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Author Topic: Short bus routes - what about your local bus?  (Read 2246 times)
Reading General
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« on: August 10, 2019, 10:02:06 am »

Edit - I have split this post off from the "Transport for London" board as we have moved out to look at the wider picture ... here is the 'triggering' post - Grahame

From the blog of Diamond Geezer - a long discussion on the 209 and 378 ... and this table

Quote
LONDON'S SHORTEST BUS ROUTES (updated)
1   389   Barnet (The Spires) - Western Way   1.65 miles
2   209   Mortlake - Castelnau   1.85 miles
3   327   Waltham Cross - Elsinge Estate   1.87 miles
4   507   Waterloo - Victoria   2.24 miles
5   379   Yardley Lane Estate - Chingford   2.26 miles
6   15H   Trafalgar Square - Tower Hill   2.36 miles
7   W7   Muswell Hill - Finsbury Park   2.48 miles
8   378   Mortlake - Putney Bridge   2.60 miles
9   R9   Orpington - Ramsden Estate   2.65 miles
10   346   Upminster - Upminster Park Estate   2.70 miles

And it got me thinking - just how long are the routes of our town buses (14 and 15 in Melksham, 44 flavours in Chippenham, 55 in Westbury, etc).  These town bus routes each tend to run with a single vehicle or with one vehicle shared between multiple routes - so that the frequency is such that randomly tuning up at the bus stop is likely to result in a wait longer than the journey time. 

And as such over a short distance, the fitter people will tend to walk leaving the occasional short bus ride for those without choice.   Those with the choice of taking a car will tend to do so on these short hops too - spending their money on the car and parking while the bus struggles for passengers ...


This was my argument to Reading Transport about their frequency reduction on town routes travelling north of the Thames, that many will walk or drive if you reduce the turn up and go transport option.
One of the services was a 10 minute frequency in the early 2000's and the other two at 15 minute frequency combining for the last mile to town, all three services then crossed the town centre to another area. These have all been cut back to half hourly frequencies with one of them only hourly off peak, all starting and finishing in a corner of the town centre. Now these routes are quite short for Reading, over within 30 minutes from town maximum, but their frequencies were the draw, particularly for the last mile to town, as well as through travel opportunities. So now the walk up and go passengers have been lost and the services have become token ones. It is worth bearing in mind that the routes cross the notorious bottlenecks of Reading's two bridges over the Thames, but I see this as an excuse for frequency reduction rather than genuinely attempting to solve the late running of vehicles. This is the sort of move that modern for profit bus companies make, reducing routes because they are too difficult (in their opinion) to run rather than properly trying to provide a transport service, then using those buses saved elsewhere, probably on a payed up front contract.

There is the possibility that your local Wiltshire routes could increase in use if you doubled the frequency and created a clockface timetable but what council or private bus company is willing to try? They would both prefer to waste time with, marketing, feasibility studies and nonsensical customer surveys to tick transport boxes rather than do a simple experiment that may, horror of horrors, cost the public money, or cost the company a bus and a driver. I guess it is easier to find the money to carry out studies and surveys?
I believe that road based public transport is quite simple to do, it's just that nobody wants to do it. Buses are still viewed as transport for those with no option rather than an alternative option for everybody, by national/local government and bus management alike. That's why more permanent transport in the U.K gets results as it doesn't have the stigma attached. The sooner our approach to road based public transport changes the better, as we have simply been going around in circles since deregulation and the way the transport operates hasn't evolved at all.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2019, 11:28:25 am by grahame » Logged
Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2019, 10:37:46 am »

So, after only two posts and a quote from somebody in London about short bus journeys, we're on to discussing services in Melksham, Chippenham and Reading. Perhaps this thread should be moved quickly to "Buses & other means of travel" because I'm going to carry on where you two have left off  Grin

The Chippenham Town Services used to be half-hourly except when they weren't. There were two buses in use and, when the time came around for a driver's rest break, they dropped a round trip (ie. the four variant 44s that ran to various parts of town). They also stopped running at around 1430 when the two buses went off to do the school contract runs. During school holidays we got extra warly afternoon buses instead until about 1630, but only during school holidays.

A couple of years ago, after adding a fifth local town service, the timetables were recast. A bus will now take 1h 20m to do the full five services. So there are now still two buses, but each service runs hourly and there are no PNB (personal needs break) gaps like there used to be. The buses still clear off to do the school runs at 1500, but one comes back to do a final run around the town services afterwards.

I could be a "walk up and go" passenger myself, because I am perfectly capable of walking the mile or so from the town centre to home. However, I have mastered the art of reading the timetable, copies of which are freely available on the buses, or downloadable online, and a summary timetable is also available at most major bus stops.

As I wrote on another thread on another forum where "evil" First Bus were being criticised for withdrawing their services into Rode village, "if you want a public transport system that will take you from exactly where you are to exactly where you want to go, at exactly the time you want to go, then that public transport system is called a taxi, not a bus."
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Rhydgaled
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« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2019, 11:01:37 am »

Buses are still viewed as transport for those with no option rather than an alternative option for everybody, by national/local government and bus management alike. That's why more permanent transport in the U.K gets results as it doesn't have the stigma attached. The sooner our approach to road based public transport changes the better
The sooner our attitude towards road based public transport changes the better. It isn't only government and bus management that tends to view buses as a last resort mode for those with no alternative; I believe a large segment of the general public does so as well. One comment I've heard, and certainly do not endorse, is that they wouldn't use buses because they are 'full of common people'. How can buses be improved so that people like that don't think they're above using buses?

I think addressing this problem is vital; according to Wikipedia my nearest railway station lost it's passenger service before Beeching. I used to think it should be reopenned but I doubt the journey time needed to compete with the car would be acheivable given the twisty nature of the route and the likely need to reopen all the local stations on the route (which served villiages that currently have 2 buses per week or something near-useless like that). Even if the railway was still there, it only headed in one direction; for all other points of the compass buses are the only form of public transport possible. If we accept that alot of pepole won't use buses due to the stigma attached to them, then we must accept a hell of a lot of private car mileage (in a rural area like this, the distances to other main towns are significant). With the threat of climate change, I don't think we should accept this, so the stigma must be challanged. Some of the bus services round here run on 70 odd mile routes (although a change of bus is normally required on-route, the same service number is carried by both buses).

I second Robin's motion to move this to "Buses & other means of travel".
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grahame
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« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2019, 11:29:26 am »

I second Robin's motion to move this to "Buses & other means of travel".

Topic split - this is new location that both you and Robin suggested!
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Reading General
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« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2019, 11:57:32 am »



I could be a "walk up and go" passenger myself, because I am perfectly capable of walking the mile or so from the town centre to home. However, I have mastered the art of reading the timetable, copies of which are freely available on the buses, or downloadable online, and a summary timetable is also available at most major bus stops.

As I wrote on another thread on another forum where "evil" First Bus were being criticised for withdrawing their services into Rode village, "if you want a public transport system that will take you from exactly where you are to exactly where you want to go, at exactly the time you want to go, then that public transport system is called a taxi, not a bus."

Of course using a bus requires compromise, much like choosing the train, but it's about providing the option. Public transport is viewed in some European countries as an equivalent option with both pluses and minuses by the populous who, as stated, don't have this snobbish status culture that we do, maybe because it's publicly owned.  Imagine the possibilities with local rural bus services if the red tape stating that services can't be cross subsidised by private companies. Busy town routes could support rural services to much better standards or even better, more popular modes in densely populated areas such as tramways could provide even more subsides. Transport needs to feed off other transport. When Edinburgh introduced it's tramway the use of the buses went up.
Imagine if money was found somewhere to build an urban tramway in Swindon. Use of it was much more popular than the buses, it took plenty of cars off the roads locally and made decent profits. Then these profits go into a larger pot to make up the difference to bus services in Chippenham or elsewhere in Wiltshire. Hang on, I'm sure this has been done before hmmmmm.........
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Reading General
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« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2019, 11:59:43 am »



I could be a "walk up and go" passenger myself, because I am perfectly capable of walking the mile or so from the town centre to home. However, I have mastered the art of reading the timetable, copies of which are freely available on the buses, or downloadable online, and a summary timetable is also available at most major bus stops.

As I wrote on another thread on another forum where "evil" First Bus were being criticised for withdrawing their services into Rode village, "if you want a public transport system that will take you from exactly where you are to exactly where you want to go, at exactly the time you want to go, then that public transport system is called a taxi, not a bus."

Of course using a bus requires compromise, much like choosing the train, but it's about providing the option. Public transport is viewed in some European countries as an equivalent option with both pluses and minuses by the populous who, as stated, don't have this snobbish status culture that we do, maybe because it's publicly owned, maybe it's because when you get to the stop it has some sort of shelter or infrastructure more than just a post.  Imagine the possibilities with local rural bus services if the red tape stating that services can't be cross subsidised by private companies. Busy town routes could support rural services to much better standards or even better, more popular modes in densely populated areas such as tramways could provide even more subsides. Transport needs to feed off other transport. When Edinburgh introduced it's tramway the use of the buses went up.
Imagine if money was found somewhere to build an urban tramway in Swindon. Use of it was much more popular than the buses, it took plenty of cars off the roads locally and made decent profits. Then these profits go into a larger pot to make up the difference to bus services in Chippenham or elsewhere in Wiltshire. Hang on, I'm sure this has been done before hmmmmm.........
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2019, 12:03:28 pm »

Quote from: Rhydgaled
The sooner our attitude towards road based public transport changes the better. It isn't only government and bus management that tends to view buses as a last resort mode for those with no alternative; I believe a large segment of the general public does so as well. One comment I've heard, and certainly do not endorse, is that they wouldn't use buses because they are 'full of common people'. How can buses be improved so that people like that don't think they're above using buses

I think you are describing a situation that existed at about the time of bus deregulation, but I don't think that it applies as much (emphasis on "as much") these days.

Bus companies, at the end of the day, are not philanthropic organisations any more than Sainsbury's is. They are companies in business to make a profit. It is therefore in their interests to encourage travel, not to just think of themselves as the means of transport of last resort.

There may be an element of stigma in some cases, but there is also the elements of cost and convenience. A conversation with my friendly neighbourhood driver of the 44 yesterday revealed that the return bus fare from Chippenham to Bath is 6.50, whilst the anytime rail fare is 7.30 and the off peak 6.10. The bus takes around 70 minutes for the journey and the train takes 12. I would say that it is a bit of a no-brainer to go by bus in those circumstances but many people still do, either by choice or by ignorance of the cost of the rail fares.

But all that said, 6.50 may be reasonable if there is only one of you. Take a family of four, two adults and two kids, and you're looking at a total price of around 20. In that case it's probably a no-brainer not to go by car.

Bath may be a bad example to give because trying to drive around the place is murder, but that raises another issue. The general public are much more likely to use public transport if it is the most convenient option, either through cost, convenience or frequency. The buses in London always seem well-patronised to me, as indeed they do in Bath and Bristol and Swindon.

However, if you live in the back of beyond where there are simply not enough potential bums to go on the seats to make a bus service viable, you aren't going to get one. The same applies to trains of course.

I feel the move back to public transport will be a variable one. As congestion increases, as car parking becomes ever more difficult and expensive, as low emission or congestion charging zones increase the costs of motoring still more, more people will end up on public transport with no doubt varying degrees of willingness...

But there is never going to be a bus service on a 15-minute frequency between Chippenham and Castle Combe.
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grahame
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« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2019, 02:46:53 pm »

But all that said, 6.50 may be reasonable if there is only one of you. Take a family of four, two adults and two kids, and you're looking at a total price of around 20. In that case it's probably a no-brainer not to go by car.

Thats the bus.  For the train, it's 6.10 for one ... 15.25 for 2 adults + 2 children 5 to 15 (Groupsave for 3 plus one half price fare).

Edit to add ... Bus may be lower with a group ticket too.  Not sure about Faresaver from Chippenham, but from Melksham to Bath (and from Chippenham on a Sunday) you're looking at a Group ticket at 14 or 13.20 mTicket and that will cover First Bus journeys in the whole West of England area

Quote
Bath may be a bad example to give because trying to drive around the place is murder, but that raises another issue. The general public are much more likely to use public transport if it is the most convenient option, either through cost, convenience or frequency. The buses in London always seem well-patronised to me, as indeed they do in Bath and Bristol and Swindon.

Something of a co-incidence I've started a survey on "what are the important factors that persuade you to travel by train".  Me things we should do a similar one (but at a later date so they don't get confused) for buses.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2019, 03:08:16 pm by grahame » Logged

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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2019, 05:27:47 pm »

Just to resurrect this thread after a few days, when I was a kid in Bristol in the 1950s and 1960s there was a service 97A that ran from Channons Hill, Fishponds, to the then mental hospitals at Glenside and Manor Park. It ran on visiting days and at visiting hours only (hospital's didn't have the "open access" arrangements we are used to today). I've just measured the length of the route on Google Maps - 0.4 miles.

Surely that's got to be a record?

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