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Themes

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Comprehensive one-stop references on key development issues of Korea

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Bus System Reform in Korea Improving Bus Services Through Technology: Introduction of BMS(BIS) and TOPIS

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Bus System Reform in Korea

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Sub-Theme 3 | Improving Bus Services Through Technology: Introduction of BMS(BIS) and TOPIS

Bus Management System / Bus Information System

Background

Since adopting its first transportation policy two decades ago, Seoul Metropolitan Government has experimented with various fragmentary and short-term changes, some of which went on to produce positive results. Nevertheless, fundamental reform and improvement of public transportation in Seoul required an integrated public transportation system capable of offering lower fare rates and that connected all of the diverse stakeholders, including Seoul City, transportation companies, drivers and personnel, and citizens. In other words, there was a growing need for a comprehensive system for managing the transportation infrastructure (including the exclusive bus lanes), subsidies, and passenger databases. Seoul’s policymakers thus reached the conclusion that they needed to establish an advanced, centralized system for monitoring and managing bus services, providing real-time updates on bus information, and improving the quality of bus services.

Aims and Goals of BMS

Seoul’s Bus Management System (BMS) was introduced with the overarching objective of improving public satisfaction with bus services by amassing and processing massive amounts of data relevant to improving the punctuality of buses and developing better bus policies in the future. The BMS is intended to benefit all stakeholders involved. Bus passengers and citizens, for example, benefit from the real-time updates on  bus services and related information. In addition, the BMS aimed to minimize errors in headway, reduce passenger discomfort associated with excessive speed and aggressive driving, and reduce the time passengers spent waiting at bus stops by providing good estimates on when the next buses would arrive.

The system was designed so that bus drivers would be able to time their trips more effectively based on up-to-date information on bus headways and road conditions. They would also be better able to adjust their speed and help maintain the orderliness of bus services accordingly.

Bus companies would be able to increase profits by attracting more passengers with their timely bus services and information updates. Predictable headways, coupled with greater control over speeding and aggressive driving, would not only attract more passengers, but also help reduce accidents and insurance costs. By maintaining tight control over headways and bus speeds, companies would be able to rationalize their operations and personnel. In addition, as companies would have greater control over bus drivers and their driving behavior (e.g., preventing drivers from passing stops without stopping), they would also be able to improve the quality of bus services significantly.

Finally, Seoul City would be able to ensure the rationality, predictability, and objectivity of its policy on the management of bus services by gaining access to systematic databases of bus service records and information. Such information would further enable the city to ensure the punctuality of buses and discipline bus drivers for unruly driving behavior, thereby inducing drivers to better comply with traffic laws.

Structure of BMS

The BMS consists of a data gathering system, data processing system, and data provision system. The data gathering system collects information on buses and their routes though global positioning system (GPS) devices installed on the buses. The system sends bus-related data in 20-second intervals, as the buses arrive at and depart from each bus stop, to the data center via a wireless data communications network. The data processing system sorts and compiles the data received from the data gathering system into databases via communications and location processing servers. The data provision system then delivers the processed information to the public, bus operating companies, drivers, and policymakers via various servers.
 
[Figure 11. BMS Structure]
[Source: Internal Document of TOPIS And Seoul Metropolitan Government


Effects of the Introduction of BMS

Under today’s BMS, bus drivers receive information, through onboard devices, regarding the distances between buses on the same route, bus routes in operation, and headways between the buses. Drivers then use this information to time their trips and adjust their speed accordingly so as to ensure the timeliness of bus services for the public. The BMS, as well as other information systems operated by bus companies, also provides real-time updates on accidents and other road-related conditions, thus helping to reduce delays and accidents.

Bus companies use special devices provided by the BMS to monitor the status of buses in operation on a real-time basis. More specifically, bus company operators can check the operating conditions of each route on a digital map of Seoul, instruct bus drivers on how to time their trips, and deliver other key pieces of information (e.g., regarding accidents and traffic congestion) that drivers need while driving. Bus companies also use the headway control feature of the BMS devices to chart the movements of buses along each route, thereby allowing them to better control bus drivers. Moreover, the BMS provides information on the passengers getting on and off buses based on transit card transactions, which facilitates the processing of per-vehicle and per-kilometer payment information required by the semi-public operation system.

In the meantime, thanks to an automated response system (ARS), citizens are able to obtain real-time updates on estimated bus departure and arrival times via the Internet, smart devices, mobile phones, and the telephone. The BMS allows citizens to select their main bus routes (My Bus) and obtain information more quickly. In October 2005, Seoul Metropolitan Government replaced bus stop ID numbers with standardized five-digit codes and updated the BMS to include the new codes, allowing citizens to search for and find information on specific bus stops more efficiently via the Internet and the ARS. Now, almost 30,000 queries are made daily through the BMS using these standardized codes. 

In addition, the BMS operator can monitor the status of buses in operation on a real-time basis. The operator also collects statistics and data on bus trips, bus stops, and accidents and other emergency situations in order to support the evaluation of bus operating companies. The transit card transaction records provide data on when and where passengers get on and off their buses, thus facilitating analyses of bus speeds, passenger behavior patterns, bus capacities, and route redundancies. These analyses, in turn, allow policymakers to make informed decisions regarding the creation, modification, or termination of bus routes, readjustment of the number of buses allotted to each route, and management of exclusive bus lanes.