On-Demand Public Bus

For individual On-Demand Public Bus trial regions, check out:

Review Article:

On Demand Public Bus MD-1
On Demand Public Bus MD-1

On-demand Bus Services are routes that have flexible routings based on real-time commuter demand, using a fleet of vehicles operating in shared-ride mode between pick-up and drop-off locations according to passengers needs.

On 15 August 2017, LTA called a tender (PT327 – Development and Trial for On-Demand Bus Services) to seek proposals from the industry for on-demand, dynamically-routed public bus services during off-peak periods in areas with low ridership.

Through a mobile application, commuters will be able to request pick-ups and drop-offs at any bus stop within a defined operating area. The objective is to deliver better and more customised bus services, with the possibility of a shorter wait time. Instead of being able to alight only at a bus stop along a pre-determined, fixed route, passengers can ask to alight at any bus stop in the operating area, making the commute more seamless and convenient than the fixed bus routes of today.

In addition to enhancing the commute, the trial will help LTA assess if such a form of public bus services could optimise resources (buses and bus captains) and operating cost in areas and periods with low ridership.

See More: LTA to trial on-demand bus services

Infrastructure Tenders

First Phase

The First phase of the tender, required the successful firms to conduct modelling and simulation to test service quality and resource requirements, allowing the LTA to determine the parameters for the actual trial.

The companies would develop a dynamic matching and routing algorithm which will enable buses to be deployed according to real-time commuter demand, as well as pick-up and drop-off points. They will also conduct simulations to demonstrate and refine the service standards and resource requirements to enable LTA to determine the operational trial parameters, such as the trial area(s).

This tender was awarded to Via Transportation, Inc. (Via) and Ministry of Movement Pte. Ltd (SWAT) at a combined sum of S$466,194.50 in February 2018.

Second Phase

In the Second phase, public bus operators would test and calibrate software and hardware solutions provided by the successful firms before beginning trials of actual on-demand, dynamically routed bus services from December 2018.

The contractors would develop both software and hardware solutions for the ODPB system. These solutions comprise mobile apps for commuters and bus captains, back-end tools required to monitor services during the trial, as well as operational and maintenance support for the system. Additional simulations will also be conducted to fine-tune the operating parameters and geofence areas of the system. Bus captains and support staff would also be trained to operate the system.

The second phase of the tender was also awarded to Via and SWAT at a combined sum of S$2.26 million in August 2018.

Future Expansion

LTA also hopes to extend the on-demand bus service concept to night bus services, in place of existing night bus services with fixed timetables and routes.

On-Demand Public Bus (ODPB) Services

Initial Trial – December 2018 to June 2019
On Demand Public Bus - LTA Poster
On Demand Public Bus – LTA Poster

Seven bus services were identified for the trial back in August 2017. Services 84 and 382 were eventually excluded from the final trial, and NR7 was added.

ODPB Services will be operated using single deck Public Service Buses (for Marina – Downtown and Night Bus), as well as Double Decker buses (for Joo Koon) with the bus registration number and a unique service number provided to commuters who book an on-demand bus trip through a designated App. The services will bear a two-character prefix followed by an assigned number (e.g. JK-1, JK-2, MD-1, NB-1, etc.)

Trials began on 17 December 2018 for Joo Koon and Marina Bay / Downtown areas, and 4 January 2019 for the Night Bus route.

The ODPB trial ended on 15 June 2019. The frequencies for Service 253, 255 and 257 were restored to pre-ODPB Trial levels; Service 402 was merged with Service 400; and Service NR7 was permanently discontinued.

Area / Mobile App Service Route
Joo Koon (BusGo) 253 Joo Koon Int ↺ Benoi Rd (Loop)
255 Joo Koon Int ↺ Gul Cres (Loop)
257 Joo Koon Int ↺ Pioneer Sector 2 (Loop)
Marina Bay / Downtown (BusNow) 400 Shenton Way Ter ↺ Marina Gardens Dr (Loop)
402 Shenton Way Ter ↺ Marina Coastal Dr (Loop)
CBD to Bedok & Tampines (BusNow) NR7 Marina Centre Ter → Loyang Avenue

Commuters using the service in Joo Koon will need to download the BusGo app by Via Transportation. For the Marina-Downtown and CBD-East areas, commuters will need the BusNow app by Ministry of Movement (Swat).

These apps can be downloaded through the following links:

The ODPB Trial operating hours are as follows:

Area / Service Operating Hours
Joo Koon From 17 Dec 2018
Weekdays except Public Holidays
1100hrs – 1500hrs &
2030hrs – 2330hrs
Marina Bay / Downtown From 17 Dec 2018
Weekdays except Public Holidays
1100hrs – 1500hrs &
2030hrs – 2345hrs
CBD to Bedok & Tampines From 4 Jan 2019
Fridays, Saturdays & Eve of Public Holidays
2330hrs – 0200hrs
ODPB Fares
EZ-Link Reader for On-Demand Public Bus
EZ-Link Reader for On-Demand Public Bus

Joo Koon & Marina – Downtown On-Demand Public Bus Service

During the ODPB Trial, a promotional flat distance fare for 3.2km regardless of distance travelled applies for all passengers. Distance-fare transfer rules apply.

  • Adult Card: $0.83
    Adult Cash: $1.50
    Senior Citizen / Persons with Disabilities Card: $0.55
    Senior Citizen / Persons With Disabilities Cash: $1.00
    Student Card: $0.38
    Student Cash: $0.65
    Workfare Transport Concession Scheme Card: $0.64
    Workfare Transport Concession Scheme Cash: $1.50

Night CBD to Bedok / Tampines On-Demand Public Bus Service

During the ODBP Trial, a promotional flat fare applies regardless of distance travelled for all passengers. The fare is similar to that for SMRT NightRider Services.

  • Card / Cash: $4.50
Service Disruption

On 20 February 2019, the On-Demand Public Bus Service for Marina-Downtown was disrupted during the AM Off Peak session (11.00am – 3.00pm) due to a technical issue with the BusNow Application. Commuters were informed through an app notification that the service was unavailable, while regular service (20 min frequency) was restored on Bus Services 400 & 402. The technical issue was resolved later at around 3.15pm.

Conclusion of Trial

See also: End of On-Demand Public Bus Trial

The ODPB trial ended on 15 June 2019. The frequencies for Service 253, 255 and 257 were restored to pre-ODPB Trial levels; Service 402 was merged with Service 400; and Service NR7 was permanently discontinued.

In particular, the LTA highlighted these insights from the ODPB trial:

  • Commuter reactions to ODPB were mixed. Some commuters were prepared to try the new service, with more than 26,000 rides booked and taken to date. According to an LTA passenger survey, around half of those who were aware of ODPB had tried it. However, there was also a significant group of commuters who were either not aware of ODPB or chose not to try it. Those who chose not to try ODPB said they were uncomfortable with using a mobile application to book a bus ride and felt that regular bus services provided greater certainty.
  • Mileage savings were observed during the ODPB trial but it is currently less cost effective for ODPB to be scaled up due to high technology costs. Compared to fixed and scheduled bus services, operated mileage in the same area was 18% lower during the ODPB trial. This means less bus resources were required. However, ODPB is currently less cost effective compared to regular bus services due to high software development costs. Larger-scale deployment of ODPB is expected to become more cost effective in the future when the efficiency of algorithms improves and technology enables the deployment of unmanned vehicles.

The six-month trial provided insights into the feasibility of the ODPB concept, which will help LTA better understand demand-responsive services and prepare for other trials in future, including the pilot deployment of on-demand, dynamically-routed autonomous vehicles in the early 2020s, as the authorities continue to enhance public transport towards the “20-minute towns” vision in the Land Transport Master Plan 2040.

The following changes were effected following the end of the trial:

  • Joo Koon:
    From 17 June 2019, Services 253, 255 and 257 reverted to the original scheduled intervals before the ODPB trial.
  • Marina-Downtown:
    From 16 June 2019, Services 400 and 402, which were low-demand services with substantial overlap, were merged into a single Service 400 with scheduled interval of 20 minutes. Ridership of both services remained low before and during the trial. All bus stops covered by the two original services continue to be served by the merged Service 400, which also provides more direct journeys for key destinations in the area, such as Gardens by the Bay, Marina Barrage, Marina South Pier and Marina Bay Cruise Centre.
  • NightRider NR7:
    NR7 was suspended since start of Night ODPB trial on 4 January, and then permanently discontinued from 16 June 2019. During the ODPB trial, it was observed that many NR7 riders who chose not to try the ODPB had switched to alternatives such as Nite Owl 2N and 4N, which similarly connect the CBD to Bedok, Tampines and Pasir Ris. With the withdrawal of NightRider NR7, affected commuters could continue to rely on these alternative travel options.


See Also:

External Links & References:

Back to Bus Services
Back to Bus Articles