YANGON— Yangon transport officials declared the city’s revamped a bus system a “success” on its first anniversary on Tuesday, downplaying what has generally been regarded as a bumpy start.
“The Yangon Bus Service has achieved 70 percent of the goals we set,” Dr. Maung Aung, secretary of the Yangon Region Transport Authority (YRTA), the body that oversees all of the city’s transport, told The Irrawaddy at a ceremony marking the anniversary.
The phasing in of the Yangon Bus Service, the new bus system better known by its acronym YBS, to replace the city’s decades-old bus system has encountered a few potholes along the way. Some bus owners who had been operating under the old system failed to register under the new one, while others are still not ready to operate buses for the YBS. And with 70 percent of city commuters — an estimated 2.6 million people — relying on buses, the YBS’ inadequate fleet has caused overcrowding and delays, especially in rush hours and late in the evenings.
To aid consumers in the face of the bus shortage, city residents and police have even started providing free transportation to commuters during rush hours using private vehicles and police trucks. Some offices in the commercial capital temporarily delayed their morning start times to give employees time to navigate the new public transport routes.
Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein acknowledged that there were challenges during the transition, but he insisted that significant improvements had been seen over the past year.
He pointed out that the YBS has consolidated overlapping bus lines, bringing the total number down to 92 from more than 300, partly to deter bus drivers from racing each other as they compete for passengers. The system also replaced conductors with fare boxes.
“With the public’s help we have reformed the bus system within a year,” the chief minister told the audience at the ceremony.
YRTA officials used the occasion to lay out their plans for this year.
The city’s minister for electricity, industry and transportation, Daw Nilar Kyaw, who also chairs the YRTA, said the authority’s priorities for 2018 were to build bus terminals in which to park YBS buses overnight and to introduce a cashless payment system, Yangon Payment Service (YPS).
On Jan. 11, Excel KC Myanmar, a partnership between Excel Myanmar and Taiwan’s Acer Inc., was named the winner of a tender to operate YPS. A total of 14 companies tendered bids.
YRTA secretary Dr. Maung Aung told The Irrawaddy that over 2, 000 mini buses currently running under the YBS will this year be replaced by new buses equipped the card-payment system, which is expected to be introduced within next three months.
“We have new vehicles in hand. They will replace mini-buses and old buses,” he said. He said the old vehicles would be phased out this year.
The YRTA also plans to merge all bus operators into public companies this year.
Currently, there are 16 bus companies including two public-private partnership companies — YUPT and YBPC — and six individual operators. “Two thirds of all buses running now are operated by public companies,” Dr. Maung Aung said.