Buses may seem slow and annoying now due to orders from Operations Control Centres

A commuter took to Facebook on 4 Dec to share his experience during one particular bus journey. Mr Partrick Tan has boarded a bus on which the driver apparently stopped and waited for 1 to 2 minutes at every single stop on the route, even when the stops were empty.

Mr Tan said, “I don’t know is it because she has too much time for her to waste on the road. That’s none of my business. Even if I’m not rushing for time I still have better things to do den wasting extra 15mins sitting in your bus.”

He then said he lost his patience, so proceeded to take a photo of the bus driver. Only then did she start driving a little faster.

Commenters pointed out to Mr Tan that this is a common occurrence and that bus drivers can actually get fined if they arrive too late or leave too early from a bus stop. The driver was probably simply trying to stay within the allotted schedule.

In fact, the LTA introduced a Bus Service Reliability Framework in 2014 as a way to improve the en-route reliability of bus services on the island. The framework started with 2 and then 45 selected bus services between 2014 and 015. Since August 016, all bus services now operate within the BSRF.

The framework provides monetary incentives to transport companies in hopes of minimising instances of irregular and prolonged waiting times. This means that the Operations Control Centres (OCCs) of are now more vigilant in ensuring that their drivers maintain a reliable schedule bu providing better guidance to their drivers along routes, regulating bus speeds, and reducing long gaps between consecutive busses. This would mean that sometimes, buses will end up having to wait at certain stops for a minute or two in order to avoided space out bus arrivals at stops further along the route. This would be especially important when traffic is light.

Under BSRF, bus operators are rewarded or penalised based on how regular the bus arrival intervals are measured by Excess Wait Time (EWT) and according to the percentage of on-time arrivals at bus stops compared with the operator’s published schedule via indicator called On-Time Adherence (OTA).

For every 6 seconds of over-performance or under-performance in EWT score when compared to the baseline, operators face anywhere a monthly incentive amount of $6,000 or a monthly penalty of $4,000 respectively.

Under the OTA, a bus is considered on time when it is no more than 2 minutes early and no more than 5 minutes late. So to qualify for an incentive of S$2,000 per month for every 2% OTA improvement, busses are expected to be on time more than 87% per day. On the other hand, for every 2% deterioration in OTA per month, operators are fined S$1,300.

Based on the report released by the LTA of Fourth BSRF Assessment Period in August 2016, bus services overall have improved. Both SMRT and SBST busses have shown improvements in Excess Wait Time and On-Time Arrival. Between March and August of 2016, SBS showed an improvement of 14% in OTA while SMRT showed an improvement of 2%.

So commuters can expect their buses to sometimes wait 1-2 minutes at a stop before moving along because in the bigger scheme of things, it does seem to help buses adhere to their published arrival times and that in turn increases the reliability of the bus network.