No roll-out of on-demand buses as trial reveals higher costs

Buses seen at the Jurong East bus interchange.
Buses seen at the Jurong East bus interchange.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore will not roll out on-demand buses, which operate like phone-booked taxis, because of higher costs involved.

The Land Transport Authority said on Friday (May 31) that a six-month trial of on-demand buses - which plied the Joo Koon and Marina-Downtown areas - will conclude on June 15.

During the trial, it found that these buses were costlier to run than regular, fixed-route buses.

"Mileage savings were observed during the trial, but it is currently less cost-effective for on-demand public buses to be scaled up due to high technology costs," the authority explained in a statement.

Compared to fixed and scheduled bus services, operated mileage in the same area was 18 per cent lower during the trial, the LTA added, noting that this meant fewer buses were required.

But the system "is currently less cost-effective" because of "high software development costs".

"Larger-scale deployment of on-demand public buses is expected to become more cost-effective in the future when the efficiency of algorithms improves," the LTA said.


The system would also become more efficient when driverless buses are ready, it added.

More than 26,000 rides have been booked during the trial to date. And according to an LTA passenger poll, about half of those who were aware of the scheme had tried it. But there was also "a significant group of commuters who were either not aware... or chose not to try it".

The latter group said regular bus services provided greater certainty. They also felt uncomfortable with using a mobile application to book a bus ride.