Finally, electronic real-time display boards are on trial at a few places in Penang. If successfully implemented, it would encourage more people to use buses.
I tried it by waiting for one bus, which the board said was arriving in three minutes, and yes, it did show up within a few minutes as stated on the board, only slightly delayed, probably by a long wait at a traffic light a little up the road.
Similar display boards have been used in many other countries for about a decade. Better late than never.
A couple of years ago, the RapidPenang management told me they were coming up with a real-time app designed in Korea to show bus arrival times. If this is still on, such an app would provide a bigger impetus for people to use buses.
In the meantime, we already have the excellent Moovit app, which allows you to plan your journey, shows the bus numbers and the interchanges, displays the frequency of buses and even the Penang ferries. Now if only they could incorporate real-time info into the app, it would be almost be like a Grab app for public transport.
RapidPenang should be more flexible with its season tickets. Not everyone needs a monthly season ticket. A daily or weekly season ticket may be more appropriate for some, including visitors and tourists. Season tickets should also be extended to the ferries. Perhaps discounted fares during off-peak hours.
Such season tickets should be sold more widely, say, at convenience stores. If parking coupons are widely available, why not bus season tickets?
Also, come up with an integrated single-ticket system that would cover journeys using more than one bus as well as the ferries.
To speed up the system, ensure that most of the bus fares are paid before a passenger enters the bus via season tickets, debit cards, bus-stop turnstiles or whatever.
Finally, introduce segregated bus-lanes along the wider roads, feeder buses and bicycle storage rooms at the main stations – and we would have the makings of a bus rapid transit system. No need to blow RM8bn on an exorbitant 19.5km highway, which will only get congested after a few years.