting drivers to restricted zones, such as those with height limits.

The IVS will also help service controllers to monitor each driver's performance. This system will be tested on 250 buses first. It will take several years before it is adopted across the entire fleet of public buses. Cities such as London and Seoul have similar management systems.

Observers said the move is a big step forward in the quest to make bus services more reliable, as it gives the LTA direct access to operational data - crucial in making the new bus quality incentive framework a success.

Announced in March by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, the framework will reward operators which ensure that their buses are punctual and penalise them if services arrive earlier or later than scheduled.

The LTA will implement a pilot scheme on 25 bus routes towards the end of this year.

A spokesman said the details are being worked out. Dr Alexander Erath, a transport researcher at Future Cities Laboratory, said the new system will help bus drivers maintain the correct gap between services.

This will allow them to adjust their driving to reduce bunching.

Meanwhile, the data collected will make it easier for the LTA to plan and optimise the bus network, he said.

Dr Erath added: "The new system is likely to provide more accurate information on the location of buses than today. This means the arrival time prediction as available in apps such as SG Buses will be more reliable."

roysim@sph.com.sg