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Findings from six-month trial reveal high costs; LTA will not roll out on-demand public bus services

Following findings from a six-month On-Demand Public Bus (ODPB) trial, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has decided against rolling out the service due to high technology costs.

“Compared to fixed and scheduled bus services, operated mileage in the same area was 18% lower during the ODPB trial. This means less bus resources were required.

“However, ODPB is currently less cost effective compared to regular bus services due to high software development costs,” said LTA in a press release on Fri (31 May).

The Authority, however, noted that cost-effectiveness of the ODPB could increase in the future “when the efficiency of algorithms improves and technology enables the deployment of unmanned vehicles”.

Consequently, LTA will work on improving existing regular bus services along Joo Koon and Marina-Downtown starting mid-Jun, whereby “Services 253, 255 and 257 will revert to the original scheduled intervals before the ODPB trial”, while “Services 400 and 402, which are low-demand services with substantial overlap, will be merged into a single Service 400 with scheduled interval of 20 minutes”.

“All bus stops covered by the two original services will continue to be served by the merged Service 400, which will also provide more direct journeys for key destinations in the area, such as Gardens by the Bay, Marina Barrage, Marina South Pier and Marina Bay Cruise Centre,” added LTA.

For commuters travelling to and fro between the CBD and Bedok, Tampines, or Pasir Ris, alternative bus services such as Nite Owl 2N and 4N will serve to replace the NightRider NR7, which will be discontinued from 16 Jun.

“During the ODPB trial, it was observed that many NR7 riders who chose not to try the ODPB had switched to alternatives such as Nite Owl 2N and 4N, which similarly connect the CBD to Bedok, Tampines and Pasir Ris. With the withdrawal of NightRider NR7, affected commuters can continue to rely on these alternative travel options,” said LTA.

“The six-month trial has provided insights into the feasibility of the ODPB concept, which will help LTA better understand demand-responsive services and prepare for other trials in future, including the pilot deployment of on-demand, dynamically-routed autonomous vehicles in the early 2020s, as we continue to enhance public transport towards the “20-minute towns” vision in the Land Transport Master Plan 2040,” LTA elaborated.

The trial, which was launched on 17 Dec last year and conducted during off-peak hours in three areas, namely Joo Koon, Marina-Downtown, and CBD to Bedok and Tampines at night, will cease next month on 15 Jun.