Friday, April 25, 2014

Public transportation delegates discuss development

Ulaanbaatar’s public transportation delegates gathered for the first time on Wednesday at the Public Transportation Development Key Conference to discuss ways to better organized transportation service in Mongolia and recover reputation of the service among the residents.

Many citizens are concerned over drivers’ traffic violations, poorly routed buses and intervals, as well as inappropriate behavior on duty. Bus conductors are often criticized for their lack of appropriate communicative skills.

The delegates organized the conference hoping to eliminate both work related and ethical violations which are common among drivers and conductors of public buses.

Over 200 delegates from 25 public and private transportation operators shared their ideas at the conference.
Attendees noted that unless public transportation services are favored over private vehicles, auto traffic of a city of 1.3 million residents will soon “go out of control.”

Today, 1,170 buses are running in the city transportation services, which hardly meets the current demand.
Chief of the Ulaanbaatar City Transportation Authority Ch.Enkhbat admitted, “One of the top three pressing issues facing Ulaanbaatar is definitely public transportation. We gathered here to find a proper solution for our problems.”

“Public transportation is considered a very important sector in terms of a country’s development. Before Mongolia shifted to free market economy, transportation sector officials used to be provided with apartments free of charge. Since 1990s, this sector has been literally abandoned.”

Autobus-1 state-owned bus company hosted the conference on the occasion of its 60th year anniversary.
The following is a brief interview with Chief of Autobus-1 Ts.Odontungalag about public transportation service in the city.

What do you think is the best solution to improve public transportation services in Mongolia?

Currently, income is more important than serving the public for public transportation staff. In other words, they are chasing after money too much and fulfilling their duties poorly.

If income is not priority, private companies are unlikely to be interested in working in the sector. Wouldn’t it cause shortage of buses?

Public transportation development is directly linked to reduction of traffic congestions as well as air pollution, according to international experiences. But the fact is completely opposite in Ulaanbaatar. People prefer driving than catching public buses. This sector will recover if the government solves budget issues of private bus operators.

Some officials are talking about creating segregated bus routes and electronic bus fare collectors. Is it possible to introduce these technology in Mongolia now?

With current conditions, it is rather difficult. Before implementing these reforms, buses must be replaced with new ones and related policies should be revised.

Are there any standards for bus drivers and conductors?

Yes. Drivers must be above 21-years-old, with identity card indicating they have graduated from a professional training, while conductors must be over 18-years-old and must have attended 48-hour training.

These standards have to be reformed. Before 1990s, only the most skilled drivers were selected for public transportation service after 11-month paid training. Around 30 to 40 drivers used to be granted free apartments every year.

How are bus drivers trained in foreign countries?

They are trained and seen equally as pilots. Bus drivers are state servants, so states resolve all welfare and social services for them, while drivers in Mongolia have low salaries. That is why skilled drivers refuse to work as bus drivers and companies are left with no other option but to hire whoever is interested.

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