Computerised bus network long overdue

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 May, 2001, 12:00am

Selina Chow has taken over as head of the new Hong Kong Tourism Board, which faces the problem of declining tourist numbers.

Tourism is vital to the very survival of this city and business interest is leaking away for many of the same reasons as tourist numbers have declined.

The fact is that it is unpleasant to walk the streets of Hong Kong. The air is poisonous and you are deafened by the sounds of the constant traffic jam - the blaring horns and the endless stream of roaring, near-empty double-decker buses. You can escape to a pristine shopping mall, but they're all alike and you might as well be in Bahrain.

Hong Kong's allure was that it lived on the cutting edge of new technology, that it was futuristic. Other cities would have craved such a reputation.

Unfortunately, it is a reputation that has been lost.

To stop the slide, the Government should have started creating a truly cyber city that would attract a service-industry boom. The catch is it would have to clean up the air and make the central districts pedestrian-friendly. Yet, the only real way to do that is to block almost all the traffic. Since that will not happen, can officials at least do something about the buses?

Surely it isn't too much to ask in the 21st century for Hong Kong to computerise the bus network, with digital arrival details at bus-stops. If we have the technology to process Octopus cards, then we have the means to study demand and match it quite precisely.

Bus companies could safely reduce by half the number of buses and save bundles of cash, so they could then invest in greener and quieter engines.

The new arrangement might mean you wait five minutes more, but step on a fuller bus in non-peak hours and actually get to step on a bus in the peak hours. Any reasons why not?


Sheung Wan