The daily work commute to Marina Bay used to be a stifling 1 1/2-hour feeder bus and train journey for Jurong West resident Xu Huimei.
"The chance of getting a seat was zero," the bank analyst said.
But for 30 cents more yesterday morning, the 27-year-old had a stress-free journey in a relatively empty 40-seater bus, taking an hour to get to work.
She was one of around 50 commuters to hop on the new City Service 651, launched on Monday by ComfortDelGro Bus after it won the tender for $1.06 million in June.
The service, which starts from Jurong West Avenue 3, plies 10 stops in the estate before taking the Ayer Rajah Expressway to Marina Boulevard.
Tickets cost $2.37 with the ez-link card and $2.70 if paid in cash. There are two buses from Jurong West in the morning, at 7.30am and 7.45am, and two from Marina Boulevard in the evening, at 6.15pm and 6.30pm.
This is the first of 10 bus routes that will ferry commuters from the heartland to the city using the expressway during peak hours.
The nine other City Direct bus services, run by private operators, will be rolled out from next January.
They will serve residents in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Bukit Batok, Eunos, Hougang, Jurong East, Sembawang, Sengkang and West Coast.
All of the commuters whom The Straits Times spoke to yesterday gave bus service 651 the thumbs up. Although they had to pay a bit more, they said it was "small change", considering the convenience and comfort.
Investor relations director Neo Aik Kee said the bus stop he gets off at is just a five-minute walk away from his workplace at Bestway Building in Tanjong Pagar.
"It's a leisurely walk to work without having to get frustrated with the morning peak-hour crowd at the MRT station," added the 33-year-old.
Public transport operators SBS Transit and SMRT have also started four "parallel" bus services - part of a $1.1 billion government plan to beef up bus services - to give commuters in housing estates an extra option in and out of the city.
On Monday, the Land Transport Authority said these services have been well received, with more instances of passenger loads of more than 70 per cent.
Meanwhile, investment analyst Shirley Chua hopes that more trips will be added to bus service 651, which she believes will become more popular among professionals because of its convenience.
Said the 29-year-old: "I hope to still be able to secure a seat and space to read my newspapers or at least get some rest before work."