On the Buses

At their 25th Anniversary, Greater Manchester Transport Action Group launched a competition for people to write how they would like to see public transport improved. Below are the winning and running up entries.

GMTAG Essay Contest Winner

Here are some suggestions, which would improve my journeys by public transport.
Availability of information
The first aspect affecting the mode of transport used is ease of access to information about bus and train timetables and routes. What is needed, and it pre-exists up to a point, is a well staffed 'phone line which can provide reliable information on all bus, trains and trams themselves. All bus stops/train stations should have the times/route of all services that go through them.

Sometimes when waiting for a bus or a train, I wish that there was a way to know how long it will be for the next one. For me to know this there either has to be a very reliable service whose times are displayed in the bus stop/train station or a device like the London Underground has, with a permanently updated display board stating when the next services are due. If the latter seems farfetched, then could the former be provided?

Usage of road space
How road space is utilised could be changed to benefit users of public transport promoting a hierarchy of road users. A common reason for people using private cars instead of buses is because they perceive buses as being slower, as they have to stop for passengers. However, this could be offset by the use of bus priority lanes, particularly at peak traffic flow times. The existing bus lanes could be better enforced, and illegal parking addressed. Fewer motorists mean less congestion and faster journeys for all, if there is sufficient public transport. Faster journeys mean less stress.
Integrated transport
Integrated transport and integrated tickets are important. Trains need to be more adaptable in terms of letting more bikes onto them at once, and trams need to let bikes on too. I would like somewhere safer to leave my bike at train stations, perhaps overlooked by staff.
Bus deregulation and train privatisation
The many bus companies that run in Greater Manchester produce problems for passengers. We need to be able to buy return tickets that are valid on all types of bus on the same service and saver tickets that are valid on all companies' services.
Considerate drivers who wait for frail passengers to sit down before they pull off, who don't swear loudly at other road users and who volunteer/know information on cheaper fares and services and safe drivers helps.

I do not wish to suggest that all the onus for a good service falls on the bus drivers. This responsibility needs to be shared by conductors, information and ticket staff and their managers. A return of bus conductors could make journey times faster (by taking people's fares, stop smoking on buses and improve driver/passenger safety.

There is no point trying to tempt people onto already overcrowded public transport. We want efficient busy buses/trains, but if certain routes are consistently overcrowded, more buses/carriages need to be put onto those routes. This should be made obvious to the manager.

Some of this has been specifically targeted at buses. Improvements I would like to see to trains and trams would be to bring fares down, particularly before 9.30am, to make trains and platforms feel safer.

Other points
The hypotheses talked about in the recent Transport White Paper should be used to discourage motorists, whilst encouraging increased use of public transport. More people using public transport would in likelihood provide more regular services and even more routes. More users would also make people feel safer and less isolated, could improve community spirit, reduce pollution, possibly reduce accidents, increase range of services, reduce car parking space needed, reduce congestion and improve reliability of journey time.

Ideally, public transport needs to be safe, clean, low-emission, reliable, regular, friendly, cheap and integrated. This is an ideal, but is achievable, and well worth attaining.

Harriet Bickley, Researcher, Manchester University

GMTAG Essay Contest Runner-Up

Monday's bus was damp and cold
Tuesday's bus was very old
Wednesday's bus was late in coming
Thursday's bus was simply humming
Fridays Bus - broke down again
Saturday's bus joined the football chain
But the bus that came on the Sabbath day,
Was clean and warm and here to stay.
Instead of making up silly rhymes or practicing my line dancing steps to alleviate my stress whilst waiting for a bus, I thought "In a real world" what would I like to see happen to public transport especially, buses.

Firstly, it would have to serve the public.

How would it do this?

Journeys would be routed to where people wanted to travel. A survey would be done to ask people if their existing bus routes met their needs and if train stops were convenient. Buses and trains would be frequent and always run to time, cutting down the anxiety of wondering if they would arrive as scheduled.

Regular, thorough maintenance would prevent breakdowns.

More designated bus lanes would ensure faster travel for buses and easier flow for other traffic.

Stricter control on parking at bus stops would enable buses to stop by the kerb, making life easier for the passenger and preventing hold-ups. There would be no parking on cycle ways.

Clean, warm, easy accessible, well ventilated trains, trams and buses would be very desirable.

Waiting rooms at bus and train terminals would be comfortable and secure.

Secondly, bus drivers would have to have better wages and more time to complete journeys, allowing for unforeseen incidents. Customer care training would help them understand some passenger's disabilities, whether in speech or movement. A happy, contented and co-operative driver makes the passengers feel relaxed and comfortable.

Thirdly, fares would be reasonably priced and cheaper than car travel to encourage car owners to use public transport and so lessen congestion on the roads.

Integrated ticketing and daily and weekly tickets at the same reasonable cost, would be a necessity.

Lastly, integrated transport! Imagine how wonderful that would be. If the bus I got off left me in comfortable time to catch the train, which connected with my aeroplane.

Yes! What a wonderful world, but sadly, this is not the real world.

Maybe, on the Sabbath day.

Hazel Wheeler

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