Pro-bus, anti-bus

Bus Stop by Slattner (, what with health and weather I’ve probably not cycled for a month!  I’m going stir crazy.

I’ve also been using the buses a lot.  Partly because I feel I should, and partly because the brakes on the car seem a bit dodgy (maybe just cold weather?).

I mentioned buses before, back in May, but after a prolonged exposure to them I have more thoughts.

Buses are good!

Yeah, I really think this!  They kept running through the snow, they were quick, mostly on time, the journey planner, realtime information system (and the mobile version) works really well.  I even found them tidy, convenient and enjoyable!

We are fortunate to live near a fairly major bus artery out of the town centre – I’m probably commuting against the flow and have plenty of route options with no changes, but even so, I was impressed.

And I’ve loved having a deadline by which I must be out of the office.  I’ve mostly worked my contracted hours this week, and that feels right!


And there’s some lingering buts…

Buses aren’t so good

I have several gripes.

  • Fares: buses aren’t cheap, a return for me to work is £3.40 and it’s cheaper to buy an all-day travel ticket for £3.20.  This is still a lot.  There are weekly tickets but they don’t save you all that much and you need to travel a full 5 days to get any benefit at all.
  • Change: Buses don’t give change.  Well, some do (see “integration”), and some don’t.  This means that you’re constantly fighting to keep the next days’ fare in your pocket and if you don’t have it then, well, you can’t travel – or you end up paying more than you should.
  • Integration: There are two bus companies in Swindon.  The all-day ticket works on both companies’ buses.  One company seems to give change when the other doesn’t.  One company has real-time info, the other doesn’t.  One company has a convenient “smart card” payment system that would reduce the problem of not having the right money…but it only works on one company’s buses.
  • Learning curve: There is a certain “culture” about buses.  If you’ve never used them there are things you need to learn (like, that they don’t give change, and which stop to get off at).  It’s easier to use another form of transport that you know well and understand how it works.

None of these problems is insurmountable.  With good staff training and customer service skills, a few simple changes, some subsidy, co-operation and investment, I think Swindon’s buses hold promise.

One final thought: there was much talk of how the snow caused so many problems with people getting to work/school.  Perhaps subsiding the buses during this time of difficult transportation would have got people onto them, used to using them, and kept some of our economy and services running?  They’ re all good things, right?