Positive response to first day of on-demand bus trial

The six-month trial of on-demand public buses allows commuters to request pick-ups and drop-offs at any bus stop within designated areas through a mobile app.
The six-month trial of on-demand public buses allows commuters to request pick-ups and drop-offs at any bus stop within designated areas through a mobile app.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - The Land Transport Authority (LTA) kicked off its six-month trial of on-demand public buses on Monday (Dec 17) - and garnered a mainly positive initial response.

The trial allows commuters to request pick-ups and drop-offs at any bus stop within designated areas through a mobile app.

In August, two firms - United States-based Via Transportation and local start-up Ministry of Movement - were awarded a $2.26 million contract to run the trial.

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

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

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

Though few commuters appeared to be using the on-demand buses, those who did found the service user-friendly.

 
 

Mr Chandrasekaran Manikandan, 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".

"I usually take a private shuttle bus, which runs about every 15 to 20 minutes, but I missed it," said the 43-year-old IT enterprise architect.

Booking a bus using BusNow was as easy as using a ride-hailing service such as Grab, he said, adding he would consider using it again in the future.

Ms Samantha Seah, 28, an engineer, said she was "amazed" by the accuracy of the BusGo app, which provided her with the estimated waiting time and tracked the location of her bus.

Ms Seah tried the on-demand service from her office at Benoi Sector to Joo Koon Bus Interchange during the lunch hour. She said service 253, which she uses, would take about 15 minutes to arrive, but the on-demand bus arrived in 10 minutes.

Ms Seah said the on-demand bus service allows her to better plan her time, and with fewer stops made, the journey is also smoother.

However, some 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, when the on-demand bus service is being tested.

Ms Lam S.C., 50, a technician, said the change was "disruptive" and that there was insufficient publicity at the Joo Koon bus interchange to inform commuters.

While SBS Transit staff were present to help commuters download the new app, Ms Lam said she did not do so, as she does not have sufficient data on her mobile phone plan to download the app.

She suggested that a booking kiosk be set up at the interchange for commuters to book their bus trips.

When The Straits Times tried BusNow on Monday, a ride from the Downtown MRT station along Central Boulevard to Gardens by the Bay at 11.30am yesterday took 20 minutes, with a waiting time of about 15 minutes .

When attempting to book a shorter trip from Central Boulevard to the Monetary Authority of Singapore building on Shenton Way, the app recommended waiting for a scheduled bus - arriving in less than five minutes - instead.

Ridership numbers were not available, though Ministry of Movement told Channel NewsAsia last week that its app had been downloaded more than 1,000 times.