Lawmakers Call For Review of Rangoon’s New Bus System

By Moe Myint 6 April 2017

RANGOON — Lawmakers in Rangoon’s divisional parliament called for a transparent review of the city’s new public transit system Yangon Bus Service (YBS) on Wednesday, which was introduced four months ago amid criticism of insufficient public consultation and being ill-equipped to serve commuters.

Legislator U Wai Phyo Han of Insein Township submitted a proposal to the divisional parliament asking Rangoon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein to explain how the YBS has resolved the problems that plagued the old system—known as Ma Hta Tha—such as the misconduct of bus staff and constant violation of traffic rules.

The chief minister, however, was not present for the session after leaving Parliament after lunch. U Wai Phyo Han noted the absence of U Phyo Min Thein, who underwent successful heart surgery at Yankin Children’s Hospital in early March, before querying the chief minister’s claim that the bus system would be refreshed.

“It’s merely changing the Ma Hta Tha uniform to a YBS suit,” he said. “The problems are still unresolved on the ground.”

Although the new system seemed promising, said the lawmaker, it has failed to meet the public’s expectations. He added that the regional government adopted the YBS without holding proper public consultation or receiving stakeholders’ opinions.

“The situation of the public and the YBS is similar to a woman being forced to marry a man without loving him,” he said.

Lawmaker Daw Thida Maw supported the proposal, admitting that the regional legislators were unaware of the Yangon Region Transport Authority (YRTA)’s budget management and operational procedures.

The divisional minister for electricity, industry and transportation, Daw Nilar Kyaw, suggested continuing the debate when the chief minister was present, to which a majority of divisional lawmakers agreed.

The chief minister abolished Ma Hta Tha, formally known as the Yangon Supervisory Committee for Motor Vehicles, and replaced it with YRTA, a board of 16 members—some of whom served on the Ma Hta Tha committee.

YRTA members should focus more on implementing practical solutions, said U Wai Phyo Han, or should be replaced with suitable experts.

Rangoon lawmakers were informed of the new system one week before the YBS began its operations in January this year. They were told the regional government would run 58 bus lines but it began with 61 lines and has now expanded to nearly 80 lines.

The public was frustrated with a lack of legal action against aggressive driving, said U Wai Phyo Han. A group of lawmakers collaborated to help alleviate problems with the YBS’s introduction, which, according to commuters, included a shortage of buses late in the evenings and overcrowding.

U Wai Phyo Han said the YBS was the same as the old system, with reckless drivers and long waits at bus stops. He said the regional government should have enacted laws to use against companies that broke YRTA regulations before the YBS began its operations.

Adding that the government had yet to launch a complaint center for the YBS, he warned that reckless driving would continue unless these areas were developed. Lawmakers called for transparency because YRTA has formed eight public companies to handle the entire bus service for Rangoon but has not yet released the companies’ information.

After the parliamentary session, lawmaker Daw Kyipyar of Kyauktada Township posted on Facebook that legislators had been trying to submit this proposal for two months and about 30 lawmakers would debate the new bus service late this month.

In late January, Rangoon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein instructed all YBS operators to keep their buses on the roads until 10 p.m. every night but some drivers reportedly returned early. To address a bus shortage, the government also stated in January that it would import more than 1,000 additional buses.

About 2.6 million Rangoon residents rely on bus services, according to a 2014 survey on public transportation conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.