Phnom Penh’s experiment in mass transit is continuing indefinitely, with the municipality earlier this week taking over operation of 17 buses that began running regularly through the city center June 1.
Nhem Saran, director of the municipality’s Department of Public Works and Transportation, said the government has decided to continue the project with its own funds.
In June, the Japan International Cooperation Agency funded the month-long experiment as part of its ongoing effort to tame Phnom Penh’s increasingly Bangkok-like traffic conditions.
Nhem Saran said the city is searching for private businesses to advertise on buses to offset operating losses. He said the city is losing up to $1,000 a day on the project. The city rents 17 buses—eight from Ho Wah Genting Transport Co for $50 a day and nine from APEX Tour Co for $60 a day. Currently, passengers are charged 500 riel, but that will soon rise to 800 riel for adults, Nhem Saran said. School children will continue to pay 500 riel.
“Of course, the income from the bus revenue is not enough to cover the rent of the buses,” said Tatsuyuki Sakurai, JICA deputy team leader. “If the municipality wants to continue, it will have to subsidize.”
More than 100,000 people rode the buses during the month of June, Sakurai said. During the first week of June, about 5,000 people rode the bus daily. That tapered off to 3,000 a day for the last three weeks of June.
There were 3,000 riders on Sunday and 4,000 on Monday, Nhem Saran said.
Planners had hoped ridership would be as high as 8,300 passengers per day during the first five days of June and more than 4,000 for the rest of the month. Most passengers were students and shoppers, JICA official Masato Koto said. Many riders thought the buses were safer than motorcycle taxis, he said.
Originally, 23 buses operated on the two routes, but only about 17 were found to be necessary, Nhem Saran said. The buses run from 5:30 am to 7:30 pm every day along two lines. There are about 36 stops on both lines.
Line 1 runs along Monivong Boulevard from Phsar Chbar Ampou east of the Monivong Bridge to Prek Liep east of the Japanese Bridge. During morning and evening rush hours, the buses run every six minutes.
Line 2 loops around downtown, running clockwise along Norodom, Sihanouk, Nehru and Kampuchea Krom boulevards and passing Phsar Thmei, Phsar Olympic and Phsar Depot.
As part of the experiment, the city banned bicycles, cyclos, motorcycles and slow-moving vehicles on Monivong Boulevard between Sihanouk and Kampuchea Krom boulevards.
The ban brought protests from residents and shop owners on Monivong. Police did not strictly enforce the ban, but Sakurai added that JICA found that there was 45 percent fewer motorcycles on Monivong Boulevard during June.
A JICA analysis of a June passenger survey will be finished in a few weeks, Koto said.