No on-demand public buses for now, as LTA cites high tech costs

No on-demand public buses for now, as LTA cites high tech costs

On demand bus service
MD-3 is an on-demand public bus service commuters in the Marina-Downtown area can book. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans might have to wait a bit longer for regular on-demand public buses, after the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) conclusion that it would not be as cost-effective to scale up such a service.

The authority's decision comes towards the end of a 6-month on-demand public bus trial, which is set to end on Jun 15.

Although the trial saw mileage savings, LTA said in a news release that it was currently "less cost-effective" for on-demand public buses to be scaled up due to high technology costs.

READ: On-demand public bus trial gets off to a slow start, but service still impresses

Compared to fixed and schedule bus services, operated mileage in the same area was 18 per cent lower during the trial, meaning fewer bus resources were needed, said the authority.

However, it cited high software development costs as a reason for the on-demand service being less cost-effective compared to regular bus services.

"Larger-scale deployment of ODPB (on-demand public bus) is expected to become more cost-effective in the future when the efficiency of algorithms improves and technology enables the deployment of unmanned vehicles," said LTA.

Launched on Dec 17 last year, the trial was designed to study the feasibility of dynamically routed public bus services based on real-time commuter demand.

It also let LTA evaluate resource requirements as well as how receptive commuters were to the new concept.

The trial was conducted during off-peak hours at Joo Koon, Marina-Downtown and between the Central Business District and Bedok/Tampines (night service).

Commuter reactions to the on-demand public buses were mixed, said LTA, with a "significant group" of commuters either not aware of the buses or deciding not to try them according to an LTA passenger survey.

More than 26,000 rides have been booked and taken to date under the trial.

Following the trial, LTA said it would "optimise regular bus services" in Joo Koon and Marina-Downtown to serve commuters more efficiently.

CHANGES TO BUS SERVICES AFTER TRIAL:

Following the trial's conclusion, some bus services in the areas covered by the trial will be suspended or merged.

The NightRider NR7, which has been suspended since the start of the night on-demand public bus trial on Jan 4, will be discontinued. 

This is because during the trial, many NR7 riders who chose not to try the on-demand public bus had switched to alternative services, said LTA.

In addition, bus services 400 and 402 will be merged into a single service 400 with scheduled intervals of 20 minutes from Jun 16, said LTA, as ridership of both services remained low before and during the trial.

In Joo Koon, services 253, 255 and 257 will revert to their original scheduled intervals from Jun 17.

Source: CNA/nc(rw)

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