Wednesday, 15 April 2009

On the buses - the future for public transport

In Boston, USA you can see where the buses are in real time, on an online map; the buses are equipped with GPS and an Internet connection and the info is viewable on Google maps Click this link . It is fascinating to watch the buses moving along the various routes and stopping at stops (click on the moving “balloons” to see route and number details) – it’s even better if you zoom in.

For a long time I have thought that the only way to get significant numbers of Jersey folk out of their cars and on to pubic transport would be to make public transport more convenient than cars, which is a tall order if using a conventional bus system.

The solution is the shared minibus idea that I first saw in Istanbul in 1975 (the Dolmus) where it worked very well. Click for Wikipedia article on the original shared taxis .

Like a bus, people pay for the distance they travel but the route does not have to be fixed and passengers can be dropped off outside the place they really want to go to and not just the nearest bus stop or terminus. Now that this GPS/Internet tracking of buses is available, Click for the hi tech systems combined with Satnav systems, consider the following scenario.

You want to travel from point A to point B at a certain time – you input this into your mobile or computer and the transport company’s computer works out which of the circulating minibuses is nearest at the relevant time and diverts it to pick you up at your door – it takes you exactly where you want to go and you pay only for the elapsed distance of your trip. No worries about finding elusive and expensive parking at the end of your trip. The system is incredibly flexible and ideal for getting people to work and back again – the minibus size of vehicle is very conducive to social interaction and should enhance a community feel about transport instead of our currently isolated cage for one or two. Significant shopping can also be done using this method. Parents who lived off the beaten track would be more willing to allow their children to use a service where the children did not have to walk to a bus stop.

If the system became widely used, the congestion on commuter routes into town would reduce, thus cutting journey times. Also congestion caused in town by cars circling around for a parking space would dissipate.

Many people would be able to manage entirely without a car and would save a fortune. Others, who are currently “several car families”, could dispense with one or more, also saving time and money, not to mention reducing stress.

Because of the way the system would be organised, there is a very high continual occupancy of each minibus, thus compensating for the potentially larger running costs – maximum number of passengers is necessarily less than a full size bus.


TonyTheProf said...

Exteter also runs a minibus scheme going to the outskirts of the city, where radio links ensure extra buses can be put on rapidly at peak times if needed, and lots are around every 15 minutes or so. They also have cleverly a few major town centre "backbone" routes only for buses, or with special bus lanes, so that the "bus caught in traffic" is not as bad, as the bus has an edge.

Guernsey has smart cards, which you recharge credit, either on a bus or at the depot, for cash or plastic (switch, credit card), and can be used as required, much better than Jersey's special tickets which are very time limited. It's brilliant - no more cash needed, or far less. I've sent both Mike Jackson and his predecessor information on that but without any joy. Amazing that our sister Island has better technology! Or perhaps (given their forward investment in sea surveys for wave energy), not so unlikely.

Nick Palmer said...

Yeah, I heard somewhere in the West country was doing something similar. Not sure if anywhere is doing the full Monty that I envisaged yet. I bet the taxi lobby would raise merry hell...