No More Standing in Red Buses

Update – 30 August 2014: After a month the measure was revoked. The number of buses will be increased by 200 vehicles, as I stated in the blog post. But it won’t be illegal to allow standing passengers. The number of standing passengers decreased from 18% to 7%. The main reason for revoking the measure is that in September the new semester at university begins and the number of bus passengers will be higher than now. So, we are back to normal and it’s allowed to stand in the red Kyeonggi-buses.

 

A huge change awaits the public transportation in the capital region of Korea: In order to improve convenience and safety of buses, standing passengers won’t be allowed anymore on the majority of red buses. This measure was announced by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) in June and next week the measure will be implemented.

Some days ago I took a red bus to Seoul and there I was remembered about the ban of standing passengers:

korea-bus-notice The sign says that from July 16th red buses which use the freeway will only allow as many passengers as seats are available. This is a measure of the red buses (also known as Gyeonggi-buses or in Korean “광역버스”). They operate between Seoul and the surrounding cities and they are managed by Gyeonggi Province but operated by a couple of private firms. So the majority of red buses are going to become somehow similar to the M-buses. I’ve wrote about them here.

To prevent a chaos more buses have to operate. The original plans of the government were to add 222 buses on 62 existing routes. A recent news article mentions 188 additional buses. In total, there are 155 red bus lines with 1,919 vehicles. Only the red buses, who use the freeway are affected by the measure. That is 83%, 129 bus lines and 1,586 vehicles. So the bus fleet will increase by around 11%. Also the interval between buses will become shorter. More buses will operate in a shorter distance of time. Further, there are plans to introduce double-decker buses next year and in the long term new metro lines (mostly LRT) will connect the capital region.

This measure is influenced by the Sewol ferry disaster. Korea now tries to improve their safety standards, especially in the transport sector. On April 23rd a bus company didn’t allow standing bus passengers. Commuters were unable to get to work and they waited in long queues. The bus company quickly revoked the ban.

From my personal standpoint I’m a little bit worried. Yes, I’m one of the thousands standing bus passengers. Of course it is very dangerous if the bus is packed with people and drives along the freeway with a high speed. Standing passengers are more vulnerable for injuries in case of an accident. But I’m not sure if more buses operating in a shorter interval will be able to transport as many people as the red buses did until now. There will be more traffic in Seoul for sure.

 

Related Sources and Information: Korea WSJ on Double-Decker Buses | MOLIT | Huffington Post Korea

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About Nikola
Grad Student of Geography at Seoul National University, interested in transport and urban planning.

6 Responses to No More Standing in Red Buses

  1. rickinasia says:

    The Gyeonggi bus I use always has enough seats where I get on but there are frequently standing passengers near the middle of their route.

    I wonder if they will get the LED display in the front window saying how many open seats there are. I’ve seen a few buses do it. I want our driver to focus on driving, not be counting seats.

    More of the buses would be nice, but having them come more consistent would fix problems on our route. All these buses have GPS telling them the distance between then and the prior and following buses, but they don’t care. The Seoul buses care about this, but not Gyeonggi! The sign says 5-10 minutes but the TOPIS LED sometimes says 18-20 minutes as huge gaps develop. When I exit I almost always see one or two more of our bus right behind us.

    • Nikola says:

      I’m not sure about the displays. It will be necessary in order to inform people at bus stops about the number of available seats. Otherwise they wonder why the bus just passed by without stopping. Second, like you said, the display is attached to a counting system, which allows the bus driver an overview easily. No displays would slow down the transit and cause conflicts.

      About the time intervals… I don’t think that the bus drivers don’t care. It is just too difficult to stay in time. For example, many red buses start at a certain time (they follow fixed schedules of departure) in Gyeonggi-do but during the ride certain factors (how many stops they have, traffic etc.) influences how long they need. So there is a variation between buses of how long it takes to reach their final destination on the same route. And then the problem is: The red buses are usually “guests” in Seoul. The majority of red buses has no opportunity to park for a longer time. That’s how the intervals get messed up in my opinion.

      • rickinasia says:

        “…many red buses start at a certain time (they follow fixed schedules of departure) in Gyeonggi-do…”
        My workplace is near the depot and last week I saw two buses starting their route at the same time. Possibly one was terribly late starting his route so two left at the same time? But good management would tell one to wait. Or maybe this was a fluke. Are other lines like this?

        “…but during the ride certain factors (how many stops they have, traffic etc.) influences how long they need.”
        – I remember being on a ‘normal’ Seoul bus, the driver looks at his GPS, sees he is too close to the bus ahead of him, and slows down to make a nice even interval. I only remember this truly happening the once (he dramatically slowed down and people didn’t look happy about it). I am guessing management is putting more pressure on speed on buses over time intervals as the Gyeonggi buses could also slow down, but maybe too many passengers were getting upset?

        I must admit I feel happy when our buses ‘catches’ another bus as in ‘our driver was fast and he saved me some time’ But the opposite ‘another bus caught up with us? Again!?! maybe that is why I am late’ leaves me uncomfortable.

        Thank you for your reply. Any feedback is welcome.

  2. Pingback: Opinion Piece on Banning Standing Passengers | Kojects

  3. Matt says:

    It was about time they made the changes. However, like everything done anywhere, the problem hasn’t been thought through to the end. My stop’s biggest issue is the rush and selfish pushing to get on first. This is only to worsen now there is more to fight for when getting the bus. My flaw is being British, so I nearly always end up getting on last because I just will not bring myself to barge people or run to the door.
    I cannot understand how this change has been made without considering the need for poles/lines to keep order. Silly as it is, a simple line on the ground does wonders for social order here.
    This also doesn’t address the safety issue of poor driving, which is usually caused through the (car) driver playing on their phone all the time. If the police were to backup the laws this country has, perhaps all these little problems will start to go away, and what will emerge is a more caring, considerate and classy society.

    • Nikola says:

      Hey Matt,

      it’s sad to hear that you have such issues at your stop. Since the M-Buses have been introduced some years ago, the attitude of commuters changed a little bit in a positive direction. People learned to line up and wait in a queue for the bus. At first it was just for the M-buses but than it was also expanded to the red buses. Especially in Gangnam you can see dozens of queues. But yeah, like you said, it requires a good organization of the bus stops with poles and markings.

      About the second point… I’m concerned that the driving style will get worse because there are no more standing passengers. Now the driver has to be less concerned about the passengers and he will drive with a higher speed than he would with a full bus of standing people.

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