During the research for the previous article about the government’s plans to ban standing on the red buses, I came across an opinion piece by Dr. Jaehak Oh, who works for the Korea Transport Institute. You can find an interview about his background and work here. The article I want to introduce was written back in June, shortly after the government unveiled their plans.
I won’t comment on the content of the article. Here’s my translation (There could be some errors and misinterpretations.):
Since the Sewol Ferry disaster the awareness among citizens about safety is higher than ever before. There is a flood of criticism and demands for a solution about the dangerous illegal practice of transporting standing passengers while the bus drives with a high speed on expressways.
Every day around 3.2 million people commute from the capital region to Seoul by public transport. The dangerous reality of standing passengers in buses on the expressway is repeating every day, especially during rush hour (where standing passengers account for 129% in average). Road traffic laws clearly declare it as illegal but it was tolerated due to the fear that an enforcement would lead to a crisis during commuting time.
The reason for allowing illegal standing in buses is due to the huge insufficient supply of buses compared to the high amount of passengers. It’s impossible to minimize the number of commuters and so the number of operating buses has to be increased but it isn’t easy. In case of more vehicles the problems of standing passengers can be solved during rush hour but for the rest of the day a financial burden can’t be avoided.
The government announced that from middle of August [actually middle of July] all buses which use the expressway will ban standing and 222 additional buses are going to operate. However instead of operating more buses another realistic way to increase the transport performance has to be explored in order to solve the illegal act of standing passengers. To increase the transport performance red buses should serve public transport transfer centers which have to be created on the outskirts of Seoul and passengers should transfer to Seoul’s public buses or subway.
For example I suggest a transfer center at Yangjae Citizen’s Park on the Shinbundang-Line. If a transfer center is constructed there with small costs and the structure of red buses is changed, it will have actual effects after a short time:
First, if red buses should just go until the transfer centers, it will shorten their route by 6-7 km and minimize the intervals between buses. On this way the transport performance of the red express buses can be increased. Second, if the 29 bus lines and 270 buses per hour which come from the Gyeongbu-Expressway, Seoul-Yongin-Expressway, Uiwang-Gwacheon-Expressway and Bundang-Naegok-Expressway change their route, congestion in the Gangnam Station area can be eased. Third, if a transfer center is build within 50 meters of the entrances to the Shinbundang-line stations and local bus platforms would be arranged on the road sides, the inconveniences can be minimized. The planning and construction of a transfer center at Yangjae station will take around six months and cost 2.5 billion Korean Won. Further the application of this measure can be expanded to other transport axes like Goyang-Paju, Guri-Namyangju, Incheon-Bucheon and so on.
It’s possible if we bear the economic burden and inconveniences of this measure. We have to make a decision now towards a safe operation of red express buses. It’s necessary to have a public consensus on how to guarantee a safe commute and how far inconveniences of transfer can be endured.