On the buses: How to make the most out of the Government’s £3bn investment in public transport.
Another year, another budget, another chance for councils to make the most of their funding to push forward with their transport and infrastructure projects. While £3bn feels like a lot, and it is, it is less than the £5bn that was set aside for transport improvements from last year’s budget. And I think it’s safe to assume that most local authorities couldn’t make the most of that funding as they had more pressing issues (like a global pandemic perhaps?).
For a truly seamless bus network, the routes and frequencies need to meet the needs of the local residents whilst also being the most attractive choice for journeys. Seizing the opportunity of the low demand in public transport as a chance to make changes, followed by an encouraging “Back on the buses” campaign to ensure the public feel safe to use public transport.
It’s all very idealistic to presume a “build it and they will come” attitude, in reality the public need to be coaxed and pushed into breaking their defined habits and trying something different. When looking at these decisions, one must consider the human psychology and decision process to incentivize the desired outcome. As we know from The Inbetweeners – buses are a less than desirable option.
For buses to become the best mode of transport, four main areas need to be considered:
• Comfort – including consistency throughout the seasons, crowds, and… let’s face it, whether you get a seat.
• Cost – including parking, tickets, petrol, and vehicle maintenance.
• Journey Time – particularly considering the congestion at peak times and whether you’re going to make that morning meeting.
• Accessibility – from home to the bus and again from the station to the office.
• BONUS: Health – For the time being, close proximity to large swathes of people is highly discouraged, which will be less of a concern with the continued roll out of the vaccines.
Some considerations hold more decision weight than others.. Would passengers prefer an uncomfortable and costly 20 minute journey, or a comfortable and cheap 60 minute journey?
Like using proverbial carrots and sticks to guide the mule – the stick of the comfort and cost are overruled by the carrot of accessibility and journey time.
So, buses need to become triumphant in all areas.
With free Wi-fi and cleaner buses – what more can be done? People can sit back with an audio book and don’t even have to worry about traffic.
Alongside the funding made available by the central government, is the introduction of daily price caps for bus tickets. Allowing passengers to ride as many buses in single day as they need and their day rate not reaching astronomical prices. With bus open data, there is set to be great transparency in bus fares, hopefully driving down prices and increasing competition.
Cruising along in dedicated bus lanes can go some of the way to counteract the stop start journey progress, particularly in peak times around cities.
New technology is being tested and rolled-out every day. Whether that be: seamless ticketing systems, to live changes to the traffic light system when there are delays in the service (bet you wish your car could do that!)
Servicing the right people in the right places. Simple right?
It is when using applications like TRACC to do the hard work in calculating the impact on accessibility for you. Simply load the road network, bus routes and origin grid into TRACC. Running a local accessibility calculation will allow you to identify areas of your district that need improving.
The upcoming release of TRACC even includes a new PTAL feature that creates an accessibility score based on proximity to public transport, which enhances the analysis of access to transport.
From here you can add or edit bus routes to simulate the proposed changes to the network. After rerunning the calculation this can visually demonstrate the improved accessibility.
Are pretty maps not enough to convince your boss to add a bus route?
Combine census data with the calculations to add statistics and weight to your proposed changes. TRACC can deliver results as a population or as a % of the population to show who can go where on the buses.
With the global pandemic, hesitancy to return to public transport is not only understandable but actively encouraged at various points during the waves.