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Commuter chaos on inter-city buses

Posted July. 18, 2014 07:05,   


Inter-city buses connect Seoul and its outskirts through highways or expressways. They are virtually the only means of transportation for those who cannot use their own vehicles or take subways to commute to Seoul. Obviously, it is dangerous to be standing in a bus running at a high speed. However, no passenger protests the situation. Rather, they are grateful that bus drivers allow them to hop on even when their buses are crowded.

Inter-city buses have been affected by the April 16 deadly sinking of the ferry Sewol. As the awareness spreads that the ferry disaster was caused by Koreans` chronic insensitiveness to safety hazards and deep-rooted bad practices, the government has decided to crack down on such buses running with many passengers standing. Under current law, all passengers on vehicles running on highways or expressways must be seated and buckled up. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced in May that it would implement the no-standing rule to improve passenger safety from July 16.

On the first day of crackdowns on Thursday, inter-city buses skipped their stops during the morning rush hours after all seats were taken. But it took less than an hour before some buses resumed taking passengers who would be standing, caving in to barrages of customer protests. Gyeonggi Province put 188 more buses into service at shorter intervals to help ease the commuter chaos, but the number was not enough. Increased bus service is not a solution. Before and after rush hours, most inter-city buses are running with empty seats. The cost for increased buses will have to be reflected into taxes or fares.

Who would want to stand in a bus? Those lucky enough to take a seat and doze off while going work feel much fresher when they go to work. It is a typical case of government irresponsibility to go by the rulebook without considering realities. Introducing the Great Train Express service is the best solution but it takes too much time and money. Why not consider exempting the Bundang-Banpo highway from the no-standing rule? It will be also necessary to hold a car-sharing campaign or adopt double-decker buses. First, why not try to resort to the wisdom of the crowd?

Editorial writer Chung Seong-hee (shchung@donga.com)