Two firms to conduct on-demand bus trials

Service combines flexibility of taxis with low fares of buses

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has awarded nearly half a million dollars in contracts to two firms to run trials for an on-demand bus service, which marries the flexibility of taxis and low fares of buses.

US-based Via Transportation and Singapore's Ministry of Movement - which operates under the Swat brand - beat eight others to clinch the $466,194.50 award to conduct the bus-pooling trial. About 84 per cent of the amount goes to Ministry of Movement.

The LTA said the two firms were assessed to have "a strong understanding of the tender requirements". "Both also submitted comprehensive bids that were high-quality and good value for money," the regulator added yesterday.

Both firms have proven track records in developing on-demand ride-sharing applications and operating real-time, dynamically routed bus services.

Via is currently operating on-demand bus services in US cities such as Chicago and New York, while Ministry of Movement is an 18-month-old local start-up which has been running on-demand 13-seater buses in areas such as Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh and the Central Business District.

Ministry of Movement marketing analyst Charmaine Liew said the trial will involve simulating how the relatively new concept will work for full-sized public buses.

She said the LTA has spelt out strict service criteria such as waiting and journey times.

Fixed scheduled bus services often lack optimal efficiency. Studies reveal the average occupancy of public buses in London to be as low as 20 per cent.

"On-demand buses work in areas or periods of low demand," she said.

Fixed scheduled bus services often lack optimal efficiency. Studies reveal the average occupancy of public buses in London to be as low as 20 per cent.

Around the world, on-demand bus services have been introduced in cities such as Helsinki in Finland, Chicago, Minnesota, New York and Washington DC in the US, and most recently, Sydney in Australia.

In the first phase of the trial, both firms will develop a dynamic matching and routing algorithm which will enable buses to be deployed according to real-time commuter demand, as well as pick-up and drop-off points.

The LTA said the two parties will also conduct simulations to demonstrate and refine the service standard and resource requirements to enable the authority to determine the operational trial parameters.

In the second phase, to be awarded in the third quarter of this year, the successful tenderer or tenderers will work with LTA and public bus operators to test and calibrate the software and hardware solutions before carrying out the operational trial from the fourth quarter of this year.

The LTA said it will work with the public to familiarise commuters with the use of such bus services, but it assured commuters that it will continue to run selected low-demand feeder and trunk bus services at reduced frequencies so that commuters who prefer regular buses will still have access to them.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2018, with the headline 'Two firms to conduct on-demand bus trials'. Subscribe