Comment: the buses in Bath are a tragic comedy

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Written by the Angry Bus Man

I do not wish to be labelled the “angry bus man” of campus, but I do travel on the bus to get to work and I do, occasionally, get angry.

Buses could be 10% or x10 better than they are now

Buses could be 10% or x10 better than they are now

Angry? You only need to try to get onto campus for 9am, and leave at 5pm to see the inadequacies of the public transport infrastructure. You might as well be on “SLAVE 1”, driven by Boba Fett and freezing passengers in liquid carbonite to escape the smell of farts and Lynx.

Google X has a good philosophy, why do things 10% better when you can do x10 better? After all, I’m an engineer-and engineers are “fix the leaky roof” types, management are “get a bigger bucket” types. Let’s go through the problems and solutions:

Problems:

  • Capacity: Bath is reputed to have a (student) population of around 15,000 which is more than Bradford on Avon. Not everyone travels at the same time, but these numbers (especially those living off-campus) are problematic. Bendy buses have the highest capacity on offer, but have issues and are only provided by one company-which moves me on nicely to…
  • Tenders: The campus service is provided by two tenders, First and Wessex*, given the wonderful world of privatisation they drive the same routes, shake their fists at each other and fail to collaborate. Getting on (or off) campus is a lottery depending on which ticket you have.
  • Efficiency: Private bus companies are only interested in fares (than running on time) which highlights the failure of bendy buses. They have two doorways-but each and every passenger forms an orderly queue and pay/show their ticket to the driver (got change of a £50?).
  • Infrastructure: The bus arrivals area on campus is no longer fit for purpose. As a polite bunch we form queues, which stretch over campus like a flashmob version of ‘Snake’.

10% Solutions:

  • Shared tickets: Is it possible for two bus companies to shake hands and offer ticket sharing? Yes, according to the council who agreed with Wessex to accept First tickets for the Midsomer Norton/Radstock route last year. In the meantime, one can purchase a ‘multipass’ Bath Rider ticket for £4.00.
  • No tickets: First considered an ‘oyster card’ system in its Fairer Fares consultation and it would be an ideal solution for bendies, allowing faster dual entry. First have taken a (small) step in the right direction with m-ticketing via smartphones 
  • Direct services: For those waiting for buses in the city centre, seeing full buses going past is depressing. The Wessex X18 goes from Oldfield Park to Campus direct and it may be beneficial to have more – a direct service from the city centre perhaps?

x10 Solutions:

  • Bus station on campus: a large, sheltered bus station would be great. It could have bays for each service, clear maps, information displays and accommodate for a growing campus. Sadly, any improvements in this area do not seem to be part of the campus master plan
  • Roundabout at University Entrance: This area is accident prone and turning right onto Claverton Down Rd is difficult-leading to queuing out of Convocation Avenue. Roundabouts are easy-just look at new mini roundabout on London Road West

All these points are up for discussion, which is more than what senior powers are prepared to do; they have as much empathy with my (and your) commute as The Stig travelling on the Underground (are you reading that Metro?).

*Bugler has been omitted as an official third tender due to being stuck in a time warp from 1985

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3 Comments

  1. Neither of the x10 solutions are actual x10 solutions.

    A bus station wouldn’t solve anything really; with no mention of expanded services it would just give more room for buses to wait, making the gains marginal at best.

    And the roundabout – well, a nice idea but again; whilst there *is* a wait to turn out, that’s hardly the limiting factor.

    Ironically, the 10% solutions are all more likely to deliver actual differences to the service, and larger ones at that. Did the article get them the wrong way round or something?

    A real x10 solution would be something like a new road, or a cable car down to the city. Ridiculous, admittedly, but that could actually do the job better if implemented.

    I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for a job offer from Google.

  2. The 4th year Civil Engineers have just done a module that involved designing a lightweight bus shelter to replace the current crappy bus stops by first and wessex. Ask the department for details or any designs

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