RANGOON— All bus lines registered with the Rangoon Division Motor Vehicles Supervisory Committee—better known by its Burmese acronym Ma Hta Tha—will stop running next week and will be replaced with nearly 60 bus lines under a new public bus system, the Yangon Region Transport Authority (YRTA) announced at a press conference on Friday.
A total of eight companies will operate buses under the management of the YRTA with the new system launching on Jan. 16 called the Yangon Bus Service (YBS).
The existing bus networks are notorious for poor maintenance standards, misconduct of bus staff, and a failure to respect traffic rules.
Rangoon chief minister and patron of the YRTA U Phyo Min Thein told media that Jan. 15 will be the last day of operation for the city’s existing 300 bus lines.
“Our first step is to reform the system,” he said. “After reforming the system, we will improve the condition of the vehicles, then the security of the buses and the passengers, and the payment system.”
The regional government will finish the whole reform process by the end of 2017, allotting each area three months, he added.
According to Daw Nilar Kyaw—Rangoon’s minister for electricity, industry, and transportation, who also chairs the YRTA—vehicles manufactured before 1995 will not be allowed under the new public bus system.
Buses currently individually owned and functioning under Ma Hta Tha should register with the YRTA to be able to continue in the new system next week, Daw Nilar Kyaw said.
Owners of the buses will be allowed to choose which route of the given 59 lines they want to serve.
Karen Ethnic Affairs Minister for Rangoon Division Naw Pann Thinzar Myo explained that 80 percent of the new bus lines follow existing routes and the other 20 percent are new routes.
There will be no overlapping bus lines in a move to avoid competition among bus conductors, she explained. Only three lines will serve downtown to reduce traffic, she said.
A new website for the bus routes was launched on Monday and there will also be a mobile application for commuters.
U Hla Aung, chairman of Ma Hta Tha and a member of the YRTA, told The Irrawaddy last month that the majority of his Ma Hta Tha staff would likely apply to the YRTA after Ma Hta Tha was abolished.
In the new system, there will be equal opportunity and equal salaries for both men and women to work as bus conductors and drivers, according to the chief minister.
The chief minister said it is hoped that about 3,000 buses will serve the city when the new system is launched. The bus fares will be 100-300 kyats depending on distance.
“Whenever we start a new system, there will be challenges and difficulties,” the chief minister said. “We must face such situations during every transition period.”
The eight public-private partnership firms are yet to be announced by the regional government but will reportedly include Bandoola Transportation Co. Ltd.—run by the military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd.—as well as other existing private bus line operators.
Among the eight selected companies, the Yangon Bus Public Co., Ltd—the city’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) system—is a pioneering public company launched in February this year. Its buses currently traverse three routes in the city and provide an electronic ticketing service.
According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s 2014 survey on public transportation in Rangoon, 61 percent of the city’s population relies on public transportation and 49 percent of all commuters use the bus.