Jam-beating buses off to slow start

The BMTA had staff with placards on hand to try to explain to commuters about the re-routing of Bus No.168 during rush hours as the buses began using the expressway Monday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority’s (BMTA) shuttle bus services to bypass rush-hour traffic caused by the construction of the Yellow and Orange lines got off to a rocky start Monday, as a result of passenger confusion and a lack of passengers.

The capital’s bus operator had earlier announced it would offer the service in light of the simultaneous construction of both electric train lines. Construction has so far caused heavy congestion on already-packed roads such as Lat Phrao Road for the Yellow Line and Ramkhamhaeng Road for the Orange Line’s first section.

Two non-stop bus routes — Route 145 (from Phraeksa garage in Samut Prakan to Mor Chit Bus Terminal) and Route 168 (from Min Buri Market to Victory Monument) — were chosen by the authority to help commuters, since both routes have the option of using expressways.

The air-conditioned buses, which do not stop anywhere else along their route, are to run from 6-9am and from 4-6.30pm for one month on a trial basis. Acting BMTA director Prayoon Choygeo said the shuttle bus services would continue if demand is high. Six buses for each route have been deployed so far, arriving around half an hour apart.

The BMTA says the operational cost of the services will be around 2.1 million baht for the entire month.

Despite the shuttle buses being free of charge, they lacked passengers. The BMTA states each bus can handle around 65 passengers. Yet on Monday the Route 168 buses averaged around three to four passengers per trip, with a maximum of 14 during peak rush hours. The BMTA reported seats on only one Route 145 bus being occupied at around 7.30am.

“It was the first day, so the public may have not yet been aware of the services,” Mr Prayoon said. “In two days’ time, we will gain a clearer picture over whether we should increase the number of stops along both routes, or if the services really help beat traffic during rush hours.”

He added the shuttle buses can decrease rush-hour commute times by one hour, for those who have to travel between each of the buses’ terminals.

Mr Prayoon also said the current number of buses — three buses in each direction — could be increased.

Several BMTA employees were seen announcing the services on megaphones, while placards with the routes printed on them were also placed at the front of buses.

Veera Kamlangwat, a 64-year-old government worker, opted to take the 168 bus from Victory Monument because his regular van commute to Fashion Island in Ram Intra takes too long.

“It normally takes me quite a while to get in a van because of the queues, and I heard people announcing the shuttle bus service nearby,” he said.

“While the service will be good for people who need to commute to the buses’ terminals, the majority of passengers along the route will still face difficulties.”

He added the services might take off if more people were aware of them, since people who normally drive to work may opt to take the buses due as they are free of charge.

Article source: https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1533442/jam-beating-buses-off-to-slow-start

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