Here at Smarter Cambridge Transport we try to keep the pressure on our local authorities to consider the ‘little things’ which, cumulatively, could make a really big difference to keeping the city moving. Sadly, little things aren’t glamorous, which is maybe why politicians overlook them.
A great example is the humble bus shelter.
If the City Deal/GCP had started out by investigating what would get people to swap cars for buses, it may never have developed its obsession with building expensive infrastructure to knock a few minutes off bus journey times. The quality of the journey experience is arguably more important to people: the waiting, the interchanging and the general environment. It’s also a lot cheaper to improve.
The bus shelter is just a symptom of how the journey experience is ignored. It’s not just that many are inadequate for sheltering enough people properly. In many places they don’t exist at all. Why should people who are forced to pay £96 a month to make a daily return trip up the road also have to stand in the cold and wet, or have no shade from the sun?
A resident near me has been asking the council for a shelter at a fairly busy bus stop in the city. The reply has been that there’s a shelter over the road, so maybe people could just wait there and then cross the road when they see the bus approaching. Tragically, one of our members’ own grandparents was killed doing exactly this. If such thinking is the level of common sense and understanding of user experience among officers, they will never be able to make buses a viable alternative to car use.
Our councils could have made a serious start on improving the bus journey experience for the price of a couple of the poor-quality consultants’ reports that were commissioned for infrastructure projects. Marginal gains like bus shelters are far more likely to make public transport the “automatic choice” than they’re aiming for.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 20 June 2018.