Trial of penalty-incentive scheme to encourage more regular bus arrivals starts next month

Passengers boarding a bus at Bishan bus interchange on Aug 3, 2012. Commuters on 22 bus services can expect buses to arrive more regularly when a carrot-and-stick scheme for operators kicks off next month. -- ST FILE PHOTO:  ASHLEIGH SIM&nb
Passengers boarding a bus at Bishan bus interchange on Aug 3, 2012. Commuters on 22 bus services can expect buses to arrive more regularly when a carrot-and-stick scheme for operators kicks off next month. -- ST FILE PHOTO:  ASHLEIGH SIM 

Commuters on 22 bus services can expect buses to arrive more regularly when a carrot-and-stick scheme for operators kicks off next month.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will conduct a two-year trial of the scheme for 12 SBS Transit routes and 10 SMRT routes.

The scheme, named the Bus Service Reliability Framework, aims to encourage bus operators to prevent buses bunching up by rewarding or penalising them based on timing criteria. Bus bunching means some buses are arriving too close together, leading to longer intervals for other buses and hence, longer waiting times for some commuters.

From Feb 3, seven SMRT bus services will be placed on the scheme - 176, 184, 188, 302, 858, 901 and 911. Another eight SBS Transit routes - 3, 17, 39, 52, 228, 241, 242 and 325 - will be put on the scheme by March.

The remaining seven bus services will go under the scheme from June. LTA group director for public transport Yeo Teck Guan said the implementation is staggered to allow the operators to adjust. The 22 services include a mix of long and short trunk routes, as well as feeder bus routes.

The scheme will measure excess waiting time, which is the average additional time commuters spend waiting at a bus stop due to bus bunching compared to if buses arrive at regular intervals.

This will be measured during all the trips of a single bus service in both peak and off-peak hours on weekdays, at three to five bus stops along the route.

Each of the 22 bus services will have a "baseline" excess waiting time that they should strive to improve upon. For instance, service 858 has a base excess waiting time of 2.1 minutes. The bus operator of the service would be able to cut this timing by ensuring that its buses arrive at bus stops more regularly.

Operators will get up to $6,000 per service each month for every six seconds of waiting time it shaves off, and can be penalised up to $4,000 for every six seconds added on.

The carrot-and-stick scheme is modelled after a similar programme in London, which has been running for more than 12 years.

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