The newly imposed “no standing” policy on intercity bus services in the Seoul metropolitan area touched off complaints Wednesday from busy commuters, but stopped short of triggering chaos.
On its first day of implementation, authorities operated over 100 additional buses to make up for the decreased passenger capacity. Despite the effort, a slew of commuters complained of long wait times on their way to work.
Korea’s traffic law states that all passengers aboard vehicles on freeways must be seated.
|Passengers board an intercity bus in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)|
Due to the large number of commuters in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, however, intercity buses in these areas that take freeways customarily allowed passengers to stand. This sparked safety concerns.
Last month, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport banned the intercity buses from taking standing passengers.
A 28-year-old office worker named Lee, who commutes to central Seoul from Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, said she waited 30 minutes before being able to board the bus.
“I ended up walking two stops away from my usual stop to board the bus. The authorities cannot possibly expect this to work,” she said.
According to the Transport Ministry, about 110,000 commuters take the bus from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., 15,000 of whom are standing passengers.
Because these buses can carry between 40 and 45 passengers, the government needs over 300 additional vehicles to make up for the shortage of passenger capacity.
Local media reports showed several intercity buses allowing standing passengers despite the government ban.
In addition to commuter discontent, bus companies are complaining of the drop in income due to the decreased capacity.
Officials from Gyeonggi Province said that the new system is being conducted smoothly.
But experts are saying that the authorities must prepare to augment the system, as the summer vacation season is keeping the number of intercity commuters relatively low.
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org)