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City residents bullish on bus

City residents bullish on bus

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A bus travelling from Battambang enters Phnom Penh along National Road 5 earlier this week.

For 17-year-old Suos Vichera, the prospect of a public bus system in Phnom Penh would be a welcome one.

“Having a public bus service could allow Phnom Penh to have a much better environment, and would allow many people who take motorbikes or cars to ride the bus instead,” she said.

Many other Phnom Penh residents may agree, according to a new report.

In a study published in the latest volume of the journal Asian Transport Studies, researchers Ung Meng Hong and Kasem Choocharukul surveyed 337 randomly selected Phnom Penh residents on their interest in a public bus system for the capital.

Four hypothetical bus lines in central Phnom Penh were proposed in the survey: one stretching from the Japanese Friendship Bridge to the southern end of Monivong Boulevard; one spanning the length of Mao Tse Tung Boulevard; one connecting Phnom Penh International Airport with Kampuchea Krom and Monireth boulevards; and one travelling in a rectangular loop around Norodom, Sihanouk, Nehru and Russian Federation boulevards.

Some 72 percent of respondents said they would switch to busing from their existing mode of transport if fares were set at a flat rate of 900 riels (US$0.22), the report said. A total of 52 percent said they would switch given 1,200-riel fares, while 36 percent would switch if fares cost 1,500 riels.

“Survey results indicate that the potential demand for such a service is remarkably high,” the researchers concluded, adding that further study was necessary to assess logistics and economic feasibility.

Prior bus plans

Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema said in 2009 that the city hoped to establish a public bus system within five years in a bid to ease traffic congestion in the capital.

He estimated at the time that between 300 and 400 new motorbikes were hitting Phnom Penh’s streets every month.

However, municipal cabinet chief Ly Saveth said today that he knew of no plans for a public bus system before hanging up on a reporter.

In 2001, the municipality and the Ho Wah Genting Transport firm signed a contract allowing the company to provide bus services within the city.

Initially, bus fares were set at 500 riels per trip, though they were later raised to 800 riels.

The service proved popular, attracting more than 5,000 passengers daily before passengers tapered off to between 2,500 and 3,000 per day.

After a month-long trial period, however, the project was shut down due to lack of funding, as the company said it could not afford to keep fares low in the absence of government subsidies.

Vorn Pao, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, a group that represents moto-taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, said he would support a public bus system for the capital, provided other means of transport were given the chance to compete.

“If there is a public bus system, the authorities should not discriminate against tuk-tuks and moto-taxis.

“They should allow us all to park in public areas,” Vorn Pao said.

Phnom Penh resident Keo Tharo, 29, said he would happily take the bus to work because it would likely allow him to save money.

He added, however, that such a system may not be feasible given current traffic conditions.

“If there are still traffic jams like today, there will be no room for the bus,” Keo Thara said.

“People will think their own vehicles are faster.”

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