The intention was good, but the method was wrong. ‘Hell Gate’, a metropolitan bus that paralyzed Myeong-dong

Myeongdong bus stop full of metropolitan buses, nightmare of ‘line-up signs for each route’
Citizens tired of 'infinite waiting' for buses on their way home from work are angry, saying, "It's a desk administration."
Ineffective policies are useless, and we should follow the example of the 2004 ‘public transportation system reform’

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon acknowledged his mistake regarding the Myeongdong bus Hellgate incident (a terrible situation as if the gates of hell had been opened). He admitted that the ‘line-up signs for each bus route’ installed on the sidewalk at the Myeong-dong metropolitan bus stop actually added to the confusion on the way home from work. On the 6th, Mayor Oh bowed his head, saying through his official YouTube channel ‘Oh Se-hoon TV’, “I should have worked more carefully, but by trying something new in the cold winter, I caused the inconvenience of long waiting times for many people.”

Myeongdong packed buses and citizens, ‘infinite waiting’ amid cold wave

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the number of daily passengers at the metropolitan bus stop at Myeongdong entrance is approximately 9,500. So far, citizens have used 12 metropolitan bus routes along the waiting lines for 29 routes drawn on the floor. The Seoul Metropolitan Government installed ‘line-up signs for each bus route’ on the sidewalk at the Myeong-dong metropolitan bus stop on the 27th of last month with the goal of reducing traffic congestion and citizen confusion at the stop.

But the queue sign had the opposite effect. This is because many buses and passengers are crowded into a narrow stop space of about 35m, and a ‘train phenomenon’ occurs where the bus in front is pushed aside if it does not move out. After the signs were installed, road congestion became more severe, and waiting times for bus passengers became two to three times longer than before. Metropolitan buses lined up from Seoul Station to Myeong-dong entrance, waiting to get to their proper seats.

As complaints poured in from all over that the so-called ‘Hell Gate on the way home from work’ had been opened, the city of Seoul announced that it would postpone the operation of line signage until the 31st of this month. In addition, in order to reduce on-site confusion, the stopping locations of five routes, including those heading to Suwon-si and Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, were adjusted, and among the metropolitan buses entering the Myeongdong entrance stop, about five routes were made to immediately turn in the Euljiro or Jongno directions or stop without stopping in Myeongdong. I decided to do it. Guidance staff will also be deployed to assist passengers in boarding and disembarking safely.

Criticism of ‘desktop administration’ that has never been simulated

Citizens who were shivering in the cold and waiting for the bus for a long time complained that the queue sign was a ‘desktop administration’. Although they understand the purpose of introducing the system, it is pointed out that the ‘method’ is wrong. The Seoul Metropolitan Government explained that initially, because the transportation company randomly displayed the route numbers for 12 routes on the floor of the bus stop, there were safety problems such as △ difficulty in checking route numbers, △ concerns about collisions between passengers on the bus, and △ deviation from the stopping position. In the end, it was a problem that had to be solved at some point.

The problem is that Seoul City presented a solution that was too unrealistic. The city of Seoul placed ‘line-up signs’ on actual roads without conducting simulations, and as a result, numerous buses and citizens wasted more than an hour looking for stop signs. In fact, a Seoul city official said, “We installed queue signs to reflect the bus waiting and boarding time standards in the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport’s business manual,” but also said, “We did not expect congestion to get this bad.”

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, who belatedly visited the crowded Myeong-dong bus stop/Photo = YouTube Oh Se-hoon TV

Some point out that the city of Seoul’s lax initial response ignited citizens’ dissatisfaction. As confusion arose in the field after the introduction of the system, the Seoul Metropolitan Government issued an explanation on the 4th of this month, saying, “The fundamental cause of congestion is that too many metropolitan bus routes are entering downtown Seoul.” This can be interpreted as a kind of excuse that the queue sign is not the cause of the confusion. It was also not revealed until the 6th whether action would be taken regarding the problematic queue sign.

How to become a ‘recognized policy’ Should I do it?

Experts who heard about the Myeongdong Hellgate incident are reminiscent of the case of former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak’s ‘public transportation system reform’ in 2004. Mayor Lee Myung-bak has carried out a complete overhaul of Seoul’s public transportation system, despite opposition from many people. The reform plan promoted at the time was △ a bus branch line system (a transportation system in which large buses operate from the terminal to each region, and small buses operate from each region to the village level) △ a central lane system △ a transportation card for subway transfers. It was a system, etc.

The sudden reorganization of the public transportation system caused enormous confusion. From the first day of implementing the public transportation system reform, errors related to transportation cards abounded, and citizens experienced great confusion due to suddenly changed bus numbers and routes. Citizens and the media criticized the policy using the derogatory term ‘mass suffering.’ Citizens expressed their dissatisfaction by filing a class action lawsuit against Mayor Lee Myung-bak, as well as holding a recall movement or a campaign for his resignation.

However, at present, former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak’s public transportation system reform is being evaluated as his ‘greatest achievement.’ It was also recognized as an excellent policy by the World Association of Public Transport (UITP). This is the result of timely acceptance of pouring criticism, listening to detailed application situations, and refinement of the system. Ultimately, the key to policy success lies in the method of implementation, not the purpose. This means that in order for Myeongdong’s queue sign to escape the stigma of desk administration, it is necessary to think again about effective implementation methods.

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