RANGOON —Yangon Region Transport Authority (YRTA) announced plans to introduce school buses for basic education schools in downtown Rangoon, in an effort to ease traffic in the commercial capital.
School buses will serve 22 of 26 government-run schools in the downtown area, according to lawmaker U Kyaw Kyaw Tun representing Hlaing Constituency (1) in Rangoon divisional parliament.
“[The school bus system] will be launched when the academic year starts [in June], but not for all schools,” he said, adding they will first be introduced in places where traffic congestion is worst.
According to the city’s traffic police, congestion is worst around Kamayut Township, TTC Yangon on Pyay Road, and Basic Education High School No. 1 in Dagon Township, where many parents use private cars to take their children to school.
Rangoon divisional government signed a deal to purchase 200 new school buses from Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) and Posco Daewoo Corporation on May 10, according to state media.
“It is not compulsory for school bus operators to buy those buses, it is up to them. But they are not allowed to operate with light trucks and Dyna trucks. We’ll only allow buses and mini-buses,” said the lawmaker.
The school bus system will be introduced in three phases—to cover 30 percent of students in June, another 30 percent in October, and the remainder in December.
Most of the vehicles now engaged in the school run are privately operated light trucks. But under the new system, they will be managed by concerned school authorities and YRTA.
The new school buses will be sold through a hire-purchase system and will be exempt from taxes, according to YRTA.
School buses were first suggested during a Nov. 2014 workshop on public transport in Rangoon and were initially implemented under the now-defunct Rangoon Motor Vehicles Supervisory Committee—known by its Burmese acronym Ma Hta Tha—in 2016 without success.
In late April, the divisional government and officials of 26 downtown schools met to discuss a standardized system of school buses for students.
“It is not compulsory for students to take school buses. But we want them to take school buses because they have a higher safety now. Maybe it will become compulsory next year,” said U Kyaw Kyaw Tun.
YRTA said the move was to ensure the safety of children as well as reduce traffic congestion. But parents are still concerned about children’s safety.
“I learned that there will be gathering points for students to take the buses. But some families don’t even use the school ferries that come to the front door of their houses over safety concerns,” said a mother from Hlaing Township.
“I don’t think Rangoon is a safe place to just put children on a school bus,” she said.
U Chit Zaw Hein, a school shuttle conductor, said: “We bring and drop the children in front of their houses. But, their parents still repeatedly ask us to take care of their children. Under the new system, we’ll bring and drop students at a stop. And I’m afraid many parents will not accept it.”
This article was translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.