Is this the so-called world-class public transport we are supposed to be paying for?Nov 27, 2005
TOP OF THE NEWS
Top bus woes: Long wait and overcrowding
By K.C. Vijayan
BUS commuters have two major complaints: they are waiting too long for the bus and resent having to squeeze into overcrowded buses, the latest public transport survey shows.
The bus passenger satisfaction survey of some 1,000 regular bus passengers islandwide also shows a dip in the overall satisfaction level for bus services.
The rating, on a scale of one to 10, slipped to 6.4 this year, from 6.86 last year.
Commuters polled in the annual survey - commissioned by the Public Transport Council (PTC), the industry regulator - said bus companies need to shape up on these two fronts. They want shorter waiting times and less overcrowding on buses.
These grouses are not new - they were among the top four bugbears in last year's survey, the first one conducted. It was the same story in a 2003 audit of bus service standards by the council.
'I get tired of having to wait for 15 minutes,' said marketing executive Johnny Koh, 35. 'What's worse, sometimes the driver drives slowly.'
So, why has it taken so long to lick these problems?
PTC chairman Gerard Ee told The Sunday Times yesterday that commuters cannot expect a 'miracle' and said motorists had to do their part by staying out of the bus lanes at peak hours.
He said: 'There is a lot of room for improvement, but to put all the blame on bus operators would be grossly unfair as there are 1,001 factors to be considered.
'We have to keep pushing at it. I don't think this report will produce a miracle, but the surveys help us to look at areas to tweak as we go along and improve.'
He said the PTC intends to sit down with bus operators and explore ways to tackle the situation.
But things should get better with recent changes, he added.
For one, the Land Transport Authority has introduced, as a pilot project - an all-day bus lane system on busy Orchard Road to improve the traffic flow. If it is successful, it may be extended to other roads.
Both the bus companies - SBS Transit and SMRT Buses - said they would look at the survey to see how they can improve.
SBS Transit, which controls 75 per cent of the business, said it has made several improvements, such as introducing eight new services this year and lengthening the routes of another four to cover more areas.
Spokesman Tammy Tan said that traffic congestion is not predictable and is beyond the firm's control, but said the company would work with the authorities to see what more can be done to give buses priority on the roads.
An SMRT spokesman said the company would continue to try and match commuter demand.
Despite the bugbears, the survey also had positive results.
For instance, seven out of 10 commuters were more than satisfied with the services.
Almost nine in 10 felt fares were affordable, up from seven in 10 last year.
But commuters The Sunday Times interviewed yesterday want more.
Clerk Tham Ngan Chan, 55, said courteous bus drivers do not quite make up for having to wait 15 minutes for the bus, which takes her from Jurong to her workplace.
Ms Catherine Tan, 45, a customer service officer who waits 20 minutes for her bus in the morning, said she has grown weary of surveys. 'We have them all the time,' she said. 'But after the surveys, the improvements are slight.'
Is this the so-called world-class public transport we are supposed to be paying for?
Is this what the PTC have in mind when they approved the fare hikes?