A fleet of 10 municipal buses was set to roll out early this morning, commencing a one-month public bus service trial along a single route on Monivong Boulevard.
If successful, the bus route will mark the first step in establishing a long-overdue public transit system to alleviate Phnom Penh’s increasing traffic congestion.
The daily service, which will cost passengers 1,500 riel (about $0.30) for a flat-rate single ticket, will run from 5:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. from the Chroy Changva “Old Stadium” roundabout to Chbar Ampov, stopping 36 times along the way.
The public bus is the brainchild of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which hopes it will be prove more popular this time around than in 2001, when JICA pulled the plug on a two-month trial service due to a lack of public interest.
Over the past month, bus stops along the route have been marked out in white paint on the roadside alongside signs displaying route information and stop times in both English and Khmer, while a media campaign has been urging the public to “try something new this February.”
Whether the public will pay attention to the entreaty and start riding the bus, or once again ignore attempts to coax them away from using private transport and hiring tuk-tuks and motorcycle-taxis, will soon become clear.
At stops along the bus route on Tuesday, people said they were unsure about whether a bus system would solve traffic congestion in the city, or exacerbate it.
Near Stop 9 at Wat Koh, 39-year-old Rath Marin, who drives her own motorbike to work every day, said she had not heard about the bus service but thought the negatives may outweigh the positives.
“It will save people money, and I think it is a good thing that City Hall is trying to provide a public bus, but it will increase the traffic problem, not solve it, and people will end up spending more time waiting,” she said, adding that if she needed to get somewhere quickly she would jump on a motorcycle-taxi instead of waiting at a bus stop.
Chhorn Kna, a 41-year-old tuk-tuk driver whose usual parking spot had been replaced by the bus stop outside the French Embassy, said he was not overly concerned about losing customers to the buses.
“The fee is a little bit cheaper than a tuk-tuk, so I will have to wait and see, but I think passengers will get bored waiting, because it will take a long time to get to their destination.”