ABC (Australia) - - NEWS - This ar­ti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished on The Con­ver­sa­tion. Full ver­sion avail­able on­line.

PUB­LIC TRANS­PORT that is safe, ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive is a core pri­or­ity when it comes to city-build­ing. While trains get a lot of at­ten­tion, buses can also de­liver suc­cess­ful pub­lic trans­port ser­vices – if we can over­come some com­mon prob­lems.

Ja­son Byrne, Pro­fes­sor of Hu­man Geog­ra­phy and Plan­ning, Uni­ver­sity of Tas­ma­nia and Emma Pharo, Se­nior Lec­turer, Geog­ra­phy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Stud­ies, Uni­ver­sity of Tas­ma­nia re­port.


Here we of­fer six prin­ci­ples for mak­ing buses bet­ter.

Re­search shows that to meet peo­ple’s ev­ery­day mo­bil­ity needs, such as drop­ping chil­dren at school, do­ing shop­ping, run­ning er­rands and so on, bus ser­vices must be flex­i­ble, con­ve­nient, safe, re­li­able, ef­fi­cient and in­te­grated.

1. Flex­i­bil­ity is a key re­quire­ment. Peo­ple need to be able to use buses for mul­ti­ple trips – in suc­ces­sion. Rigid timeta­bles and set routes can make buses less ap­peal­ing and less ef­fec­tive.

New de­vel­op­ments such as “on-de­mand” ser­vices and driver­less buses of­fer the po­ten­tial for bet­ter ser­vice de­liv­ery. For in­stance, Sin­ga­pore in­tends that driver­less buses will act as shut­tles, fun­nelling peo­ple from neigh­bour­hoods to rapid tran­sit ser­vices.

2. Con­ve­nience is also vi­tally im­por­tant. Hav­ing to wait a long time, es­pe­cially if it’s in scorch­ing sun, drench­ing rain, chilly wind or alone in the dark, de­ters peo­ple from us­ing buses.

Ser­vices must en­able easy ac­cess and use, and must be priced fairly. Shel­ters should be com­fort­able, at­trac­tive and vis­i­ble (not just glo­ri­fied bill­boards).

The use of smart phone apps to re­quest sched­ules, lo­cate ser­vices, plan jour­neys, nav­i­gate the trans­port net­work – us­ing real-time jour­ney maps and multi-lan­guage plat­forms, for ex­am­ple – and pay for trips can im­prove con­ve­nience. When com­bined with flex­i­ble pick-up and drop-off lo­ca­tions (off-peak or at night), this can bet­ter in­te­grate buses into our busy lives.

Flexi-fares (for de­mand man­age­ment), “tap and go” pay­ment sys­tems, shop­per or fam­ily passes, free on-board wifi and USB recharg­ing ports can also im­prove con­ve­nience.

3. Pas­sen­ger safety is re­lated to the above point. Buses should be ac­ces­si­ble to a wide va­ri­ety of peo­ple, such as vi­sion-im­paired and mo­bil­i­ty­chal­lenged, and ev­ery­one should feel safe. Safety can be im­proved in many ways. These in­clude co-lo­cat­ing park-and-ride fa­cil­i­ties with neigh­bour­hood shop­ping cen­tres, schools, higher-den­sity hous­ing, recre­ation ar­eas and other cen­tres of ac­tiv­ity, which max­imises “pas­sive sur­veil­lance”.

4. Re­li­a­bil­ity is an im­por­tant re­quire­ment for peo­ple to use buses. Tran­sit sys­tems must be de­signed so the buses run on time.

And many bus rapid tran­sit sys­tems around the world de­liver fast and re­li­able ser­vices.

More than 40 ci­ties now have rapid tran­sit bus sys­tems. These in­clude Ade­laide in Aus­tralia, Cu­ritiba in Brazil, Seoul in Korea, Cape Town in South Africa, Ot­tawa in Canada, Los An­ge­les in USA, and Bo­gota in Colombia, which is among the largest by pas­sen­ger vol­ume.

Key here are mea­sures such as ded­i­cated bus lanes (e.g. the Brisbane Busway), peak-hour clear­ways, city clip­per ser­vices (e.g. crosstown with limited stops), traf­fic sig­nals that give pri­or­ity to buses, and flexi lanes for peak de­mand. These can be paired with “real-time ser­vice” dis­plays in­di­cat­ing the next avail­able bus, and even con­ges­tion charg­ing.

5. Ef­fi­ciency is a key driver of pub­lic trans­port use and de­liv­ery. Many bus ser­vices are con­tracted (al­beit with sub­si­dies) so need to “pay their way”. Sav­ings can be achieved by switch­ing fuel (to bio­fuel or hy­dro­gen, for ex­am­ple). Hy­brid and elec­tric bus fleets use less or no fuel.

Us­ing all doors for board­ing can re­duce trip times, as can new seat­ing con­fig­u­ra­tions. Flex­i­ble pay­ment op­tions, us­ing sys­tems such as “tap and go”, can elim­i­nate “fare fum­bling”.

A sim­ple mea­sure to han­dle vari­able de­mand is ver­sa­tile ve­hi­cle fleets. Ex­am­ples such as Hong Kong’s light buses and the Swiss town of St Gallen’s high-ca­pac­ity, bi-ar­tic­u­lated trol­ley­bus ve­hi­cles show this im­proved ef­fi­ciency.

6. Net­work in­te­gra­tion is cru­cial if buses are to work. This means pas­sen­gers should be able to trans­fer eas­ily be­tween walk­ing, cy­cling, pri­vate ve­hi­cles, car shar­ing (e.g. Uber), fer­ries, trains and other buses.

Fare sys­tems should be de­signed for easy trans­fer. Trans­fers should be free or low-cost within set time pe­ri­ods.

And bus tran­sit should be bet­ter in­te­grated into ci­ties. Ini­tia­tives such as tran­sit-ori­ented de­vel­op­ment com­bine trans­port with hous­ing, recre­ation, ed­u­ca­tion, com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties and other land uses.

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