Yangon bus fare reform plan wins public backing

Transport authorities plan to scrap the distinction between “ordinary” and “special” buses, setting fares for both types of bus at the same level. The decision, which will be implemented before the end of the year, has been welcomed by bus owners and passengers.

The Yangon Region Supervisory Committee for Motor Vehicles, better known by its acronym Ma Hta Tha, said all buses would now charge based on distance, at a per-mile rate of K20, with K100 the new minimum fare.

While officially an increase on the current minimum of K50, most conductors already charge at least K100, regardless of the distance.

“We will change the fare collection system to one based on distance in miles. The rate will rise from K10 per mile to K20, or K100 for 5 miles [8 kilometres]. All buses will use the same system,” said Ma Hta Tha chair U Hla Aung yesterday.

Bus owners have welcomed the new system. “Public” transport in Yangon is largely privately owned, with lines and individual buses jockeying for passengers, and drivers and conductors paying themselves from the daily fare takings. Though fares are relatively inexpensive, bus travel is hot, crowded and inconvenient for most commuters, as well as chaotic and sometimes dangerous.

The distinction between ordinary and special buses, which goes back to the days of the military regime, has since become largely meaningless as conditions aboard the “special” buses have deteriorated through neglect, age and lack of maintenance.

It also acted as a disincentive to new and better-quality competition, as entrants into the market had been forced to charge the “ordinary” fare regardless of their comfort and service standards.

The so-called special buses charged a minimum fare of K200, while the ordinary buses, which come in several uncomfortable varieties, started from a K50 minimum.

However, bus conductors often demanded a K100 minimum for all journeys, or K200 if they had been designated as special.

Customers have long complained that conductors charge as much as they think the traffic will bear, upping the fare late at night or on ill-served routes.

U Ko Ko Naing, who owns the No 31 bus line, said, “This system is better for passengers, because they no longer need to quarrel with the conductor about the price.”

For passengers, they will now be able to travel on all buses at the same price. “Passengers always say special buses are not special. They’re right. The conditions aboard special buses have deteriorated to the point that there is nothing special about them. Now passengers will pay K100 for 5 miles whichever bus they take. This is fair for the owners,” said the owner of bus line No 43, U Min Zaw, who runs 10 vehicles.

Ma Hta Tha appears to believe that levelling the fare playing field will result in passengers favouring newer and bigger buses over their older and more cramped rivals, gradually forcing owners to upgrade their fleets. The fare rise announcement seems to have been prompted by complaints from passengers that bus conductors would no longer accept the official minimum of K50.

“Most of the passenger complaints we received concerned conductors’ demands for higher fares. So we made the system more equal,” said Ma Hta Tha chief U Hla Aung.

U Min Zaw said it would help bus owners improve service standards. “We get no support from the government. All the owners and bus workers just want more money. We need a more systematic fare collection system,” he said.

Ko Ta Yoke Lay owns more than 10 air-conditioned buses and boasts properly trained conductors, including women, who are thought to treat passengers more politely. He said the new system would not reduce his income, and he undertook not to reduce the quality of his service.

“We want passengers to pay their fare willingly. The so-called special buses are no longer special. I want all buses to be the same,” he said.

The new system, which is still under discussion, will come into force later this year, at a date to be announced.

Ma Hta Tha officials said they were still discussing what the maximum fare would be under the new rules.

Ko Zaw Htun Tun, a commuter from South Okkalapa township, said he supported the changes.

“For short trips, passengers can save K100 every time they take one of the special buses,” he said. “But for long trips, Ma Hta Tha should carefully consider the maximum fare. In our country, incomes and bus fares are not matched. It is a very important issue.”

Ko Htin Lin from Tarmwe said he wanted to see fares displayed prominently inside all buses.

“In the past, every bus had to put the fare list,” he said. “But the new system is good for passengers. We no longer have to pay K200 to the so-called special buses. They are not really special; they can’t give good service.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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