Public Buses Reintroduced To Phnom Penh

For years now, the way to get around in Cambodia were ‘tuk-tuks’ and ‘motor-dups’; the first is a rickshaw hooked up to a motorbike, ...

For years now, the way to get around in Cambodia were ‘tuk-tuks’ and ‘motor-dups’; the first is a rickshaw hooked up to a motorbike, the second is a motorbike taxi that you could hop on for a lift to your destination. More than a decade ago, in 2011, there was an attempt to introduce a public bus system, which was met with indifference. After a short trial, the idea was scrapped.

The reality was that it was simply easier to get around on the ubiquitous motor-dup, which conveniently picks you up from your doorstep, weaves through traffic and deposits you directly at your destination, all for a small fee. Taking a bus still required residents to walk to and from the bus stop.

However, since then, as with any country with a developing economy, traffic congestion has worsened and the capital city has grown, making journeys longer and more tedious. With that, the government is giving the public bus system another go.

A trial period is already underway in Phnom Penh where 10 air-conditioned buses have been traversing up and down the bustling Monivong Boulevard since 5 February. A ride costs only 1500 riel (less than USD0.40), which is significantly cheaper than a motor-dup ride. Besides being a necessity to lure people away from personal vehicles (the city's roads bear about 1 million motorbikes), the bus is a much more comfortable and safer way to get around. 
According to City Hall’s senior official, Koeut Chhe, “The main goal is reduce traffic jams.” 

Total vehicles in the country is an estimated 1.8 million, not taking into account unregistered ones, with motorcycles and trucks dominating the roads and cars numbering only 300 000. In 2012, the number of registered vehicles had grown 8% in just one year.

Cambodia has a humble per capita income of USD946 (World Bank, 2012) even in comparison to neighbouring Vietnam, but has been benefitting from increased foreign investment, exports and agriculture. With a population nearing 15 million and 9.6 million of them of legal age to drive a vehicle, we can expect increased ownership of both two and four-wheeled vehicles as the country’s economy and personal incomes continue to take off. And with more of the population moving from the rural areas to the city seeking out job opportunities, Phnom Penh needs the bus trial to succeed.

image: parish-without-borders.net

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