I have a suggestion to improve the Bus Service Standards formulated by our Public Transport Council: Include a benchmark that measures the number of times a bus is unable to pick up passengers from a bus stop when there are passengers wanting to board. Impose a fine based upon how badly a bus operator fails to meet the minimum standard.
I missed a bus again this morning. The bus just didn’t stop at the bus stop because it was too packed. I know many Singaporeans bus commuters know this is something pretty common. In fact, it is so common for me that I have certain blackout times for certain service numbers at certain places. For example, there is this certain SMRT bus that I take along AYE which is simply hopeless at certain times of the evening. In the past, I had waited for almost an hour before I gave up and found alternative transport. It wasn’t that the bus did not come. The frequency was not good, but the buses did come. Three of them, but all three were so packed that all of them skipped the stop.
The Public Transport Council’s standards fail to address two major problems that bus commuters face. The first has to do with frequency. There are two things about frequencies measured in the standard. The first is about buses leaving their terminals within 5 minutes of their scheduled headway (frequency). Who cares about what happens at the bus terminals and interchanges except for the people who board buses at those places? The second is about minimum scheduled frequencies. Keyword here is scheduled. Who cares about the schedule, it’s the reality that matters.
The other problem is about buses being overcrowded. This is apparently dealt with in the standard as loading, which should not exceed 95% daily for each bus service during weekday peak hours. I’m not very clear how this is measured. If a specific bus at any point of its journey becomes more than 95% full, does that mean it has failed the standard? If so, clearly many bus services are continually failing this standard on a daily basis.
I can appreciate that time tables are difficult to adhere to strictly given the difficult traffic conditions in Singapore during peak hours. But the problem of overcrowded buses is easy to solve. Bus operators can simply introduce bus services midway into its route. I can see this happening for some services, but others continue to remain overcrowded to the extent that commuters “at the wrong place” just don’t get a chance to ride the bus when they want.