The public bus system in Phnom Penh continues to grow in popularity, one year into its reestablishment.
City officials said on Facebook the three lines of the city serve around 6,200 people, a small proportion of the 2 million people living here, earning around $100,000 per month.
Residents say they are growing to appreciate the bus lines, which can ease traffic congestion in the crowded capital. On a recent weekday, one bus line was in good use by residents who paid about 1,500 riel, or $0.35, per ride.
Passenger Yim Phalla, who lives in Phnom Penh, told VOA Khmer that she gave up driving her car and has been taking the public bus for about a year. Her children use it to go to school, too, she said.
“My suggestion is to have more services,” she said. “I want more people to take the bus because it is convenient, much more comfortable than a car, reduces expenditure, and avoids traffic accidents.”
Another passenger, Sy Than, a secondary school teacher, told VOA Khmer that she gave up motorcycle taxis in favor of the bus, saving up to $2.50 a day. “Sometimes, we have to wait a long time, but if we know the bus schedule and time, we can catch the bus on time,” she said.
Mao Sreynich, a ticket-checker on the bus, told VOA Khmer on Tuesday that the numbers of passengers have increased lately, especially during rush hour. “Normally, it’s around 20 passengers, but sometimes it is up to 100 passengers,” she said.
The current bus project has seen more success than its 2001 predecessor, which folded when only a few people used it. Since then, the streets of the city have become far more crowded with traffic, perhaps explaining the new popularity of the bus. Still, the Ministry of Transportation estimates that there were 2.78 million vehicles in the country last year, up 14 percent from the year before.
Independent analyst Ear Chakrya said the service is useful, but it should have been in place long ago. “If we’d have continued the bus service since 2001, and if the buses were deployed on Phnom Penh’s streets, I believe Phnom Penh would not have such traffic congestion. It would have been better.” The city should consider building parking space near bus stations, to encourage more use, he said.
(Additional reporting by VOA Khmer's Aun Chhengpor and Oum Sonita)