Trial for on-demand public bus services to start in 2018
LTA to run off-peak trials for buses in Joo Koon, Punggol and Shenton Way in 2018
Next year, commuters in Joo Koon, Punggol and Shenton Way may be able to "book" a ride on public buses using a mobile application during non-peak hours.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday called for tenders to seek proposals for a trial of on-demand, dynamically routed bus services.
This means commuters can request pick-ups and drop-offs at any bus stop within the operating area of designated services, instead of relying on fixed timetables or routes.
The bus services that have been preliminarily identified are 253, 255 and 257 (which plies the Joo Koon area), 84 and 382 (Punggol North/West area), and 400 and 402 (Shenton Way/Marina South area).
These bus services have low demand during off-peak hours and may better serve commuters if converted into on-demand services, said LTA.
The trial will also help LTA assess if this form of public bus services could optimise resources (buses and bus captains) and operating cost in areas and periods with low ridership.
The on-demand, dynamically routed bus services will be on trial in the second half of next year.
Before that, LTA will work with the bus operators and communities to educate and assist commuters in the trial areas on how to use such services.
The usual scheduled bus services will continue to run at reduced frequency to cater to commuters who are unable to adapt.
Such services are running in cities in Japan and the US, as well as in rural areas in Canada and western Switzerland.
On-demand services in Finland's capital of Helsinki were scrapped in 2015 after four years due to the high cost.
In Singapore, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) set up Beeline, which provides a matching service and booking platform for bus services run by private operators.
Trials on four routes started in August 2015, running from Marine Parade, Punggol and Pasir Ris to the Central Business District.
Commuters had to book a ride with at least a day's notice.
In March, ride-hailing app Grab teamed up with the Government Technology Agency of Singapore to introduce GrabShuttle, which is powered by Beeline and allows commuters to pre-book rides.
If 15 or more people pre-order similar routes, GrabShuttle will start a service. Fares range from $3.50 to $5, and booking windows vary by route, though they usually close five minutes before the start of each route.
There are now about 110 routes on the app that run during peak hours on weekdays except public holidays.
Transport researcher Park Byung Joon from the Singapore University of Social Sciences said on-demand bus services have tried to bridge the fare gap between taxis and public buses in many cities for many years with limited success.
He said: "It is also usually more viable on short routes where the chances of finding people going in a similar direction are higher. But with mobile technology, this will be easier to implement."
For this new service to be considered successful, Prof Park thinks the waiting time for an on-demand bus should be about 10 minutes, similar to current bus intervals.
LTA's group director of public transport, Mr Yeo Teck Guan, said: "This tender will allow us to explore if such technology could also be applied to public bus services to deliver better services to commuters, and also to optimise precious resources."