Not so long ago, most people travelled by bus. It was quick, cheap and easy to get into town, if you lived in the suburbs. You would have a chat with whoever was sitting next to you, and even have a banter with the friendly bus driver. Of course, today that’s changed. You are not only unlikely to get a bus every 20 minutes or so, but sometimes you’re fortunate to get a bus once a week! And if you are travelling somewhere on a Sunday, forget it. Unless you live in the city (where bus travel tends to be pretty good), most councils have more or less given up on buses. And that’s a great shame, isn’t it?
Portland, Oregon (US) is considered to be one of the greenest cities on earth. Their Trimet service is also considered to be one of the best public transit systems on earth. You pay one ticket, then choose how you travel: bus, tram or train. There is free or discounted travel for seniors and those on low incomes, the stations all have Braille notices for blind people. They even have volunteers who will take newbies through the system, travelling around with them, to get the know the system, so it’s easier to travel alone. How about that? Feeling nostalgic for buses? Your buses want you to give them another chance. So here are some ways to help:
- Just like local shops, if you don’t use them, you lose them. So pop to the local tourist office, and pick up a bus timetable. Then when you need a bus, use a bus. Use it to get to work or to visit people. Ask your local council when they are going to provide more bus travel at weekends. And use any discount cards provided.
- If you are of pension age, you are entitled to a free bus pass. Not only does this give you free travel out of peak hours, but you can use it anywhere in England. Bus Pass Britain and Bus Pass Britain Rides Again are two great books, if you fancy going off on your travels.
- If you live in London and are registered disabled, Taxicard is available to you. You get a set number of free trips by taxi (with companions), so you don’t have to deal with private hire or public transport that is not disabled-friendly.
- If you live in a rural area, ask your council if they could launch a Wiggly Bus. First used in Wiltshire, this involves one bus with a GPS system. The bus driver does not stop at bus stops, but instead at-demand. The office always knows where the bus is, and customers can call up a bus, a bit like calling a cab.
- The Big Lemon (Brighton) is a bus service that has been around for years. It is funded by members, and has never needed outside help. The fleet of friendly yellow buses used to run on recycled oil from local chip shops (that got free ads in return). But today they are gradually turning it into England’s first fleet of solar electric buses. They are a friendly bunch who obviously do this more for love over profit. So if you have similar ideas, give them a call, and they are likely glad to help.
- One reason why most people don’t use buses, is simply because it’s quicker and easier to take the car. If you work in transport, download a copy of the e-book Making Transit Fun. Darrin Nordahl illustrates in this delightful book that taking the bus can be fun, if you plan it well. Why do people in Stockholm takes stairs over escalators or Londoners enjoy hanging around at bus stops? How do car makers convince people to buy gas-guzzling, wallet-draining machines instead? It’s call the fun theory. This book focuses on the aesthetics of buses to bike lanes and people-friendly streets, using examples to show that public transit can be made fun.
- One way to get people back on buses, is to make them safer. No woman wants to hang around a badly-lit bus stop at dusk or night. Using solar bus lighting is cheap and simple, and means the bus stop lights up at night (easier for drivers to see people) and you can also install solar-powered bus timetables.