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Slow start to free Orchard Road shuttle service December 6, 2009

Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Miscellaneous, Private operators, Something New, Transport Events.
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The Great Trolley Orchard Road free shuttle bus service

FEW PEOPLE ARE AWARE OF BUS LINKING POPULAR MALLS ALONG SHOPPING BELT

The free shuttle bus service plying Orchard Road costs $18,000 a month to operate but it is off to a slow start.

Not many shoppers have been making use of it and few seemed to be aware of the service even when the bus pulled up to the bus stop they were at.

Last Tuesday, the Orchard Road Business Association launched the free service called The Great Trolley, linking popular malls like Ion Orchard, Plaza Singapura and The Heeren.

The striking black-and-white buses run from 11am to 10pm daily, and will do so until February next year. Operating at five-minute intervals, they ply 11 stops along Orchard Road, Orchard Boulevard, Somerset Road and Tanglin.

But the buses remain largely empty for now – in stark contrast to the packed public buses along the same route.

Shuttle bus driver Tan Hai Tow, 61, said he had only two or three passengers per trip when The Sunday Times hopped on last Thursday.

“It’s such a convenient service but nobody knows about it because there are no signs at the bus stops,” he said.

“When I reach a bus stop, people just stare at the bus without getting on.”

Commuters admitted they did not know about the free rides.

“I would have got on if I knew it could take me to Plaza Singapura,” said Kelly Ong, 18, a student who was waiting for a bus outside Delfi Orchard.

Another commuter, a German tourist in her 50s, pointed out that the map of the shuttle-bus route could be seen only at the back of the bus.

“By the time I saw it, it was too late to get on,” she said.

No other free service plying Orchard Road is available at the moment.

Other shuttle buses, like the one that goes to Great World City, make only one stop along Orchard Road.

The Orchard Road Business Association, which is paying for the cost of running the buses, said the 30-seater air-conditioned buses are aimed at encouraging shoppers to visit different malls in the area.

Two buses were hired from a private bus operator for this purpose, and more effort will be made in coming weeks to promote the rides.

“We’ll be roping in the malls and hotels to put up information about the buses,” said spokesman Steven Goh.

“Hopefully, it will catch on when word of mouth spreads. If it turns out to be successful, we might continue the service beyond February.”

– The Sunday Times, page 16, December 6 2009

The reporter surely made a grave mistake by reporting the service to be operating at a frequency of 5 minutes – which is too good to be true anyway. It is actually being run every 30 minutes, but takes about 5 minutes to hop from one shopping mall to another.

And sometimes, the best way to grab as much attention is not to wrap the bus with an allover white with not a single mention of it being a free shuttle bus. Follow what other shopping mall owners have been doing with their own free shuttles. Just paint the buses in attention-grabbing bright and striking colours with large bolded words that scream “FREE ORCHARD ROAD SHUTTLE BUS”.

That will at least prompt curious commuters at the bus stops to ask the driver for details, and not just shoot the driver with killer stares.

More information, including timetables and details of boarding/alighting points can be obtained at the Orchard Association Business Association’s website.

While getting stuck in the Great Orchard Road Year-end Traffic Jam is not really your idea of spending the weekend along the shopping belt, do give this bus service a try and hopefully, it will continue to run on a permanent basis.

And at a better frequency.

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