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Taking the guesswork out of bus travel

BETTER INFORMATION FOR COMMUTERS: Precise timings of bus arrivals are displayed on a live information display screen at a bus stop in London. These are part of London Buses' iBus technology, which uses a GPS tracking system that allows commuters to know how long they have to wait for the bus. This could be a reality for Singapore commuters by the end of next year. PHOTO: METROLINE


    Apr 10, 2014

    Taking the guesswork out of bus travel

    BUS arrival timings will no longer be guesswork for commuters when public buses here are managed by a single computer system by the end of next year.

    The Land Transport Authority announced yesterday that it has awarded a $68 million contract to develop a common system for public transport operators SBS Transit and SMRT to keep tabs on all their services via satellite.

    This will mean installing on-board computers and touchscreen terminals on all buses to provide bus drivers with timely traffic information and advisories on what routes to take, said LTA in a statement.

    The upshot for commuters: up-to-the-minute information about their rides - including islandwide bus arrival times and which stops the bus pulls up at - could be available on their computers, smartphones or display screens onboard buses.

    There are now 4,500 buses and this number will go up to 5,400 in 2017.

    The latest move is part of efforts to raise public bus service standards, which include boosting bus fleets and offering cash incentives to operators which can run their buses on time.

    Bus bunching and long gaps between buses have been a perennial bugbear, even as bus ridership climbed 3.4 per cent last year to 3.6 million a day.

    LTA's group director for innovation and infocomm technology, Mrs Rosina Howe, said it has been working with SMRT and SBS Transit since last year to come up with a centralised system to send out information to drivers and commuters.

    The move will also allow transport operators to despatch buses to where they are needed and disseminate more accurate bus arrival timings to benefit commuters, said Mrs Howe.

    "With more accurate bus arrival information, commuters can better plan their journeys and travel options."

    While LTA did not specify how the information will be relayed to commuters, My Paper understands that it would be similar to display panels onboard London's buses that announce and display the bus stop name, and the British capital's real-time information boards at bus stops that track the bus arrival timings to the minute.

    LTA also said earlier that it is planning to install electronic destination information panels on public buses. SBS Transit spokesman Tammy Tan said that the transport operator is exploring with LTA to have destination information onboard buses, "as part of its next-generation fleet management system".

    Professor Lee Der Horng, a transport researcher from the National University of Singapore, said that providing as much information as possible to commuters will make their ride seamless and hassle-free and "get more people to take the bus".

    Regular bus commuter Mike Seow hopes that Singapore's congested roads will not become a roadblock for the centralised bus management system to improve bus services.

    The 29-year-old accounts executive, who takes the bus to work every day, said: "Ultimately, it is about making the buses run and ensuring bus commuters do not get caught in traffic."