Passenger habits, not a lack of buses, are causing bus bunching and delays, say bus drivers

Campus Blue Riders bunched up during the morning peak period. (PHOTO: Yong Jun Yuan)
  • Drivers say that buses are mainly slowed down by students trying to rush or squeeze onboard
  • These minor delays can eventually add up a total of 30 minutes to a bus’ journey 
  • The onus is on NTU to initiate changes, say bus drivers 

By Yong Jun Yuan

NTU’s Campus Red and Blue Rider bus services have been drawing flak from students, who are complaining about regular delays and inconsistent bus arrivals. 

During off-peak hours, the only two or three buses servicing a route would sometimes bunch together and reach stops at the same time. Students would experience even longer waiting times if they miss these buses.  

“Once, I saw four 179s pass by before a Campus Red came and I still could not get on,” said Francesca Nio, a third-year undergraduate from the School of Art, Design and Media. 

But bus drivers say that delays and bunching are not directly caused by poor scheduling or a lack of buses. Instead, they point to passenger habits that slow down buses for minutes at a time. These can then accumulate into delays that last up to half an hour for each route. 

The school-provided bus services, operated by Tong Tar Transport, run in opposite directions on a route that loops around the NTU campus, ferrying students to locations such as halls of residence and school buildings. 

Minor holdups now, major delays later
“Look at all these new halls. There are at least thousands of people staying there. Of course there will be more people boarding the buses,” said Mr Tang Chin Wah, a Campus Blue Rider bus driver who has been driving in NTU for eight years.  

Mr Tang explained that students often try to squeeze onto already-packed buses, causing them to stall for short periods.  

If a bus is consistently delayed along the 13 Campus Red Rider stops or 12 Campus Blue Rider stops, these seemingly minor delays can snowball into half-hour waiting times for students by the time it completes one loop. 

Four Campus Blue Riders appear bunched up along Nanyang Drive in a screenshot of the popular bus-tracking app NTU GO. (PHOTO: Yong Jun Yuan)
Four Campus Blue Riders appear bunched up along Nanyang Drive in a screenshot of the popular bus-tracking app NTU GO. (PHOTO: Ng Yi Yang)

“Sometimes, students will stand on the steps near the bus doors and I won’t be able to close them. When I ask them to move in, they scold me,” said Mr Tang. Buses come equipped with sensors that prevent their doors from closing when students are standing near the exits. 

When asked if adding more buses would solve the issue, Mr Tang explained that there were already seven buses serving each of the Campus Red and Blue Riders during these peak hours. 

“Students just need to be a bit more patient. The next bus will definitely come to pick them up,” he said. 

Students voice their concerns 
However, some students felt it was unreasonable to be expected to wait for the next bus, as it could also be full when it arrives or be too far away to bring them to their destination on time. 

Etienne Rao, who is in his fourth year of study at the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said that during peak hours, he misses one bus on average before he can get on the next available bus.  

During off-peak periods, he also experienced cases when he would miss two buses in a row and end up waiting for the same two buses to loop around to his stop again.  

“It’s either that, or I would have to pay money to take 199 to school,” he said. 

Rao added that it was frustrating to deal with these issues. “If we choose to stay in halls, we should expect to get to class in 10 minutes,” he said. 

Another student, Shawn Tan, a third-year student from the School of Social Sciences, said that the situation has reached a point where he would board Campus Express Riders just to get moving farther down the route, even if they do not stop at his intended destination. 

“I have to get this bus, or the next one might be 15 minutes away,” he said.  

Solutions unclear for now 
On top of this, other bus drivers noted that the way students board and leave buses also slows the service down.  

Mr Happy Singh, another Campus Red Rider driver, said that students tend to rush to enter and exit from the front and rear doors at the same time, congesting both doorways. 

“Why can’t students board our buses the way they board the SBS buses? It would be so much faster that way,” said Mr Singh. 

Yet, these bus drivers are unsure of how exactly the current bus system can be improved. 

“Most students start school at around the same time, so it makes sense that the buses are packed during peak hours,” said Mr Su Zhi Wei, who has been driving buses in NTU for three years. 

“Any changes have to be initiated by the school. Only then will the company (Tong Tar Transport) be able to make any changes to the bus services,” he said. 

This article will be part of a series of stories about NTU Campus Rider Buses in NTU. 

You’ve read the stories. Now, we need your help to get hard data to make a change. Our findings need to be backed by legitimate information to get a more complete view on what the entire school is facing. 

The survey’s data will be open to all, and we hope it will help us to drive discussion and work together toward community solutions for the problems at hand. 

You can participate in our Campus Loop Survey One here

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