With gridlocked roads, why is it that our bus services are so dire? In most towns and cities, bus services are infrequent (or non-existent) and some buses are overcrowded, noisy and expensive. Although some councils are trying to offer cheap £2 tickets, the bus rides need to rival cars in being quiet, relaxing and with frequent schedules (including on Sundays, when many people like to go out for the day).
Buses are important enough to spend money on. Non-investment is not good enough, especially when town planners often invest in roads and supermarkets. The Big Lemon (Brighton) is a wonderful privately-owned bus company that used to run on biodiesel (giving free ads to chip shops for their used oil). Today it’s the first solar-powered bus company offering wonderful cheap travel on friendly yellow buses. What an inspiration!
Portland (Oregon) has a wonderful US travel system, combining bus, train and tram. Their Trimet is noted as being the best in the world, with cheap and sometimes free fares (seniors, disabled) and also has volunteers to take blind passengers around the system, until they feel confident (all the platforms have Braille timetables). Read the book Better Buses, Better Cities for inspirational ideas.
Solar bus stops and schedules are also good, as they turn off when not in use (to stop wildlife suffering with light pollution) and also the driver can see people waiting at the bus stop, which increases safety). They also need no money to run and are virtually maintenance-free. It would also help if graphic designers made bus times to be more simple. Most people who are well-read can’t understand them, so imagine how confusing they must be say to someone with mild dementia?
An advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars. But rather one where even the rich use public transport. Enrique Peñalosa
why tram transport is good for cities
Trams are popular the world over to transport people, from Milan and Lisbon to New Zealand and San Francisco. These ‘street trolley cars’ are a bit like light rail trains, and can carry many people in one go, which helps to reduce car traffic and stop pollution. They often have a ‘bendy middle’ so can turn corners on curved streets, a bit like our knees and elbows. Good town planners give them their own tracks, so they don’t get stuck in traffic, making them cheap and fast to travel on. In Hong Kong, some trams have two floors (like our double-decker buses), which are very popular with tourists.
One city where trams are very popular is Amsterdam, which has a fantastic public transport system from its train station to cycling-friendly planning. These famed blue-and-white trams ring out a bell to attract attention and are the quickest way to get around, using a city card or cashless ticketing system. The stops are only a short walk apart and go to the train station and to outer districts.
Yet despite how wonderful trams are, only a few major cities have them. Sheffield and Nottingham are two, the most famous is probably Blackpool, which carries around 5 million people per year, and uses modern light rail to operate the 11 miles of coastline, around every 10 minutes.
In San Francisco, the trolleybus still thrives, despite London ones having been taken out of use. These are powered by electric from overhead wires, and although not as bendy as a bus, they are quiet and less polluting, and good for hills (which San Francisco has lots of!) They also have batteries so they can re-route if there are roadworks or street fairs.