The Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore called a tender on August 15 to seek proposals from the industry to trial on-demand, dynamically-routed public bus services. The aim is to create a public bus service that optimises its route and schedule based on real-time commuter demand.
The trial will enable LTA to evaluate the feasibility of operating public bus services based on real-time commuter demand and along dynamic routes, instead of plying on the basis of pre-determined and fixed timetables and routes.
Through a mobile application, commuters will be able to request pick-ups and drop-offs at any bus stop within a defined operating area, enabling the delivery of better and more customised bus services, with possibly shorter wait time. Instead of being able to alight only at a bus stop along a pre-determined, fixed route, individual commuters can ask to alight at any bus stop in the operating area, making the commute more seamless and convenient than today.
In addition to enhancing the commute, the trial will help LTA assess if such a form of public bus services could optimise resources (buses and bus captains) and operating cost in areas with low ridership and during off-peak periods.
Three areas have been preliminarily identified as possible for the trial: Joo Koon (for Services 253, 255 and 257), Punggol North/West (for Services 84 and 382) and Shenton Way/Marina South (for Services 400 and 402). These bus services in the identified areas currently have low demand during off-peak hours and can potentially better serve commuters if they are converted into on-demand bus services.
Tender participants are also invited to submit proposals for on-demand, dynamically-routed night bus services, in place of existing night bus services with fixed timetables and routes.
The tender consists of two phases. In the first phase, to be awarded by 4Q 2017, the successful tenderer(s) will conduct modelling and simulation to test service quality and resource requirements. This will help LTA determine the parameters for the actual trial.
In the second phase, to be awarded in 2Q 2018, incumbent public bus operators will test and calibrate software and hardware solutions provided by the successful tenderer(s) before trialling actual on-demand, dynamically-routed bus services in the second half of 2018.
In the lead-up to the actual trial, LTA will work with the bus operators and communities to educate and assist residents and commuters in the trial areas on how to use such bus services. LTA will continue to run the usual scheduled bus services at reduced frequency, to cater to those commuters who are not able to adapt to this new form of bus services.
LTA Group Director, Public Transport, Mr Yeo Teck Guan, “Data analytics and mobile application technology have revolutionised the way that we travel, as we have seen in the success of ride-hailing. This tender will allow us to explore if such technology could also be applied to public bus services to deliver better services to commuters, and also to optimise precious resources. We welcome feedback and ideas on this endeavour.”
There have been previous initiatives exploring bus services responsive to commuter demand, in partnership with private bus operators. In August 2015, LTA had launched a mobile app (in collaboration with the erstwhile Infocomm Development Authority) called Beeline that allows commuters to pre-book rides on express private bus routes,. New private express bus routes can be activated through Beeline, subject to a minimum threshold of route passes, and users that have committed to crowd-start a route can track the progress easily from the Beeline app. In March this year, the ride hailing platform, Grab, launched GrabShuttle, a beta shuttle bus service mobile application, powered by Beeline.