For this post I’m really interested to hear your experiences and views on Public Transport – whether you use it or not
There seems to be two types of people in this world:
Those that use public transport because they want or
need have to
…and those that wouldn’t step a foot inside anything less than a car.
Why is that? I just don’t get it?
Well aside from the most obvious reasons… Actually lets’ get those out the way first:
- Too expensive
Train travel while usually extremely convenient and fast it does come with a usually hefty price tag attached and for that cost you’re not even always guaranteed a seat! So I can see how that’s enough to put anyone off. Bus travel, while much cheaper has it’s own increasing price ticket due to the cost of fuel.
- There isn’t any
Yes, if you live in many parts of the countryside public transport is either highly irregular or completely non-existent.
Both those reasons are enough for me to think public transport, in all forms is rather a drag, but are there any solutions to them?
Why do we have public transport?
As long as there have been forms of transport, such as horses or boats, it’s always made economic and business sense to charge groups of people, or individuals a fare for getting them from one place to another so they don’t have to do it themselves. While only the very rich could afford to travel across the country for holidays and business, public transport began to ensure everyone could go out for the day or travel to new places by making it more affordable. Who wouldn’t want that? Especially at the motor car hadn’t been heard of.
When the car did come along it was taken up by such gusto you’d think that no-one in their right mind would ever want to step foot on a tram or horse drawn carriage ever again and for both those forms of transport it was indeed the end.
However the story doesn’t tend to end there.
While most towns and cities developed in the 19th and 20th Century it became apparent that cars weren’t all that effective in busy, congested places. Cities such as London, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield and Nottingham soon realised that for people to move about quickly and effectively the only way of doing that – around smaller distances – was to invest in public transport.
I’d stick my neck out here and say no-one in their right mind would actually want to drive a car around London, let alone want to pay the parking costs!
Now in the 21st Century we find ourselves caught between two opposing issues. While the big cities continue to invest and actively engage in varying forms of public transport (Sheffield even brought back it’s trams), with the thousands of people using them every day, all non cities/big towns endeavour to keep services going but at a huge (and in most cases probably at a loss) cost.
Do we need to define where public transport should be?
For instance if you’re living in the countryside you’ll be the first people to actively use a car because “there is no public transport”. (Although I’m still not sure why a lot drive around in huge Audi 4x4s when they don’t even live on a farm)
But what if you’re elderly or disabled and live in the country, city or anything in between? There there must surely be rights to have access to transport to enable you to use services such as GP surgeries, hospitals and access to shopping areas?
Let’s take North East Lincolnshire as a good example.
Population approx. 169,000 people. Index of deprivation, pretty low. It’s at the end of both a road and railway line. On one side it’s surrounded by sea and on the other three sides countryside. It has two major populations found in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, a smaller town of Immingham and once you leave Grimsby in any direction you’re not going to hit another major town for at least 20miles (I am sure this is nothing to other countries but it’s still a fair old distance to walk).
In this area you’ll find relatively good bus services and rail services. I haven’t got anything to complain about. I can get to nearly every part of the county by either bus or train, and in some cases feet. I can access my local town within 20 minutes on a bus route that runs every ten minutes. Nothing bad about that at all. Most of the buses have wheel chair access and having travelled by both train and buses past 9pm at night, on my own, I haven’t encountered any dangerous situations and wouldn’t hesitate to use either in the future.
Sunday travel isn’t it’s best but on those days other services are also shut which is probably the justification for a shorter time table.
So if that’s the kind of transport you get in my average town why don’t more people use it?
I think Public Transport might be a lower class rated option for many in suburban areas.
Yes the buses do usually contain more than your share of the most unusual people, and in some cases very smelly people. Most of the bus routes in town tend to take you round council estates and I have to say no bus ride is without interesting conversations. It’s one of the many reasons I love public transport
Most Some of the bus drivers are rude (you know the ones) and the buses themselves, although fairly modern, don’t tend to be very clean. But both those are not good reasons for getting in a car and I’ll tell you why:
If you want to use public transport then we, as paying customers, have a right to demand a better experience when we travel on public transport and not just fester between the grotty seats and the late services. Where it’s not viable to have a bus pick up one person once a week from the middle of the countryside there are alternatives but you have to know what these are and get better acquainted with them.
People don’t like sharing their space with others, but why not? You’re going on a 25 minute journey (at most), you’re not committed to the person sat next to you for the rest of your life.
How do we get a better service?
Every council (in England) has to write up a local Transport plan for their area. It will cover vague amounts of yrs that keep being extended every time the report is updated but that plan needs to be held to account. It details everything from road plans to bus routes to investments in roads.
NELC’s report extends to 71 pages detailing what the council’s strategy plan is between now and 2026 (yes really another 13yrs).
While the North East Lincs region has quite enough to contend with just getting people to stay in the area, and big words like regeneration and investments are used a lot (identifying issues seems to be easier and cheaper than dealing with them), you have to cut through the ‘this is what it could look like’ scenarios and get to the reality of public transport part – including a new main bus depot in Grimsby, better footpath and cycle signs, improved and increased cycle lanes and safer roads. Money is being spent on all those areas but all the council can do with public transport is encourage it’s residents to use it, working along side the operators to get the services in place.
Car is still king
So if there is enough public transport in city and urban areas, and community transport links into the Countryside – then we have to hold the public transport operators to account.
Remarkably its the new estates of houses being bunged up everywhere that are completely forgotten on the public transport routes. One such estate has boomed up here – there must be a good 5,000 new residents on this estate and yet there isn’t one new bus route. Public transport can make or break a new housing estate and yet the local operators are either not invited to the planning stages or the architects don’t invite them?
I remember a few years ago when I was using a bus daily to work I got fed up of it turning up either late or just not at all so I began emailing Stage Coach and I kept emailing them every time the bus was late. Knowing why the bus hadn’t turned up didn’t make me arrive at work on time but it did at least explain the reasons behind the issue. It also highlighted to the operator that this route was used, and used frequently. Especially as they tried to ditch it once or twice.
So I am suggesting that if we want public transport we have to use it, we also have to request a decent, safe and economical journey along with it.
In other words what’s wrong with enjoying a bit of public transport ever so often?