Bus spotters go out of their way to try new routes, improve existing ones

Members of the Singapore Bus Spotters Association include (from left) university undergraduate Liu Ying Jun, 24; secondary school student Matthew Tay, 16; full-time national serviceman Teo Boon Kiat, 22; and (kneeling) Institute of Technical Educatio
Members of the Singapore Bus Spotters Association include (from left) university undergraduate Liu Ying Jun, 24; secondary school student Matthew Tay, 16; full-time national serviceman Teo Boon Kiat, 22; and (kneeling) Institute of Technical Education student Muhd Naz Farihin, 19.ST PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

As many as 70 new bus routes were launched in Singapore over the past four years and a group of Singaporeans has made it a point to try all the new services.

Called the Singapore Bus Spotters Association, the group is made up of 25 members who are passionate about spotting every make and model of bus on the roads.

Usually among the first riders on these routes, they will study the services' frequencies, areas served and passenger loads.

When they see things that can be improved, they send feedback to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), and bus operators SBS Transit and SMRT.

The group estimates that it has submitted 300 to 400 pieces of feedback, including suggestions on how to improve existing routes.

Its president, Ms Liu Ying Jun, 24, a materials engineering undergraduate, said: "We will just write in as the public and say that we are concerned about these routes and give suggestions."

Members also go out of their way to try the new routes.

Mr Teo Boon Kiat, 22, a full-time national serviceman, said he will make a trip to the Central Business District just to test the City Direct services between the city and heartland, run by private operators.

The bus spotters often frequent scrapyards in Sungei Kadut and Kranji to collect bus souvenirs.

Institute of Technical Education student Muhd Naz Farihin's prized possession is an electronic display board installed on the front of buses to show its service number and routes, which he bought for $300.

"I had it re-wired so it could be powered by my laptop power adaptor. It's a nice addition to my collection of bus parts, like licence plates and badges," the 19-year-old said.

Next month, members will display memorabilia, such as old bus tickets, model buses and destination plates, at an LTA roving bus carnival celebrating the history and future of Singapore's bus industry.

The event, open to the public, will kick off at Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza from March 11 to 13.

It will move to an outdoor plaza at VivoCity between March 25 and 27, and then to the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh between April 1 and 3.

While the Singapore Bus Spotters Association is a small group among a larger, looser community of bus enthusiasts here, they are hoping to make a big difference.

Besides looking to register itself as a society, it also hopes to work with the Government and operators to preserve old buses, which it feels are a vital part of Singapore's history.

"The idea is not new," said Ms Liu. "Other cities such as Hong Kong have it. The buses could be brought out for carnivals or exhibitions, like those held for vintage cars."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline 'Bus fans go out of their way to try new routes, improve existing ones'. Print Edition | Subscribe