On-demand bus trial gets mostly positive response

Journalist Zhaki Abdullah (left) booked an on-demand public bus in the Marina Bay area using the BusNow app yesterday, while Mr Low Chong Gee (below), 50, a shipping agent, tried out the same app.
Journalist Zhaki Abdullah (above) booked an on-demand public bus in the Marina Bay area using the BusNow app yesterday, while Mr Low Chong Gee, 50, a shipping agent, tried out the same app.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Journalist Zhaki Abdullah (left) booked an on-demand public bus in the Marina Bay area using the BusNow app yesterday, while Mr Low Chong Gee (below), 50, a shipping agent, tried out the same app.
Journalist Zhaki Abdullah booked an on-demand public bus in the Marina Bay area using the BusNow app yesterday, while Mr Low Chong Gee (above), 50, a shipping agent, tried out the same app.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Commuters find service user-friendly on first day of six-month tests for 2 apps - in Downtown and Joo Koon

The Land Transport Authority kicked off its six-month trial of on-demand public buses yesterday, receiving a mainly positive initial response.

During the trial - aimed at seeing if such services could lead to shorter waiting times and lower running costs - commuters can request pick-ups and drop-offs at any bus stop within the designated areas through a mobile app.

US-based Via Transportation developed the BusGo app - which is being tested in Joo Koon - while Ministry of Movement is responsible for the BusNow app being trialled in Marina Downtown.

Regardless of the distance travelled, adult fares - paid in the usual way by tapping an EZ-Link card upon boarding - are a flat 77 cents, the cost of a trip on a feeder service.

The service is available on weekdays, excluding public holidays, from 11am to 3pm. It also runs from 8.30pm to 11.30pm in Joo Koon and until 11.45pm in Marina Downtown.

Few commuters appeared to be using the on-demand buses yesterday but those who did found the service user-friendly.

Mr Chandrasekaran Manikandan, 43, who booked a bus from International Plaza to the Downtown MRT station, said the process of setting up an account and booking a bus ride was "slick".

 
 

Booking a bus using BusNow was similar to using a ride-hailing service such as Grab, said the IT enterprise architect, who added that he would consider using it again in the future.

Riders are given the service number and location of the bus through the app, and are sent a notification when it is approaching.

They are also given an electronic "ticket" to show the driver to confirm their booking. Those who have not made a booking via the app will not be allowed to board.

Engineer Samantha Seah, 28, took the service from her office in Benoi Sector to Joo Koon Bus Interchange during lunch hour. She said the usual service 253 would take about 15 minutes to arrive, but the on-demand bus arrived in 10.

Ms Seah said the new service allowed her to better plan her time and the journey was also smoother because of the fewer stops.

However, some commuters were caught off-guard by the changes. In the Joo Koon area, bus services 253, 255 and 257 run at longer intervals of 30 minutes while the on-demand bus service is being tested.

Ms S. C. Lam, 50, a technician, said the change was "disruptive" and there was insufficient publicity about it at the Joo Koon interchange.

While SBS Transit staff were present to help commuters download the new app, Ms Lam said she did not do so because she had insufficient data on her mobile plan to do so. She suggested a booking kiosk for the on-demand service be set up at the interchange for commuters.

The Straits Times tried the service - from the Downtown MRT station, along Central Boulevard, to Gardens by the Bay at 11.30am. The trip took 20 minutes, with a waiting time of about 15 minutes. When trying to book a shorter trip from Central Boulevard to Shenton Way, the app recommended waiting for a scheduled bus which was arriving in less than five minutes.

Yesterday's ridership numbers were not available.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2018, with the headline 'On-demand bus trial gets mostly positive response'. Print Edition | Subscribe