On the second day of Phnom Penh’s monthlong public bus experiment, there was a visible uptick in passengers Thursday traveling the single route along Monivong Boulevard.
A few minutes before a packed city bus pulled up at the Number 9 bus stop Thursday afternoon, just beyond Street 214 on the northbound route from Chbar Ampov to the Old Stadium roundabout, traffic police officers instructed the driver of a Toyota pick-up truck to move his vehicle out of the bus stop.
“I have noticed a rise in passengers today and during the day there have been five or six people waiting at the stops for the next bus,” said one officer, who declined to give his name as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
“It will take time for people to learn about the service, so we want to make sure that cars do not park in the bus stops and obstruct the signs,” he added.
On board the air-conditioned bus, where only a few seats remained unoccupied, 19-year-old ticket seller Phan Sovann said that passengers seemed pleased with the service.
“We have about 24 passengers onboard now, which is much more than yesterday because people have been hearing about the bus service through reports on TV and the Internet today,” he said.
About a dozen passengers interviewed, who included civil servants, NGO staff and a large number of uniformed students, were largely positive about their experience of the bus so far and were unanimous in hoping that the trial expands to a city-wide public transport system.
“I will always take this bus because it is convenient to both my home and school,” said 24-year-old Chin Sereya, a doctoral student at the University of Health Sciences.
“I will be very sorry if it stops after this trial, as other countries have public bus services to help ease traffic, and [Cambodia] should too.”
Sar Rotana, 28, who works at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said that she was easily persuaded to take the bus by the low cost of a ticket, which is 1,500 riel, or about $0.35 flat rate, which will help to considerably reduce her weekly spending on transport.
“I usually take a tuk-tuk that picks me up at my door, whereas I need to walk about 500 meters to the bus stop, but a tuk-tuk ride costs $2, so the bus is much more reasonable,” she said.
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency, which blueprinted the current city bus trial, had no data on passenger numbers Thursday, but JICA spokesman Egami Masahiko, said he was pleased that buses were crowded so early on in the pilot service.
“It is only day two, but it is definitely encouraging and much better than empty buses,” he said.