Orchard Road bus priority boxes start from Monday

The bus priority boxes will be operational at the stops opposite Mandarin Orchard (above) and Midpoint Orchard.
The bus priority boxes will be operational at the stops opposite Mandarin Orchard (above) and Midpoint Orchard.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Cut-off time for the full-day bus lane scheme will also be extended till 11pm

Many buses along Orchard Road serve only alternate stops along the road. However, this means a bus not serving a stop often has to wait unnecessarily behind one that is - especially during peak hours.

The waiting bus could leave the bus lane and overtake but, in heavy traffic, this is practically impossible.

This is why the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is trying out a bus priority box - that will allow buses to cut out of bus lanes - at two stops along the road.

The boxes will be operational next Monday at the stops opposite Mandarin Orchard and at Midpoint Orchard.

They will be the first stops without bus bays in the city to be in the Mandatory Give Way to Buses scheme.

EASE OF MOVEMENT

The Bus Priority Box will help buses to overtake the bus queue and exit the bus stops more quickly.

THE LAND TRANSPORT AUTHORITY, in an e-mail.

When contacted, the LTA explained in an e-mail: "The Bus Priority Box will help buses to overtake the bus queue and exit the bus stops more quickly."

The Straits Times saw the problem during a visit to the stop opposite Mandarin Orchard last Friday evening from 6pm to 8pm.

A total of 138 buses stopped there during that time, but only 28 managed to filter out of the bus lane.

The rest remained in the lane and some were stuck behind buses waiting at the next stop: Midpoint Orchard.

It was also observed that motorists outside the bus lane did not slow down to allow buses to filter in.

One motorist, Ms Cheryl Tan, a 29-year-old public relations manager who drives along Orchard Road regularly, said: "When I see these buses signal to filter in, I usually just keep going as they are already in a bus lane. I don't see why they need to move to another lane."

Next Monday will also see the full-day bus lane scheme operating until 11pm instead of 8pm. About 23km of bus lanes will be affected, mostly in the city centre.

The LTA said these roads have high bus and traffic volume beyond the evening peak hours especially along stretches where there are office and commercial buildings.

The authority said: "By extending the operating hours... we can shorten travel times for bus commuters and make bus journeys smoother."

One of the affected roads is Eu Tong Sen Street which The Straits Times visited on Saturday at 8.30pm.

The road was packed with both buses and cars. Buses were also impeded by cars cutting in front of them at stops after the bus lane operation hours ended at 8pm. The situation eased only at about 9.30pm.

Mr Jonathan Chee, a 45-year-old businessman who drives to his workplace in Chinatown daily, said: "Extending the bus lane hours may make my journey by car longer but it's after peak hours when traffic isn't as bad and hopefully, it will also encourage more people to take public transport."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2016, with the headline 'Orchard Rd bus priority boxes start from Monday'. Print Edition | Subscribe