Yangon Bus Service turns three years old

Yangon Bus Service (YBS), the major provider of public transport to Yangon’s inner-city commuters, turns three years old this January. The service first introduced its fleet of modern, imported buses in 2017.

But three years on, are passengers happy with their services?

Amid growing public criticism, U Maung Aung, secretary of the Yangon Region Transport Authority (YRTA), once promised to install air conditioners on the buses.

Many buses still operate with only partial, and even no air conditioning units. As passengers are unsure as to whether they’re allowed to open the windows for ventilation, the crowded spaces can become very stuffy.

YBS was created three years ago, and replaced the older – often ramshackle and dangerous buses under a company called Ma Hta Tha – with newer, imported models from Korea.

U Hla Aung, who was the chair of the older Ma Hta Tha under the old government, defended the newer YBS buses saying that “they are all operating properly.”

Some passengers beg to differ. Ko Kyaw MyoThura Tun, for example, said that “some buses don’t even stop, or they just drive straight past us when they are full. I take the bus to the office every day, and it’s annoying that they aren’t more reliable.”

When the Yangon Region Government introduced the new service, the Region’s Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein also promised to staff the YBS vehicles with conductors – much like on the Ma Hta Tha buses.

Each bus currently collects fares with a collection box at the front of the vehicle, leaving many buses without conductors. Some bus lines still employ conductors to collect fares, but most go without.

‘’Those buses which have conductors are privately-owned buses, run by the businessman “said U Thet Tin Win. U Thet Tin Win who knows as Ko Ta Yoke Lay is the managing director of the Power Eleven Company, and was the first person to employ women bus drivers at YBS.

His policy of employing bus conductors helps to retain a different level of service, one where people can receive the correct change when paying their fares.

Other commuters complained that YBS didn’t always follow the correct routes, particularly in the outer suburbs when there were less passengers. Not all buses would arrive at their final destination.

‘’That happens quite often. I’d get on the bus, but it never arrives at the final stop.So I’d have to get off, catch a taxi or trishaw. It’s just like the old days of Ma HtaTha,” said Ma Nyeint, an employee at a telecommunications company in the city.

Ma Han Ni Thawy from Shwe Pyi Thar township also said she relied more on the illegal ferry cars to get herself home late at night.

Although the YRTA stipulates that certain bus services must run until 11pm, most routes cease after eight or nine in the evenings.

Commuters in townships like Myothit rely solely on car ferries in the evenings. “When the normal bus lines don’t run, there are no other options for us, even though there are enough passengers,” said Ko Hein Zaw.

Daw Nilar Kyaw, Minister for Electricity, Industry and Transport, said last year in parliament that the government will take more action to curb these kinds of illegal services.

Even though YBS operates much better vehicles than its predecessor Ma Hta Tha, many passengers expressed disappointment in service delivery. Some felt that the newer vehicles weren’t always properly maintained, whilst others noticed a cut back in overall quality since YBS began – the shortening of routes, or cessation of services in certain areas.

‘’YBS should have improved much more over the past three years,” said Ko Maung Maung, a Yangon resident who uses the bus every day for work.

When YBS was first introduced, residents had high expectations. Cleaner and more comfortable vehicles were a welcome sight for the public transport users of the city, but over time many of the older frustrations have started to creep back into their experiences of the daily commute.

Currently there are around 100 YBS bus lines, two circular routes and two airport shuttle buses. There are some 6,300 vehicles and over 4000 buses running on Yangon’s roads every day.

“We have been implementing a new development plan over the past three years,” said U Hla Aung.

‘’We are still trying to improve YBS, though we realise it can still be improved. We would like to thank the public over the past three years, because YBS can’t change from the old Ma HtaTha without the cooperation from them,” said U Phyo Min Thein during YBS’s three-year anniversary celebrations.

One of YRTA’s aims was to implement a payment card system on all YBS buses. This was a promise made as recently as last year, on YBS’s second anniversary, but not all buses have been furnished with the new technology.

Some buses have the fixed payment card machines, but most do not. According to Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein, YBS plans to roll out the project on all buses in April 2020.

Daw Nilar Kyaw wasn’t forthcoming on the exact schedule for the rollout, however, saying that the system needs to be implemented properly to ensure its success far into the future.

‘’It should be a win-win situation, for the bus service and the commuters. We need to ensure that the buses can operate at a profit, but not at the expense of the commuters’ convenience,” she said.

The government intends to provide similar payment card system for use on trains, the water bus and for general retail use.

At the moment 2,539 buses have been fitted with the card machines.

The government has plans to build a sky train, and extend the water transportation services on the river. But for now, we need to improve the bus services, as these are what most people rely upon at the moment, said Daw Nilar Kyaw.

Source: Myanmar Times

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