Smarter Cambridge Transport

10 practical ways to reverse the decline in bus usage

Bus use is in steady decline: 18% fewer bus trips per person in Cambridgeshire over the space of 8 years. The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) believes building bus lanes and busways will reverse the trend, giving buses the edge and emulating the relative success of the Guided Busway. Even if that success is repeatable elsewhere, the strategy neglects most of Greater Cambridge, and fails to address some of the simplest reasons why buses are unattractive.

So, what can customers and GCP do to encourage, support or force Stagecoach to up its game? Here are Smarter Cambridge Transport’s top ten asks:

  1. More express routes to shorten peak-time journey times.
  2. Free transfers: why pay more just because a journey requires a change of bus? The extra time and hassle involved is cost enough.
  3. Discounted electronic (smartcard and contactless) payment methods as an incentive to people to stop using cash (as in London), which delays buses and gives drivers a headache.
  4. Routes and stops with meaningful names.
  5. Fair, consistent and easily understood fares (including singles and P&R) based on three fare zones.
  6. Upgraded bus stations and stops with attractive shelters, comfortable seats, good lighting, accurate real-time information, secure cycle parking, and well-lit paths to the surrounding area.
  7. In-bus audio announcements of next stop, nearby amenities and available interchanges.
  8. Straight-line route maps and fare information on buses and on stops, so people don’t need to quiz the driver, holding up the bus.
  9. Multilingual bus ticket machines for visitors arriving at railway stations and Park & Rides.
  10. Heat-recovering, fresh-air ventilation systems in buses to eliminate condensation on windows in winter and reduce transmission of airborne diseases.

We’ve focused here on changes that should be achievable in the existing deregulated market. With franchising plus more operational funding (say, from a workplace parking levy or road pricing), we’d be asking for more routes, more early morning and late evening services, multi-operator tickets, discounted child, student and family fares, electric buses and much more!

If you want better, demand better – and support Cambridge Area Bus Users.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 20 February 2019.

Edward Leigh

Edward Leigh is the leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport, chair and independent co-opted member of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel, chair of the South Petersfield Residents Association, business owner, consultant, and occasional blogger about making the world and Cambridge a better place to live.

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