Monday, March 05, 2007

No Wonder Penang's Bus System's Fucked Up

Listening to: Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One


"Public transport" and "Penang" are two words that should never be in the same sentence without the word "terrible", "atrocious", "shitty", or any other negative descriptor. Everytime the conversation shifts to the island's bus service, my relatives or colleagues will NEVER have anything good to say.

Earlier I had a chat with this guy who's a member of the Bus User's Group, a commuters' organization pressing for better public transport in Penang. The bus companies, according to him, actually RENT out their buses to independent individuals/organizations, who then do the actual task of running the vehicles. That's right folks... he said "rent". So that explains the following:
  • buses departing based on number of passengers, not schedule
  • which means buses never arrive on time (very long delays are common, and we're not talking 15 minutes)
  • buses not sticking to their planned route... drivers will make detours if they find out their planned route is choked with traffic, which is inevitable in Penang
  • the lack of numbered buses, routes, proper schedules & maps
  • drivers (sometimes the same guys who rented the bus) trying to make as many trips per day
  • drivers forcing passengers of mid-route. "Ok! We'll stop in Burmah Road here. Semua turun! C'mon, get out! You going to Tanjung Tokong? Aww... too bad! Anyway, here's a 50sen refund"

After all, if you're an indie operator renting a bus from some guy who's too lazy to run things themselves, your objective is to make as much cash as possible by the end of the workday. Especially when you and your ticket conductor partner are paying RM200 (~U$53) to have your own bus for the day...

Maybe I should rent my own bus, get Tam from Church Street to be conductor and plow the route between Komtar and Bukit Jambul. That would be a sweet way to make extra dough in the weekends...

No comments: