On-demand bus services at Marina, Joo Koon, & CBD launching in S’pore on Dec. 17, 2018

Meanwhile, waiting times for normal buses in the area are likely to double. :/

Joshua Lee | December 3, 2018 @ 06:07 pm


The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be launching an on-demand public bus trial in three different areas in Singapore starting December 17, 2018.

What is an on-demand public bus (ODPB)?

On-demand public buses are also public buses (like those large, boxy ones). However, unlike normal public buses, ODPBs don’t take fixed travel routes.

Instead, an algorithm pools requests for rides to destinations from passengers and calculates an optimal route to drop them off in sequence.

This means that an ODPB bus’s route is constantly changing in real-time whenever a new booking is made.

A Marina-Downtown ODPB. Image by Joshua Lee.

ODPBs are especially useful for commuters whose destinations are not served by a single, direct bus route (e.g. you need to make transfers). They can also help commuters better plan their routes.

For public bus operators, these are likely to help to optimise resources to meet demand, which in turn helps them save on operating costs.

The LTA’s trial programme will use public buses provided by SBS Transit and SMRT, as well as the booking and algorithm platforms provided by private on-demand bus companies SWAT and Via.

According to the LTA, half of the regular bus fleets serving the test areas will be used to trial the ODPB services.

Unfortunately, it predicts that this trial means passengers taking regular services within the test areas (which we’ll get to next) will have to face double the usual waiting times for buses.

2 types of ODPB services to be tested

There will be two different ODPB services trialled. They are:

  1. Weekday services operating in the Joo Koon and Marina-Downtown areas, marked by geofences, and
  2. Weekend (Fri – Sun) night buses going from the Central Business District to Bedok and Tampines (via Geylang).

The Joo Koon weekday ODPB service will run at the following times on all weekdays, excluding public holidays:

  • 11am – 3pm;
  • 8.30pm – 11.30pm

The Marina-Downtown ODPB service will run at the following timings on all weekdays except public holidays:

  • 11am – 3pm
  • 8.30pm – 11.45pm

Both the Joo Koon service and Marina-Downtown services will be trialled between December 17, 2018 and June 15, 2019.

The night ODPB will operate from 11.30pm to 2am on Fridays, Saturdays and eve of public holidays, and will be operational (as part of the trial) from January 4 – June 15, 2019.

How do you book an ODPB?

Commuters can book on-demand rides via the following apps, which can be downloaded now from both the Play store and the App Store:

  • BusNow (Android, iOS): Marina-Downtown ODPB service, Night ODPB service
  • BusGo (Android, iOS): Joo Koon ODPB service

It works a bit like private-hire cars — select your start and end points and request a ride.

The app will then let you know the estimated arrival time of the bus as well as its real-time location. Note that you cannot report to the bus stop later than the scheduled arrival time as the bus will not wait for passengers.

You will also have the option to make a group booking for up to five passengers. Passengers using wheelchairs can also indicate that they require a wheelchair space.

If the app finds that a regular fixed-route service is faster for your journey, it will recommend that you take a fixed-route service instead.

Once your booking is confirmed, the app will issue a ticket. It will then direct you to your pick-up location. Note that you will need to turn on your location services to receive your boarding ticket and live updates.

Once the driver arrives, you will board the bus and show the driver your ticket for confirmation. You then tap your EZ-Link card the way you do for a regular public bus ride. When you are reaching your destination, the app will issue a reminder for you to alight.

The bus driver will receive your booking ticket number so that he can verify your booking when you board. Image by Joshua Lee.

How much will a ride cost?

For a start, commuters who take part in the trial can enjoy a promotional fare based on a fixed distance of 3.2km, regardless of the actual distance travelled.

From December 17 to December 29, this would amount to S$0.77 for adults, S$0.54 for senior citizens, and S$0.37 for students.

After December 29, in line with the upcoming public transport fare hike, this fare will be increased to S$0.83 for adults, S$0.55 for senior citizens, and S$0.38 for students. 

Throughout the six-month trial, LTA will adjusting parameters such as the frequency and fares for the ODPB services to better evaluate the concept.

You can find more details in LTA’s announcement here.

Top images via Joshua Lee and BusNow. 


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