About 20,000 passengers have traveled on Phnom Penh’s limited city bus service since a month-long public transport experiment began two weeks ago, which bodes well for a citywide expansion of the service once the trial ends on March 4, City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said Monday.
This is the second time the city has tried out public buses, but they are proving more popular this time around than in 2001, when a two-month trial service was scrapped halfway through due to waning public demand.
“Two weeks into the public bus experiment, we are seeing on average 1,600 to 1,700 passengers per day, with some days predictably seeing more passengers than others,” Mr. Dimanche said.
The buses are currently operating at about 60 percent capacity on average, Mr. Dimanche said, which is very positive considering they have been operating for only two weeks and the numbers show how successful the public bus system could be as public awareness grows.
“People are changing their behavior and coming on board the bus project, and we expect the number of passengers will grow by up to 40 percent when we continue the service,” he said.
The decision on whether to introduce citywide public transport will be taken once the current trial, which was led by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), comes to an end.
Mr. Dimanche said that up to nine companies are in the running for the contract to operate the new system, though he said he could not remember any of the companies’ names.
JICA spokesman Egami Masahiko said that though he always expected the trial to be a success, promoting the buses among students—many of whom have been taking the bus to school and university—had helped the project go beyond his expectations.
“Younger people share information more easily over the Internet on social media, so it was always our plan to encourage students to use the service,” he said.
The growing popularity of the buses is not all good news, however, as it means that City Hall and the company that wins the contract may have to upscale their original blueprints.
“A smaller system may be easier to implement but it needs to be carefully considered, because if there are a lot of passengers the service will not satisfy public demand,” Mr. Masahiko said.